SouthCoast Struggles with Youth Baseball Umpire Shortage
Al Niles has been umpiring youth baseball games since the early 1980s. In fact, this is his 40th season behind the plate.
There have been a lot of changes to local organizations in the past several decades, but Niles says the level of negativity and outright abuse coming from both parents and coaches has SouthCoast umpires running for the exits.
"It's just not worth it anymore," Niles said. "Why would someone subject themselves to the verbal and sometimes even physical abuse from parents and coaches?"
Niles said he's had fathers follow him out to the parking lot and assault him as he was trying to get into his car. He said parents have followed him home.
Keep in mind, this anger is all over a 9- or 10-year-old's baseball game.
On an average year, Niles says his ACK Umpire Group employs roughly 70 umpires to cover youth baseball in Dartmouth, Whaling City Youth Baseball and the South End Youth Athletic Association. However, there has been a steady decline in umpires over the past 10 years or so. The company now employs 35 and is desperate to find new ones.
In one Little League organization located outside of Philadelphia, officials thought of a new solution that has been working pretty well. Any parent who argues with an umpire is forced to umpire three games before they're allowed to return as a spectator.
Niles loves the idea.
"To be honest, it's been slightly better this season because I think the leagues are starting to understand how serious the problem is becoming and they are doing more to back the umpires," he said.
The best way to become an umpire is to reach out to your local league.
Niles said anyone interested can be trained Umpires do earn some money for each game, but "no one's getting rich," Niles said.
"People do it for the love of the game."
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