Due to severe shortage of umpires, teams are being forced to postpone, reschedule games

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 9:49 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - For Dan Halter, head coach of the Xavier Saints, it was a new experience trying to find an umpire the morning of a game.

“It was going through everybody possible, and everybody you know have was already booked,” Halter said. “I can’t recall a MVC doubleheader varsity doubleheader that’s been postponed before because of umpires,”

Unsuccessful in finding someone available, the Xavier-Dubuque Senior game had to be pushed to the next day. This summer, more than any prior, teams from all around and at all sizes are having to do the same thing.

“Night before, kind of get on the phone and start calling some people and send us some texts out that people that have been here before,” Nathan King, head coach of Williamsburg, explained.

“We’ve got to the point where it’s critical mass this year,” said Doug Yanecek, an umpire of 17 years. On Friday, Yanacek was working his ninth doubleheader in ten days. Count up the hours and consider it his second full time job.

“Doesn’t need to be or didn’t intend to be but yes,” Yanecek said.

Time is just one of the factors the number of officials is so low. According to the Iowa High School Athletic Association, pre-covid numbers for registered officials hovered 1,200. This summer, that number now sits at 781.

“You can’t blame an individual when they’ve worked five nights in a row that they want a night off. You know we all have families we’re all human beings,” Yanacek explained.

Umping at the high school level can come with a significant time commitment, as some doubleheaders can last more than five hours. In comparison, one can umpire a youth-league game for just under two hours and make over half as much.

“That’s an arm wrestle.” Yanacek said. “You don’t want the youth games canceled and you don’t want the high school games canceled but it’s a situation that is real, it’s out there, it’s happening.”

Another concern is the cost of just starting up. Officials are responsible for their own equipment, a price tag that Yanacek says can run up to $250.

“So now you’re looking at working for three or four nights of your season for free just to pay for your equipment,” Yanacek added.

The solution, while not clear cut, points in one direction. Youth.

“There’s going to be some veterans that continue to cycle out so we got to find a way to get some of those new ones in and hopefully it’s some of those kids that really enjoy the game when they were in high school,” King said.

The IHSAA realizes the shortage, and frequently posts a registration link for any interested. Through the rest of this summer, teams are taking it one game at a time hoping for the best.

“These guys are out here we need them out here they’re a vital part of the game,” Halter said.

“We don’t do this for the income,” said Yanacek. “We do it to give the kids an opportunity to participate and learn things that they don’t learn in the classroom. A good majority of us all played the sport and recognize how much it meant to us and want to continue that for the kids is why we’re out there,”

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