UNITY — We like to presume when we hear the call “batter’s out,” it is in reference to a batter being called out by an umpire behind the plate.
Ball season has started and there are concerns in communities about the lack of umpires to fill this role for their teams.
“We hosted an umpire clinic that was a great success, and happy to have umpires available throughout our surrounding communities as they are a huge part of having a successful ball season,” reports Kerrobert Minor Ball .
However, it is a different story in Macklin.
“We are in need,” Macklin Minor Ball says.
“Umps are always hard to find. We have a couple younger kids in town, but they don’t usually do the older age groups. When we have to look out of town, it costs more as we have to pay mileage as well. Our sports weekends [it is] always hard to find umps because there are multiple games going on.”
“For the baseball side we are looking good as have 11 umpires signed up, two new ones who have coached a lot of ball,” Unity umpire co-ordinator Trevor Green tells the Unity-Wilkie Press-Herald and SASKTODAY.ca.
Green says the softball side only has six and ideally, he would like 10 so is hoping to have a few more come on board.
“It helps when you can host a clinic in town as we hosted a baseball one here and the end result was good,” adds Green.
Calls come in from other communities like Macklin, Biggar and Wilkie and Green says they try to help if they can but are committed to Unity games first.
“Pre-COVID there were 500 softball umpires and there are only 208 registered now in the province, which is down one-third from 2018-2022,” Green notes.
While provincial umpire compensation hasn’t gone up, Unity Minor Ball is offering an escalator bonus in stages of games umpires have served at.
“I know we are in a lot better shape for umpires than some towns.”
Green also says there are opportunities for female umpires in both baseball and softball divisions and he was happy to see three females take in the Unity official clinic.
Why is there a shortage of officials for sports programs? Bad behaviour and official abuse are cited as the number one cause people either quit officiating or don’t want to start but Green says he has not witnessed much of that at Unity diamonds and if there has been, it has been dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Parents say they are reluctant to let their young teens officiate a game when they have seen insults and heckling directed at those behind the plate.
An April 26 story on the Washington Post website said one town is taking action in a proactive way against official abuse. The article states that in one New Jersey town, you have to officiate three games yourself or risk being banned from the field if you have been caught heckling or hurling insults at umpires.
Umpire shortages are a problem across the province and sports games can be at risk without this important part of the game.
Interested parties are encouraged to contact their minor sports organization to see if there is a way, they can contribute to team blue for the upcoming ball season.