Umpire Shortage Hits Massachusetts Youth Baseball

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Youth baseball in Massachusetts is struggling to find enough umpires to cover all of the games slated for the coming season.

According to the Massachusetts Baseball Umpires Association, the umpire shortage has been a problem for some time, but this year’s shortage is exceptional. The MBUA said that 20 to 25 percent of umpires across the state have quit. 

"There's gonna come a point where we're just not going to have games covered," Dominic DiMare, who staffs umpires for sub-varsity games on the South Shore, told GBH News. "It's not if it's going to happen, it's when it's going to happen."

Reasons for the decline in umpires range from scheduling conflicts to abuse from parents in the bleachers.

DiMare said that 10 or 15 years ago, there were more than 300 umpires to cover games in his area, now they have just 140.

"You got to have some sort of feeder system in order to replenish the workforce that's either — God help us, but — dying off or just too old to work," DiMare said.

Joe Cacciatore said he’s confident that varsity games will still be covered, but younger leagues may suffer.

"The biggest impact is going to be on sub-varsity at the high school level and summer programs that are now starting way too early," said Cacciatore, who assigns leagues in Eastern Massachusetts. "There's going to be a lot of games where there's only going to be one umpire in the games."

Keith Verra, president of the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association, urges more support for umpires.

"This may be a good time to thank players, parents, coaches and fans who demonstrate good sportsmanship and show appreciation for umpires/referees," Verra wrote. "And to those who do not should do some self reflection on their lack of sportsmanship and lack of appreciation for the roles umpires/referees play and how this may be affecting the shortage, umpires/referees walking away from the game, or not starting at all."

But Cacciatore says that baseball isn’t the only sport having trouble finding officials. 

"It's not just us, it's every state in the country that's having problems. And it's not just baseball, it's every sport," Cacciatore said. "It's just something that people are losing interest — you know, they're being abused by parents in the stands and it's just not worth it, money wise, for a lot of people to do it."

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