Does a warm summer evening on the ball field with a bunch of energetic 12 year olds sound appealing? Do the sounds of dugout chatter and the crack of the bat on ball put a smile on your face? Does seeing the infield in scurry and a close play at second base get your adrenaline pumping?
That’s the hope of Dan Springer, a board member for Woodinville Little League. In recent years he’s noticed an annual decline in the number of volunteer umpires, and he wishes to reach out to new prospects with the message “you’re needed.”
“It is without doubt that umpires are the hardest positions to fill among all volunteer positions,” Springer said. “We have had games where there were not enough umpires and we had to yank people out of the stands to umpire a game. Otherwise the game wouldn’t be played.”
Springer says that the issue is always most pressing at season’s end during the TLC Tournament, when all the major teams in District 8 play each other in a round robin tournament.
“Woodinville Little League is responsible for covering a certain number of the games,” he said. “In recent years we’ve had real difficulty in getting all of our slots filled. So what happens is that we have the same 5-6 umpires doing almost all of the TLC games. And it’s unfortunate because in some cases those guys don’t even have kids in the league anymore. They just continue to do it out of the goodness of their own hearts.
“I love the fact that they’re willing to step up, but we really need to get new blood in there. We’re hoping to get people in there with kids in the program and who know a bit about baseball and can learn the rest in order to be an umpire.
Woodinville Little League is hoping to have their umpires identified, trained and outfitted by early March. Games start in late March, and Springer says that a mentorship program is now established to get new umps comfortable before taking full control of umpiring a game.
The mentorship program will get the new umps comfortable on the field until they have a couple games under their belt and are able to go on there own, with another partner.