A New Jersey Little League is telling parents who think their child is the next MLB All-Star, questioning the umpire’s every call, to walk a mile in the ump’s shoes.
Officials with the Deptford Township Little League say they have a group of spectators that berate the umps that they don’t like, WPVI reported.
But unlike years past, this year if they fight with the game officials, there will be a penalty. The fans won’t be kicked out of the fields, instead, they will find themselves on the fields making the calls they so “expertly” make from the stands.
League president Don Bozzuffi told WPVI, “They think that the call was bad, which always amazes me that they can see a strike better over there than the umpire can one foot in back of them.”
According to a letter to parents of the San Antonio Little League in Texas, which is not affiliated with the Deptford area, the National Association of Sports Officials conducted a survey in 2019 that found that:
- 13% of officials have been assaulted
- 47% have feared for their life
- 57% have broken up fights
- 64% have ejected players, managers, coaches or parents
- 80% quit before their third year
The San Antonio Little League says that umpires spend 20 to 30 hours a year in training for their area between classroom instruction, on-field mechanics and staying current on rules. That does not include the time and money they spend on their own as part of their volunteer duties.
In the letter, the San Antonio Little League wrote, “So, the next time you’re watching your child, family members or friend playing at your local league, remember: Umpires are human too. We make mistakes but a good umpire will do everything in their power to get it right. We know that when there’s a close play, we’re going to make half the people happy and not the other half. In the end, we want to get the call right.”
Some umpires have had enough of the verbal abuse and have hung up their masks and chest protectors and quit the league.
To combat the combative parents, the Deptford Township Little League has developed a new rule: One fight with an umpire and a spectator will find themselves strapping on the protective gear, not volunteering but being voluntold that they must serve as an umpire for three games before being allowed to sit on the sidelines.
“The main purpose is not for them to be able to call a baseball game, but for them to see what’s going on out here and it’s not that easy,” Bozzuffi told WPVI.
They won’t be alone behind the plate or along the basepath. A trained umpire will also be there to ensure they make the correct call.
If they don’t take the on-field umpiring position, they can be banned from the fields for a year, CBS News reported.
One umpire whose own children played in the league spoke to CBS News about the move, which is being called an “enlightenment” not a punishment.
“It’s sort of natural to say, ‘Buddy if you could do a better job, come on down here and do it, or don’t make any comments about the way I do it,’” Mac Barnes said.
In addition to showing fans that it isn’t that easy to call balls and strikes accurately, there has been another positive outcome from the new rule. The league has had five people inquire about volunteering to become umpires, CBS News reported.