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Baseball Manitoba searching for more umpires amid shortage


Baseball Manitoba is looking for more people to be behind the plate to call balls and strikes.

Ashton Liskie, the vice-president of umpire development for Baseball Manitoba, said the organization is still looking for around 50 umpires, to bring their total up to 600, which was the number pre-pandemic.

He said where the shortage is being felt the most is among the more senior umps in the province.

"We have a lot of young up-and-coming umpires, which is phenomenal, and our numbers have definitely risen this year. However, we are feeling the pinch in the more advanced age groups within Baseball Manitoba," said Liskie.

With a shortage of more senior umps, he said it can lead to burnout for some and fewer umpires being available for the higher levels.

At those higher levels, he said usually three umpires are involved in the game, but with a shortage that gets dropped to two.

"It's starting to wane in on our older umpires in our sport."

Liskie added when there is a full fleet of umpires available, it also gives more senior umpires the ability to go mentor some of the younger umps to help them improve and help with retention.

Umpires can start as young as 12 years old and only need to take a six-hour course to reach Level 1 certification.

The younger umps usually officiate the younger age level games and have the ability to move up as they get older.

The younger games are umped by two people, but can be done with one, however Liskie noted it's not ideal.

In a bid to help make umpiring more appealing, Jason Miller, the executive director of Baseball Manitoba, said pay has been increased – $35 a game if there are two umps and $50 if there is one – and the punishment is more strict if there is abuse from coaches.

"Coaches that verbally abuse an umpire and it gets reported in an umpire rejection report, get an automatic extra game suspension now. We started that last season and that immediately cut our ejections in half," said Miller.

He added it has also allowed for more education and communication between umpires and coaches.

Miller also believes if coaches are ejected less often, it will also lead to fewer comments coming from people in the stands.

"The way a coach behaves on the field and the way his or her team interacts with the other team, with umpires, with the fans, it's contagious. So if you have a coach who is verbally aggressive, loud, belligerent, that translates to the players and translates to the parents," said Miller.

Both Miller and Liskie encourage anyone to explore becoming an umpire if they have any interest in the sport, and Liskie even has a way to convince younger and older people to join.

"If your kid is umpiring, why not give it a shot as well. We have had a lot of father-son or father-daughter or even mom-son and mom-daughter combos go a long way in baseball and within Baseball Manitoba.

More details about becoming an ump and course availability can be found on Baseball Manitoba's website. Top Stories

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