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Wausau Youth baseball and softball experiencing an umpire shortage

‘Wausau Youth Baseball and Softball’ says they’re at the point of pulling fans in to help ump games
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 5:13 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - With the summer comes America’s Pastime for youth around the country, but it’s been a little bit more difficult to ‘play ball’ this year in Wausau.

Wausau Youth Baseball and Softball say they’re experiencing an umpire shortage this year, something that’s been trending down for the last four years.

“We don’t want to get to the point of canceling games, but that’s certainly an option, that we don’t want to explore,” said Board President Justin Sorenson. “Especially with them waiting all year long for the baseball season and it’s only twelve games.”

With games four games a week across the three levels of competition, the organization has had to call on others just to ensure a game.

“We’re at the point of pulling parents or kids out of the stands just to have a field umpire just so that the game can go on,” said Sorenson.

There are a lot of options contributing to the issue. For one, the loner-than-average winter has altered many people’s schedules, particularly for a good chunk of the umpires.

“A lot of our umpires are high school kids and they’re finishing up their spring sports season right now,” said Sorenson.

Another contributing factor is hesitancy from the volunteers. While the league hasn’t had to throw anyone out this year, there’s an overall growing concern in youth baseball and softball with unruly fans.

“We haven’t had any issues in our league, which is a good thing,” said Sorenson. “You’re going to have your crazy ones, but we haven’t had to throw anybody out or eject anybody from a game for that.”

Coaches are given expectations for conduct before the season to share with parents.

The experience has been overall positive for a lot of umpires, including Gary Stockwell, who’s been a little league ump since 1993.

“I absolutely love baseball,” said Stockwell. “I love the fact the kids, they come out here. They’re smiling, they’re enjoying the game. They’re running hard and playing hard.”

For those interested, but not confident in their ability, Stockwell assures them, they’ll be properly trained and given an experienced partner.

“We always try to pair a younger umpire with an older umpire,” said Stockwell. “We’ll help you learn. We’ll go through the rules together.”

Umpires are paid in Kwik Trip gift cards, $20 for majors and minors and $50 for juniors. The experience is something that Stockwell says keeps him coming back. He loves to see the next generation learn the game.

“They’re learning and every year that you see them, they get taller and they get better and they have more fun as it goes along. It’s great,” said Stockwell.

If anyone is interested in becoming an umpire, they can reach out to either Justin at justin.sorenson@charter.net or the Board Vice President Tim Thurs at vpbaseball@wausaubaseball.com.

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