The North Bend Eagle

 

Teens pitch in so youth can play ball

by Nathan Arneal
Published 8/10/22

Around Nebraska and the United States, sports officials are becoming hard to come by.

On the radio last week, Nebraska Schools Activities Association Assistant Director Nate Neuhaus said the lack of officials is a looming crisis. Some schools are moving football games to Friday afternoon or Thursday because they can’t find officials for Friday night.

Totally impartial umpire Grant Peters, 18, poses with a random player on one of the teams he was umping, Bret Peters. High school-age umpries worked 95% of the games for North Bend's summer youth ball programs this year.

The same pinch was being felt in North Bend as local organizers were struggling to find enough umpires to work summer youth baseball and softball games.

Aaron Sterup, who was in charge of scheduling umpires for the 10-and-under through 14-and-under baseball divisions, said the supply of willing adults dried up.

“I pretty much asked every adult in town that I could think of that might have an interest, and nobody wanted to do it,” Sterup said. “So we started recruiting kids to do it.”

He put out a call in the morning announcements at NBC seeking teens willing to umpire and got about eight respondents. So they got the job, which pays between $45 and $60 a game.

“In the past we’ve used young kids to supplement,” Sterup said, “but the last few years we’ve had to use them as our main resource. In an ideal world, we’d have at least one adult there, but we just couldn’t find anybody to do it so we had to rely on the kids. They did 95% of the umpiring for us this summer.”

The young umps ranged from 18-year-old Grant Peters, who will be starting his freshman year at UNO in a matter of days, to 15-year old sophomores-to-be in Joe Blaha, Landon Mimick and Layne Ruzicka. Some of them don’t even play baseball.

Sterup brought in some veteran umpires from Omaha to give the new recruits a clinic on in the ins and outs of umpiring.

Peters is one of the old men of the group, having umped the past three summers. He still remembers the butterflies of his first game and the way his mind was racing the first time he had to make a call. But it settled down quickly after that.

“The most you’ll ever learn is in your first game,” Peters said. “Once you have that first game under your belt, everything starts to get more comfortable. Once you’ve been in that stressful situation before, it’s no longer uncomfortable. It becomes familiar. No different that playing a baseball game.”

None of the young umps interviewed reported having any problems with coaches or fans yelling at them over calls. Sterup said the youth of the umps may help that.

“I think for the most part parents are a little less likely to yell and scream at kids than adults,” he said.

Wyatt Rangeloff, 16, said he had to give two warnings this year, but it was no big deal to ignore the chirping and move on.

 

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