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Striking Out: Shortage of umpires and players hits teams

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Little League Shortage
Stacy Hagan

SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- Batter up! Little league teams across Siouxland are having a tough time filling umpire positions. It's been a problem for years but the pandemic has made a tough situation, even worse.

"There's nothing better than playing the game of baseball," said Rob Maynard, current umpire and former Northwest Little League president.

It's a common sight during the summer months. Players are once again hitting the field. But for years, officials have been striking out, when it comes to finding umpires.

"Last year was probably a little worse than this year, but now some of the underlying conditions of covid where the older umpires don't want to come back, college kids are not back from college, high school kids are in their spring seasons and starting baseball," said Maynard.

Also driving the shortage...low pay and abuse from unruly parents and fans.

"People have to realize this is a youth sport and it's a learning experience," said Maynard. "The umpires aren't getting paid enough to stand out here and get ridiculed by everyone on the outside of the fence who do not know the game."

But even with the shortage of umps, officials are working to make sure games don't have to be canceled. Many people like Maynard, becoming umpires themselves.

"There's a need for it, and I know the rules and I love baseball which is a huge factor," said Maynard.

But officials are also facing another issue. A dramatic drop in the number of kids out on the field. Northwest Little League had to be dissolved... those players now with Westside or Headid.

"The last couple of years we were way down on numbers and struggling to get one team per division," said Maynard. "When those numbers do drop, so does your money coming into these fields and parks."

It's a hard thing for Maynard to see...

"It hurts to see that go away," said Maynard. "Times change. Things come into factor but I like to see kids out playing the sport I love."

Maynard said he hopes to see things change. But for now, they'll keep volunteering, helping kids to hit it out of the park.

Maynard said if you are interested in umpiring, or you have a child interested in playing, reach out to your local team or league.

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Michaela Feldmann

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