Make the call
Baseball umpires, football referees needed
The spring baseball season is on the horizon, and there is a need for the sport this season that does not rely on players or coaches — umpires.
Dan Murphy, recruiting coordinator for the Mid-American Umpires Association, said fresh officials are being sought to cover games from Cassville to Camdenton and Wheaton to West Plains.
“We have about 89 certified umpires on the books right now,” Murphy said. “We’ve had some guys backing out and others coming in, and we’re hoping to get about 20 new ones.”
Murphy said about 25 are taking steps now to join up, and he expects at least 20 to complete the training, but more are always needed.
“If you are 16 years old, you can do junior high games, or freshman games in the summer in a pinch,” he said. “You have to certify with MSHSAA, which is an easy process on their site, and there are discounts for first responders and those with prior military experience.”
Once interested, Murphy said there are classes, which are bing offered via Zoom or in-person right now, that teach the rules and mechanics of working the plate and working the bases.
“We have a class on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with lunch provided, at the facility on West Mt. Vernon Street in Springfield,” Murphy said. “We will show the techniques, then practice. We later will move on to cage training, as high schools are opening gyms and pitchers are throwing to catchers, so we practice our place work live in the cages.
“I have about five or six scrimmages lined up to get on the field and work the first two or three weeks of preseason, and we will pair new officials with experienced officials, so the new one will work the bases in varsity games and the plate in JV or freshman games.”
Murphy said the ages and professions of new umpire recruits runs the gamut.
“We have three kids in high school currently that work a lot in the youth leagues,” he said. “I have one guy who is retired in his 50s, some teenagers, a few college kids, about four or five guys in their mid-30s or 40s, and some retired coaches.”
By April, Murphy said about 125 umpires are needed to cover the 68 schools in the Mid-American Umpires Association area.
“We may have a night where Ozark is playing Willard, so we’ll need two umpires in Ozark for the varsity and JV contests, then we’ll need two more in Willard for the freshman double header,” Murphy said. “We use two umpires per game in the regular season, and we use three per game in the playoffs.”
Murphy said there is a good opportunity to earn some cash, as well. A seven-inning game pays $75, and any games below seven innings pays $65.
Looking toward the fall, Murphy, also a recruiter for the Southwest Missouri Football Officials Association, said football referees are also going to be needed.
“Us and the Joplin group have about 19 crews between us, and we’ll need 31 every Friday,” Murphy said. “There could be as many as 33 games, so sometimes we have to go outside our area to cover the games far north, west or east.”
A crew consists of five officials that work together each week, but Murphy said the Association also needs single referees to fill in.
“We had 16 last year but two were in high school, so that puts us down to 14,” Murphy said. “Two more have kids that play, so that gets us down to 12, and 10 of those 12 have joined crew, so that has really depleted our singles list.”
Murphy said football referee recruitment will start in April, with the first class in May and continuing in June and July. By August, there will be training and meetings, as well as scrimmage training.
New officials will likely start out doing games on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are freshmen, junior varsity and junior high contests. Once they have gained some experience, they can move on to Friday nights.
“The last two years, our singles guys have done a lot of varsity games because we are so low on numbers and have to use fill-ins for crews,” Murphy said. “We use four-man crews for the freshmen, junior varsity and junior high contests, and five-man crews on Fridays.”
Murphy said football pays $105 per varsity game, $70 for junior varsity and $60 for freshmen and junior high. Double headers add $15 to the fee.
To become a high school official, an applicant must sign up with the Missouri Stat High School Athletics Association at www.mshsaa.org/CMSPages/Become-an-Official.aspx. For more information, people may reach Murphy at email@example.com or 417-849-7367.