It cannot be easy to be a softball umpire, at any level. Softball is an extremely competitive sport where after every game, one team will come out on top while the other finishes short. The role of the umpire(s) on a softball field is crucial. We need umpires in our game because if we did not have them, there wouldn’t be a game. The number of umpires serving our game gets smaller and smaller each year. Many decide to go on another path because of the verbal and mental abuse used by coaches and players when emotions run high.
As a coach and a player in softball, it can be easy to take out your frustrations on the umpire. Think about how many pitches the behind the plate umpire watches in a single softball game. If the game is seven innings long, the average pitcher at the higher levels will throw about 100 pitches. Multiply that number by two and that umpire has watched 200 pitches travel at him/her for often hours, depending on the game length. They are bound to miss a pitch or two.
On tournament days, umpires will call up to five games a day from behind the plate. Multiply 200 pitches in each game by five games and these umpires are making calls on 1,000 pitches a day. On some days, this number could be even higher.
In a sport that relies on the role of an umpire, you would think we would cut them a little slack since we need them for our sport to survive. We are all guilty of voicing our frustrations at umpires. Whether you are a coach on the field or in the dugout, a player, or a parent in the stands, every single one of us has voiced verbal frustrations towards at least one umpire over the years.
Why do we do that? It may make us feel better in the heat of the moment, but is it going to change the ‘what we thought’ was a bad call? Absolutely not. Until instant replay is implemented into our game, which may be sooner rather than later, the only voice on the field that matters is that of the umpire. They are the ones who are making the calls and ultimately at the end of the day, and they run the show.
We have all experienced a game with an inexperienced umpire who misses more calls than he/she should. However, what do we expect? Coaches, players, and parents are practically running umpires out of our sport. This causes new umpires to emerge into the system and umpiring spots need to be filled, even if this means the umpire is less experienced. All umpires go through training programs where they earn their certification. It is not like chief umpires find a crew for the day off the streets, even though sometimes it may seem that way if your judgment is clouded by frustration towards one of these umpires on game day.
Umpires play a crucial role in the sport of softball. Without umpires, the game and the sport would not exist. Just like coaches, players, and parents get frustrated with umpires, do you stop to think that maybe umpires get frustrated with coaches, players, and parents as well? We are all in this sport together and for softball to continue to succeed, we all must work together. Respect is earned and it can start by showing some for the men/women dressed in blue.