Attention all thick-skinned people: The Columbia County Recreation Department needs you.
That's the plea coming from Athletic Coordinator Gary Tam as another season of recreational baseball nears. Spring registration ended last month with leagues filled with as many as 2,000 children ages 6 to 14.
Sign-ups for umpires didn't go as well.
"What happens is we use a lot of high school kids for our younger age groups, so they go off to college, and we're looking for new kids to step forward," Tam said. "That's part of it, but some of it is also a shortage of people wanting to officiate. It's based on the attitude of parents at baseball games."
Tam said the games with children ages 10-14 typically see the worst attitudes of fans.
Ted Miller, a veteran umpire of 16 years, said the lack of officials isn't a problem exclusive to the Columbia County Recreation Department.
"It's very difficult trying to get younger people involved," he said before the high school baseball season began.
"It's difficult because the middle-school-age games, which is where (new umpires) start out, can be the worst fans. By the time you get to high school, the kids and parents back off a little," Miller said.
The department is advertising in schools for anyone interested in officiating youth baseball and softball games. Tam said umpires are paid per game, and no certification is necessary to officiate games with younger children.
"For our first-year officials, we usually let them do T-ball or machine-pitch to let them learn the system," Tam said. "We get high school kids that come out and want to do it to make some money during the summer. We give them on-field training ourself."
Tam said that once baseball season is in full swing, the recreation department must fill 24 officiating spots each night on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for games at Patriots Park and Riverside Park.
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