SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — Little League teams are striking out when trying to fill umpire positions and many left wondering how the shortage will affect baseball season both this year and next year.
It’s a summertime staple, playing little league. And while hundreds of youngsters are looking forward to hitting their first home run of the season, league organizers say finding men and women to call balls and strikes is getting harder to do.
“In Little League Baseball, it’s always been a factor getting good quality knowledgeable umpires. One of the reasons is pay. Because Little League is a volunteer organization, it can’t pay a lot and other organizations pay more.”
Rob Maynard was the former coach of Northwestern Little League. A team that recently had to redistrict their players to other teams due to low participation numbers.
“With lower participation numbers, you’re also going to have less umpires to choose from because those who graduate from your league you tend to bring back to umpire and lower numbers, lower umpires.”
“Two years ago, I had double the umpires that I have this year.”
Greg Davis is an umpire scheduler for USSSA.
“COVID-19 has a lot to do with it. I have a lot of veteran umpires that don’t want to come back to umpiring until they are vaccinated and they know it’s going to be safe out there which I can understand. The enhanced employment benefits don’t help. Over the years, the behavior of the parents has continuously gotten worse.”
Davis said the backlash umpires sometimes face from parents and the crowd is one of the biggest and most common problems they’re facing right now within leagues. As a result, organizers are working towards creating a no-nonsense policy for crowds.
But Maynard said thankfully, games aren’t being affected just yet. Instead, It’s just a matter of finding good quality umpires. Which is partially the reason why he decided to become one.
“Stepped up to umpire just for the fact that they needed the help and I love the game and I’m knowledgeable of the game.” Maynard said. “I know the rule book in and out.”