WESTVILLE, N.S. – The time-honoured sport of baseball is regaining a strong foothold among youth.
Now it’s up to those running the sport to ensure that there’s no shortage of umpires ready to handle minor baseball games over the summer.
“We’re giving them the basic training, to start umpiring for the season,” says Joel Rodgers, as 10 boys (most of them in their early teens) took part in an umpiring clinic on April 27 in Westville.
The clinics are held to attract new umpires, to brush up on any new rules that might have been put into the books since the previous baseball season and “to get them back in the mindset of umpiring baseball,” says Rodgers, who is president of Baseball Nova Scotia’s umpires division.
“Of the 10, eight of them have umpired before, so they’ve got the experience. They love baseball, they make extra cash. Some of them don’t play baseball, but they love the game and want to stay involved.”
Do they worry about talking abuse from coaches and fans?
“No one will agree with all your calls. Someone’s going to be upset with a close call, but the key is to help educate the kids learn how to handle those situations and help the coaches to address those situations in the proper manner.”
Rogers, who moved to Pictou County from the Annapolis Valley 20 years ago, has been umpiring for 37 years, starting when he was 12. He is a nationally certified umpire who has worked 15 Canadian baseball championships.
“It was a different world back then when I first started. It was basically ‘eject first, talk later’, but now we have a lot of things in place, working with the (young umpires) to help them how to best cope with situations.”
Brennan Dalton is going into his third season and has umpired Peewee and Mosquito house league games. He does around 20 games per season, working home plate or umpiring the bases.
“It keeps you engaged in the game,” says the 14-year-old, who lives in the Scotsburn area and plays Bantam AA baseball when he isn’t calling ball and strikes behind home plate.
He also was asked about taking abuse from the stands, or the team benches and seemed nonchalant about the issue, confident that he can make the right call, unfazed by what he might hear from outside the playing field.
“I haven’t had much of that. if they keep it up, I’ll tell them to quiet down,” says.
“Parents are parents, they’ll holler all they want. They usually don’t know what they’re talking about, though.”