A shortage of baseball and softball umpires is plaguing sports leagues across the Chicago area right now.
It’s being caused by the pandemic, but not in the way that you might expect.
"Right now, I think you’re just seeing too many games and not enough umpires," said Paul Allabastro, who recruits and trains umpires for the Zoo City Umpire Association, a nonprofit organization that supplies umpires to the western suburbs.
The problem is many of the umpires also work as referees for sports like football, soccer and volleyball, which are normally fall or winter sports, but were pushed to the spring because of COVID-19.
"This is across the state of Illinois. This is across the Chicagoland area that were in a glut of games, and not enough umpires… Everybody’s looking for people," said Allabastro.
Many sports leagues have had to improvise this spring.
"If there is no umpire then we definitely want the kids to still be able to play," said Todd Haenle, of the Lagrange Park Little League. "So we’ll have one of the managers, one of the coaches, maybe one of the parents kind of jump in."
And the umpires that are available are working two games a night on weekdays and eight games on weekends.
"At that point it’s not fair to the kids because by the eighth game on Sunday night I’m beat, and I’m not giving the best effort that I can," said Allabastro.
Allabastro says the one good thing to come out of this is that parents and coaches are on much better behavior with umpires because they don’t want to lose them.
And it’s creating a great opportunity for teens and old-timers that want to try or get back to umpiring, which can pay around $50 or $60 a game.
"There’s definitely an opportunity. So I would encourage anyone who wants to get involved to seek out a local umpire group," Haenle said.