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Umpire shortage having significant impact on Ohio high school baseball games

Whether it's the pay, the pressure or the parents, an umpire shortage is causing baseball games at all levels to get canceled.

TONTOGANY, Ohio — A lack of umpires for high school baseball games has become a serious issue in northwest Ohio and local umpires are now asking people to step up.

This shortage has actually caused games at all levels to be canceled because there weren't enough people to call a game.

And the reasons vary, from the pay to the pressure or the parents.

"For whatever reason this year has been really bad. I don't know if it's from a year or so of being cooped up from COVID but I hear more stuff this year than I have in the past," umpire Mark Kuhn said.

Kuhn is one of the fewer and fewer umpires.

The Ohio High School Athletics Association says Ohio has lost one thousand umpires in the last three years and northwest Ohio is feeling the pain.

"We have 14 games today with one umpire on them, typically we need two," Kuhn said.

The shortage has forced teams from Eastwood to Patrick Henry to cancel games and many are worried it will continue to happen.

Otsego has been fortunate not to be in that situation, but they've had to move things around to accommodate.

"We've gotten a little creative and if we've tried to make up some JV games we'll do it after a varsity game with the lone JV official or ask the varsity officials to stay and get a little extra pay for that," Otsego athletic director, Tom Ferdig, said.

With fewer umpires on the field, the pressure to call a game and make accurate calls is that much harder.

"To be behind the plate and have to make a call at second base, we basically talk to the coaches beforehand when we have to do that. We tell them we do what we have to do and ask for them to help us out," Kuhn said.

Otsego's athletic director says this shortage is translating to other sports as well and is pushing for people in any sport to think about helping out.

"It's not just limited to spring events. We're certainly having some issues in some fall events, particularly with volleyball and soccer. So the more student-athletes that are at the college level or recently graduated we could get into the career of officiating," Ferdig said.

On May 22, an umpire camp will be held at the Mercy Field in Toledo. 

It's free and open to anyone whether they're interested in calling games or just a parent who wants to learn the rules.


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