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kstrunk

Watching umpires while I watch my son

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My son will conclude his freshman regular season tomorrow, playing JV mostly, called up to varsity a couple times, and I can't say strongly enough how difficult it's been to watch the officiating at his games. I literally have to pray for self-control to simply focus on the players, but still, the officiating is nearly impossible to ignore. 

Our state does not require mechanics proficiency at all. We are required to attend 6 chapter meetings annually, where mechanics are difficult to teach inside a local hall or restaurant. 

The lack of effort and professionalism is many cases is inexcusable even without a comprehensive knowledge of basic umpire mechanics, which also are non-existent in many cases. And while I hate the idea of being critical to people who have the guts to do the job, the reputation of umpires in general, and the corresponding mockery of the game in many cases, is the direct result of this issue that is the fault of many. 

Yet the assignors are so desperate they'll take anyone in most cases, especially for JV games and lower levels. 

I'm not sure what the answer is??? More clinics? More criticism? Both?  

I'm currently evaluating myself to find ways to be more faithful in what the Lord has given me in umpiring, for the good of the game and the people who play it. 

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Different start times?

With HS games starting at 3:30-4:30, oftentimes it is not the best umpire who gets the game........just the most "available umpire" ...........this time of year we often have better umpires doing youth ball at 6:00PM than at the choice HS game.

Assignors have the hard task of covering games with warm bodies due to the wide shortage of eligible officials............... 

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3 hours ago, kstrunk said:

We are required to attend 6 chapter meetings annually,...

That's 6 more than my state requires. Just have to pass an open-book rules exam (the NFHS test, to be precise). And they give you the questions weeks in advance of actually having to take the test. And there's no time limit, even then.

2 hours ago, Stan W. said:

With HS games starting at 3:30-4:30, oftentimes it is not the best umpire who gets the game...

Yep. I'm fortunate that my boss is flexible with my schedule. Heck, we're short enough on umpires that even the evening games are sometimes being worked with only one umpire.

You're not going to like the *real* answer (well, maybe YOU will, but the schools won't): money. If you want somebody to have to buy many hundreds of dollars worth of equipment, be trained well, get off work early, and put up with the constant criticism that all sports officials get, you need to make it worth their time to do so.

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I am the UIC for a local LL... and every year the conversation comes up... volunteers or paid umpires. And my response every year... where is this spring of trained, available and willing paid umpires coming from? The parents don't understand that often time, the guy that is volunteering to cover their game is the same guy that will be there if they go to paid officials. The shortage is real...

I have to chuckle about the guys working solo comment... All of our JV/Freshman (with a couple exclusions) are solo as is the majority of 'off season' games... No one wants to pay the fees for two folks.

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I agree the problems are many, and the solutions are few. First of all, there aren't a whole lot of people that want to officiate anyway, so the pool of availability is already small. Couple that with low pay, early start times, a lot more games, and abuse; the pool becomes even smaller.

In my area, especially with HS, it's mostly about availablity. With HS games starting around 3pm, there are not many people that are available. With the high cost of living in So Cal, who is able to make those games? Myself and for many of my colleagues, we can't leave work to go make a lousy $76.00. I wouldn't be able to afford my house, cars, wife, and kids. It's a hobby for me. I can't have it interfere with my real job. However, for many of the officials in our area, officiating is a major source of their income. They are either older retired guys supplementing their income, or other guys barely scraping by. They only care about the money. And since they get games no matter what because they are always available, they don't care about training, mechanics, looking sharp, etc. Why should they? Our assigner has to fill games, and he gives them first to who is available. We put on training (I'm a lead instructor), and hardly anyone shows up. The association tries to mandate participation, but number one, it's an empty threat because the membership knows the many games have to get filled. And number two, our BOD is a revolving door filled with the above mentioned people. They simply don't care about training or bettering themselves. They don't want to do anything that doesn't pay them money. Every fall, we have an opportunity to work San Diego State intersquad games at Tony Gywnn stadium. It's the best baseball I'll ever see, and I jump at every opportunity to work those games. It's a great training resource in a relaxed environment. It's open to all of our HS members. But hardly anyone wants to work them because they don't pay.

This also leads to another huge problem, and probably the most significant reason why it's hard to find officials in our area. Our HS association has a scratch list. Each coach can scratch up to 5 umpires per year. Doesn't matter the reason, they can scratch 5. The officials that need the money are deathly afraid of getting on this list. So what happens? They are reticent to eject for fear of losing games and income. They let the coaches, players, and fans walk all over them. It breeds a culture of poor behavior and abuse. Honestly, if I wasn't already an umpire when I watched my boys play baseball throughout HS, I would not have wanted to become one.

More pay is all well and good, but unrealistic of course. In So Cal, you'd have to pay each umpire $200.00 a game to make it even worth while to make 3pm weekday game.

What really needs to change is the culture. Get rid of the abuse and you'd have more people. Not sure how to do that, but that is the real issue.

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We have a similar conversation. We mandate that our coaches umpire league games. Every year, somebody claims it's too much demand. (I coach 2 team, am the VP of operations and umpire 3 different levels) I'm not one of them. Every year, we decide that we'll pay umpires for Fall Ball as a trial and by the second week, nobody can stand the paid umpires. I'm far from perfect, but some of the guys we have been sent are really questionable. We had a plate umpire pass out during a game. Another changed his call because one of the coaches yelled at him. 

A neighboring league uses paid umpires and they've had a bunch of no shows this season. During an interleague game the PU did the plate meeting from a printed list. etc. Every year we eventually decide that the coaches do as good of a job if not better than the paid guys. And it doesn't cost us a couple thousand per season. 

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1 hour ago, Mudisfun said:

I am the UIC for a local LL... and every year the conversation comes up...

See my post above. 

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On 5/10/2018 at 12:21 PM, Stan W. said:

Different start times?

With HS games starting at 3:30-4:30, oftentimes it is not the best umpire who gets the game........just the most "available umpire" ...........this time of year we often have better umpires doing youth ball at 6:00PM than at the choice HS game.

Assignors have the hard task of covering games with warm bodies due to the wide shortage of eligible officials............... 

Do high school baseball fields in PA have lights? I would understand if there were no lights (PG County in MD does not have lights, and only 3 Montgomery County (MD) public school fields have lights, but NoVA fields do). If the fields installed lights (or were able to purchase portable lights for use once or twice a week), then a lot of games would be later, and some better umpires would actually be available to work.

I want to become better as an umpire, and keep officiating at the HS, college, and/or professional levels, but it isn't easy to find a job that would allow me to have free afternoons (after 2 PM) for travel to games (I'm a student now, so I have some wiggle room with scheduling classes).

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On ‎5‎/‎11‎/‎2018 at 6:53 PM, ilyazhito said:

Do high school baseball fields in PA have lights? I would understand if there were no lights (PG County in MD does not have lights, and only 3 Montgomery County (MD) public school fields have lights, but NoVA fields do). If the fields installed lights (or were able to purchase portable lights for use once or twice a week), then a lot of games would be later, and some better umpires would actually be available to work.

I want to become better as an umpire, and keep officiating at the HS, college, and/or professional levels, but it isn't easy to find a job that would allow me to have free afternoons (after 2 PM) for travel to games (I'm a student now, so I have some wiggle room with scheduling classes).

Some do............the vast majority do not. I was fortunate to get some night games in this season because of that.   

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On 5/10/2018 at 2:37 PM, JonnyCat said:

More pay is all well and good, but unrealistic of course. In So Cal, you'd have to pay each umpire $200.00 a game to make it even worth while to make 3pm weekday game.

What really needs to change is the culture. Get rid of the abuse and you'd have more people. Not sure how to do that, but that is the real issue.

Maybe maybe not.   I agree on the abuse statement, to a degree.   In my experience, though, the majority of it does eventually lead to money...is the money I'm getting worth my time, the drive to and from, the paperwork, the abuse, and so on.   If you pay enough, they'll put up with the standard abuse.  Even if you get rid of the abuse, there's still the question of how valuable one's time is.   Especially if you're umping a single game, solo, and there's a 30-40 minute drive to and from the game.

Right out of the gate, I think you need to double the pay of every umpire.  Yeah, it skews the economics, but teams/leagues will figure it out.   Sell chocolate bars.   Don't buy as many Bow Nets.  Cut back on the league banquet.   Charge admission.  Don't care.   I think you'll see a sudden influx of people interested in umping.  You'll increase the pool size.  And that will increase the quality and talent.

As a coach of a travelling club team, at our annual cost of about $8000/player, we sat down and figured that if ump fees doubled, reflecting in increased league and tournament fees, that over 80 games we'd pay about $500 more per player....at the high end.

 

Nobody thinks twice about the facility fees.  And nobody bats an eye when those fees go through the roof.   "Oh well, we can't do anything about it"  I have hosted tournaments where renting three diamonds for a weekend cost more than two umpires per game for 39 games (three games running at a time).  I think that's ridiculous.

 

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Increasing fees will lead to more umpires -- but it won't be immediate (at least at the higher levels) -- the new umpires still need to start at the bottom and learn their way up.  It will help a bit with some of the retention issues.

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That would definitely make sense. Installing lights, or buying portable light setups would help increase availability by allowing games to be played later in the evening. There should be no reason why football/stadium fields have lights, but baseball fields do not. 

Playing games later would increase availability for umpires who have outside jobs, and may not be able to leave work as early as students or retirees. 

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11 hours ago, beerguy55 said:

Maybe maybe not.   I agree on the abuse statement, to a degree.   In my experience, though, the majority of it does eventually lead to money...is the money I'm getting worth my time, the drive to and from, the paperwork, the abuse, and so on.   If you pay enough, they'll put up with the standard abuse.  Even if you get rid of the abuse, there's still the question of how valuable one's time is.   Especially if you're umping a single game, solo, and there's a 30-40 minute drive to and from the game.

Right out of the gate, I think you need to double the pay of every umpire.  Yeah, it skews the economics, but teams/leagues will figure it out.   Sell chocolate bars.   Don't buy as many Bow Nets.  Cut back on the league banquet.   Charge admission.  Don't care.   I think you'll see a sudden influx of people interested in umping.  You'll increase the pool size.  And that will increase the quality and talent.

As a coach of a travelling club team, at our annual cost of about $8000/player, we sat down and figured that if ump fees doubled, reflecting in increased league and tournament fees, that over 80 games we'd pay about $500 more per player....at the high end.

 

Nobody thinks twice about the facility fees.  And nobody bats an eye when those fees go through the roof.   "Oh well, we can't do anything about it"  I have hosted tournaments where renting three diamonds for a weekend cost more than two umpires per game for 39 games (three games running at a time).  I think that's ridiculous.

 

I agree that an increase in the fees would go a long way to attract more people. And with more people, associations could demand better training and more professionalism among their employees. That's assuming associations would follow suit. That's the problem with my HS association, few care about getting better. But with that being said, an increase in pay is more of a pipe dream at this point. Financially for me and many others in my area, umpiring 3pm games makes no sense. I'm leaving a half days pay to make a paltry $76.00? It doesn't pay the bills. It's not unreasonable for rents or mortgages in So Cal to be $2500.00 a month and much more. Do the math, that's 30 grand a year or more for rent or mortgage. You'd have to do 400 games at an average of $76.00 games just to pay rent here. Many of the games pay even less that that. Most travel-ball pays around $50.00 per game. Yeah, it would be nice to get paid more, but probably not going to happen. Not sure why baseball pays so little. Maybe the tide will be turning with the shortage of officials, but for now, it will still just be a little extra income out here. I think officiating might always be just some extra cash on the amateur level. I agree the fees should be at least doubled and put us more in line with other sports. Even with an increase in pay, it's still always going to be a part time job with part time pay.

But for some reason baseball seems more unique to abuse of the officials. I don't see it as much in other sports. In fact, when my son's played water polo and on the swim team, not only did the officials get payed more for a lot less work, there was little to no abuse whatsoever in the 8+ seasons I watched. 

I think more realistically, changing the culture would have a more immediate impact in recruitment. When trying to recruit new umpires, in my experience the number one reason for people give for not wanting to do it is that they don't want to get yelled at. It's also the reason people walk away from it, they get tired of the abuse. Until TD's, High Schools, and youth leagues start to demand a higher set of standards and behavior, people are going to be reluctant to officiate. Couple that with low pay, that's a tough hurdle to overcome.

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21 minutes ago, ilyazhito said:

That would definitely make sense. Installing lights, or buying portable light setups would help increase availability by allowing games to be played later in the evening. There should be no reason why football/stadium fields have lights, but baseball fields do not. 

Playing games later would increase availability for umpires who have outside jobs, and may not be able to leave work as early as students or retirees. 

Good point and I agree that would help a lot. It's amazing how many baseball fields in my area don't have lights. Most of the HS fields don't and they probably never will due to the cost.

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6 hours ago, JonnyCat said:

Good point and I agree that would help a lot. It's amazing how many baseball fields in my area don't have lights. Most of the HS fields don't and they probably never will due to the cost.

Let's not forget that the AD works all day, so I doubt very many are going to be willing to have lights installed so they can work even longer hours.  Football is one or two nights per week, baseball & softball can be almost every night and Saturday.

I like the idea, just not sure it's feasible for most high schools.

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9 hours ago, ilyazhito said:

That would definitely make sense. Installing lights, or buying portable light setups would help increase availability by allowing games to be played later in the evening. There should be no reason why football/stadium fields have lights, but baseball fields do not. 

Playing games later would increase availability for umpires who have outside jobs, and may not be able to leave work as early as students or retirees. 

And it is amazing that they can find a place for the football crews to change inside... but baseball and softball... oh the parking lot will do just fine for you.

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9 minutes ago, JSam21 said:

And it is amazing that they can find a place for the football crews to change inside... but baseball and softball... oh the parking lot will do just fine for you.

99% of schools will provide a locker room, if asked (probably in advance, because of the standard) -- it's just that BB and SB umpires don't typically ask / prefer the car, etc.

 

If your association makes it a point, AND if the umpires then use the locker rooms, it will happen.

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Yea, I don't want a locker room for baseball. In 95+% of the cases, I'd have to drag my entire gear setup for twice the distance as walking to the field, plus I don't use a bag anyway, I have a couple 5 drawer Sterilite storage containers for everything. If it's a playoff game or something, different story but the average weeknight 5 pm game? I'm ok in the lot.

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6 minutes ago, scrounge said:

Yea, I don't want a locker room for baseball. In 95+% of the cases, I'd have to drag my entire gear setup for twice the distance as walking to the field, plus I don't use a bag anyway, I have a couple 5 drawer Sterilite storage containers for everything. If it's a playoff game or something, different story but the average weeknight 5 pm game? I'm ok in the lot.

I only wish there was something like the Officials Locker Room still around sometimes.  Most of the time, I can change quick and off I go, but there are sometimes that the lot is very open and it feels odd to be standing there in my shorts whilst parents and fans are arriving.

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32 minutes ago, noumpere said:

99% of schools will provide a locker room, if asked (probably in advance, because of the standard) -- it's just that BB and SB umpires don't typically ask / prefer the car, etc.

 

If your association makes it a point, AND if the umpires then use the locker rooms, it will happen.

This is very true. Our association started pressing this several years ago and now almost every school has a place for us to dress. It has also drastically cut down on the number of incidents involving fans and umpires after the game.

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12 minutes ago, wolfe_man said:

I only wish there was something like the Officials Locker Room still around sometimes.  Most of the time, I can change quick and off I go, but there are sometimes that the lot is very open and it feels odd to be standing there in my shorts whilst parents and fans are arriving.

Very true....luckily I have a minivan so it's pretty easy to just pop in and change in there. 

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7 minutes ago, scrounge said:

Yea, I don't want a locker room for baseball. In 95+% of the cases, I'd have to drag my entire gear setup for twice the distance as walking to the field, plus I don't use a bag anyway, I have a couple 5 drawer Sterilite storage containers for everything. If it's a playoff game or something, different story but the average weeknight 5 pm game? I'm ok in the lot.

You would if you had to change at the one school in our area.  There is a lady that lives JUST off the campus that will call the police as soon as she sees guys changing at their cars. 

One of the reasons, along with others why the HS officals sued PIAA for rights.

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5 hours ago, wolfe_man said:

Let's not forget that the AD works all day, so I doubt very many are going to be willing to have lights installed so they can work even longer hours.  Football is one or two nights per week, baseball & softball can be almost every night and Saturday.

I like the idea, just not sure it's feasible for most high schools.

In many states (at least in the Northeast, and to some degree in the Midwest), the stadium field is also used for lacrosse (both boys and girls), or soccer (some states play soccer in the spring), and some of those games are evening games, so lights will be used a few times a week anyway. In that case, it makes no sense not to provide lights to baseball and/or softball fields, especially a portable setup that can rotate to provide night games on a variable basis (M softball night/baseball day, Thursday, baseball night/softball day, etc.). Re: locker rooms, I prefer to have a locker room, because I do not have a car, and have to travel to most games by Uber or public transit. In those cases, I just go to the school, and ask for the boys' locker room. I then change in there, and walk out to the field. I don't know if AD's respond to emails that umpires send to confirm games, so I'm not sure if asking for locker rooms in advance would actually be effective as a strategy. I guess that associations would have to push for locker room access. 

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10 hours ago, wolfe_man said:

I only wish there was something like the Officials Locker Room still around sometimes.  Most of the time, I can change quick and off I go, but there are sometimes that the lot is very open and it feels odd to be standing there in my shorts whilst parents and fans are arriving.

why not change into your pants at home or at work?

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