National umpire shortage affects youth baseball players in Atlanta
ATLANTA - There’s a dramatic shortage of umpires needed in order to play, and Atlanta has not been spared of the problem.
"Baseball has been my whole life. It’s like when I go to a baseball field I feel as if I’m coming home," Ken Vanderpoel said.
When longtime umpire Ken Vanderpoel steps onto the field, he says nothing else matters. Vanderpoel is the founder of the Atlanta Umpires Association.
"This is my safety zone. This is the place I feel most comfortable, and all the other things in my life that’s going on can disappear for a while," Vanderpoel said.
But the national shortage of umpires is threatening the game he’s loved his entire life.
"In the metro Atlanta area, it’s as bad, or worse, as anywhere in the country because we have just a tremendous amount of baseball being played here," Vanderpoel said.
He said part of the reason is that travel tournaments have expanded, and registration is up for little leagues and schools.
"We knew some of this was going to happen when the Braves won the World Series two years ago. Because back after the '95 World Series, the same thing happened. It was an explosion here," Vanderpoel said.
The other part isn't as sweet.
"There is a lot of fan abuse," Vanderpoel said. "A lot of coaches creating difficulties for umpires on the field."
"The big challenge for umpires is that baseball is a game of failure. Parents don’t like to hear that their kids are failing at anything. You have immediate confrontation on the fields," Chay Chauncey said.
Chay Chauncey is the President of the Oregon Park Baseball Association. He strives for community.
"I tell my coaches all the time, we can’t play this game without them. Respect them like you would your grandpa. Respect them like you would your parents. When they say you’re out, then you’re out," Chauncey said.
"I’ve had to deal personally with fans who were 100 feet away in the stands and thought they had a better angle to see a call than what I did in the field," Vanderpoel said.
Despite the hard times Vanderpoel knows there's nothing like suiting up and stepping onto the field.
"First of all, you have the best seat in the house. You have the action there on the field, and you feel as if you are a part of the game when you are the umpire," Vanderpoel said.
The Atlanta Umpire Association is just one of many umpire associations in the city, and they are recruiting.
Jamie Standard who is the CEO for the organization says they will teach you what you need to know. All you need is passion for the game.