Often an overlooked aspect of the Little League program, umpiring is one of the most important. The volunteer umpire is as much a part of Little League as the volunteer manager, coach or concession stand worker.
There is no sound reason for paying umpires, or any other person whose services should be provided on a volunteer basis. Many districts and leagues have found successful ways to operate volunteer umpiring programs, helping to defray the costs that might normally be passed on to the parents. Some leagues provide new equipment or uniforms to umpires to use in performing their service to the league, then the umpire can retain the items after a certain period of time.
Little League also offers many training materials, clinics and seminars on umpire education, as well as the Little League Umpire Registry. The registry allows volunteer umpires to receive regular mailings from Headquarters on rule interpretations, updates, etc.
Who is responsible for the conduct of umpires? First and foremost, it is the umpire himself/herself. Each of us in Little League must take responsibility for our own actions. However, umpires are appointed by the local league president and approved by the local league board of directors. Only the local league board of directors has the authority to dismiss or suspend any local league umpire from regular season games.
A select group of volunteer umpires whose knowledge, experience and demeanor have received recognition at top levels of Tournament Play are invited each year to officiate at one of the World Series tournaments. In keeping with the volunteer aspect of the local league, travel expenses for World Series umpires are borne by the umpires themselves.
The District Administrator is responsible for nominating umpires (those who volunteer their time to local Little Leagues within the district) for upper level tournaments. Most umpires who reach the pinnacle of youth sports officiating (one of the World Series of Little League Baseball or Softball) have been volunteering their time to local Little Leagues for a decade or more.
Tired of not having an umpire for your child’s games? We depend on volunteers, and here’s your chance to learn the trade. Anyone aged 13 and older is welcome to join our crew. There are two opportunities in the next few weeks to learn the basics. We will provide all umpires with a shirt, and we plan to have protective gear available in the storage shed for those not ready to commit to buying their own.
For adults only, there are still a few seats left in the annual D9 training clinic. Our district's Chief Umpire Mark Smith has decades of experience, and was an umpire for the Little League World Series last year in Williamsport. He’ll be leading the training, which runs 9:00 to 5:00 on Saturday and 9:00 to 1:00 on Sunday at the Fairfax County Police Academy, 14601 Lee Rd. in Chantilly. It alternates between classroom instruction on the LL Rule Book, and practical instruction on plate and field mechanics. They traditionally have donuts and coffee both mornings, with pizza and soda for lunch Saturday.
Locally, for all umpires, Woodlawn and APLL will be co-hosting a half-day clinic on March 30 at Bucknell Elementary School from 8:30 - 1:00. We'll work on how to call balls and strikes properly, and focus on basic rules, especially those Little League-specific rules that trip up a lot of people. We hope to see you there.