October 4 - Facing a numbers shortage that has tasked its veterans with heavy workloads, the Northern Virginia Baseball Umpires Association will make an offseason push to replenish its ranks for 2019.
The area’s largest umpires organization has been officiating games at all levels in Northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for over four decades with a current staff of more than 250. But an increase in demand coupled with annual turnover, the result at least in part due to the transient employment nature in the area, has put a scheduling crunch on the NVBUA.
“The stress on our ability to cover games is real and ongoing,” wrote longtime umpire Norm Gordon, who has worked 123 games this year. “We have a large core of umpires who work well in excess of 100 games a year from March through October. In the fall, many of our umpires are involved in other athletic situations, so it becomes difficult to fully staff games.”
Tasked with covering youth, travel, high school, collegiate and men’s league games, the NVBUA generally assigns two umpires for each game. But the shortage in qualified umpires has reached a peak this fall, to the point where this weekend, with two large tournaments scheduled, the organization may only be able to supply a single umpire at some games.
“Certainly not an optimal situation,” Gordon said.
The NVBUA generally replenishes its ranks by 25-50 each year, with rookie umpires taking a six-week training class through the Mid-Atlantic Officials organization that also trains and staffs area volleyball referees. After graduating from the initial training class, umpires advance to second-year training, advanced two-man crew training and other mentoring programs. Additional camps and clinics are offered to continue their education.
“Every new umpire receives professional training,” the organization’s commissioner, John Porter, writes on its website. “Whether you are 70 or 17 years old, you are treated with respect and are given opportunities to advance.”
Photo by Fred Ingham