Should Little League Umpires Be Paid like MLB Umpires
Little League is made up of kids just wanting to learn to play the game of baseball, or softball. Making the umpires as official as MLB umpires will change the face of the game at this level.
My daughter played softball in the Bobby Sox division in Lakewood California for 6 years. Bobby Sox is a step up from the Park-n-Rec level, giving girls with a little more experience the chance to play at a little more competitive level. Bobby Sox is not at the same level of Club or Travel Ball play.
The people who umpire for Bobby Sox are paid, $3.25 per game. Most of the umpires who participated in our league were volunteers, either older people who were still wanting to be an active member in their community, or high school kids needing a place to obtain their high school service hours.
These people were required by Bobby Sox to take an instructional class prior to each season. Their uniforms and the protective gear was provided to them by the League, funded in part by the dues parents paid for their kids to participate, and by fundraisers that were held throughout the season.
Being the official of any kids sport is not easy. It takes a special person to be able to come back week after week, taking abuse from difficult parents and on occasion a player who took their calls to personally. But they would come every week, and do the job no one else would want.
If it weren’t for these people, the ones willing to wear the blue, these games would not have taken place at all. If the parents had to pay more for their child to participate, I’m sure there would be fewer kids in the program, meaning fewer team, fewer games, needing fewer umpires. Bottom line – fewer girls would have the opportunity to participate in such an exciting sport.
Having the high school kids out there was one of the best examples of volunteerism that any child could experience. The younger girls got to know these older players, and would go to watch them play their games. Watching the older girls play showed the younger players that these girls knew what they were talking about when they took the field as umpires.
The older girls would also talk to the young players about the older volunteers. The high school girls talked of how certain umpires were there on the fields back when they were young players, still learning the game. It gave all of them, and us parents and even deeper sense of community and pride.
Over the years I have experienced the occasional disrespectful parent who would bad mouth the umpire, no matter if the person in blue was a young girl or older man. Always the person to be involved, I would stop the abuser and ask “How about you get out there and wear the blue shirt?” I never heard an “OK, I’ll do that!” answer – and this usually stopped the offensive behavior.
Throughout the season I would always talk to the team about the umpires and the importance of the job they do. “Without them,” I would say, “none of you would be able to play. So respect them and the calls they make – good or bad. And, when you get older, come back and volunteer your time by wearing the blue shirt.”
My daughter now plays at the Club/Travel Ball level, where the umpires are required to have more training and are paid better for their time. Even with all their training and pay it does not make them better umpires. If anything , I have seen worse when it comes to attitude and ability. It seems that to some of these people, this is just a job to them. They do not realize the importance of the impact they are making on a younger generation. They have no ties to the girls on the field or the people in the stands. To some it’s a power play, they are in control of something where their opinion can make or break others dreams.
I could only wish that there was a personality test that potential umpires had to take to make sure that they’re applying for the right reasons. They want to be a positive part of something that is bigger than themselves.