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City short of umpires going into Gov. Cup

[07/19/01] A shortage of officials has the Vicksburg Parks and Recreation Department reeling just a week before the Governor’s Cup.

Craig Upton, the director of the rec department, said if more interest is not shown, he will be forced to look outside Vicksburg for game officials.

“It’s not just the city, but the (Mississippi) High School Activities Association, too,” Upton said. “The numbers are going down. There is a very big demand for umpires and referees.”

During the Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth state tournaments at Halls Ferry Park earlier this month, all fields had two-man crews. The officials for that tournament were provided by the state associations.

One umpire collapsed on the field because of the heat in the Cal Ripken Tournament.

Angry fans and parents intimidate younger officials, who then quit the business, Upton said.

“Parents become very irate at the 9-10-year-olds level,” Upton said of the level where players first begin to pitch. “… You have 15-year-old kids umpiring and they get tired of listening to the parents. They get burnt out and wind up dropping out of the umpiring world.

“That means next year we have to start all over with brand new people.”

Starting umpires in the instructional leagues make $12 per game. For the 9-12-year-olds’ leagues, the rate climbs to $20 a game. High school certified officials who work the older leagues get $25 per game.

On each summer night, seven baseball and five softball fields are in use. With scorekeepers, Upton said he needs 36 people per night.

“We usually have just enough for that,” Upton said.

About five officials in the rec department are considered veterans. Many of the rest are high school or college students.

It’s not just the Governor’s Cup, though. Softball officials are in demand and with the addition of flag football, those officials will also be needed.

“There really is a demand for referees in every sport,” Upton said. “I’m not sure people pay attention to the need for it, but there is definitely a need for officials.”