Randy Smith: Calling All Umpires

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
There is a nation wide shortage of high school sports officials, that's a plain and simple fact. In California for instance there are many prep baseball and softball games played with just one umpire. It happens in other states as well and even in upper east Tennessee, there are many games played with a single ump. In Chattanooga the problem isn't quite that severe. Only a handful of middle school games have been played with one umpire and according to local TSSAA baseball assigner Ralph Chambers, there has never been a high school game played with a single official under his watch. 

There has been a shortage of officials in all sports for quite a while now, and yes that includes Chattanooga.  While there is always a small group of first year umpires coming in each year, age catches up with several of the veterans and they are forced to retire.
In other words we need more and more new men and women each and every season.

Recently, the TSSAA had a chance to help alleviate the shortage problem by moving girls softball to the fall. That way several of the baseball umpires could help with softball and vice versa. There are already a few umpires who register in both sports anyway, including yours truly. By splitting the seasons as they do already in Georgia it may have helped to solve the problem in Tennessee. Now however, we must find other solutions. Also think about some of the cross-state match ups we could have seen.

We need dedicated young men and women to get involved. While you do get paid, the money is not great. A good umpire can make roughly $2000 per season, which lasts about two and a half months. So if you do get involved do it for the right reasons. Help inspire young high school athletes by giving them your time. We really need more women to get involved not only in softball but in baseball as well. After all, women are already officiating in the NBA and in minor league baseball so why not local sports?

I have worked with several women in softball and they have always been fabulous.

The weekly winter training sessions begin on January 8th at 6:00 at Notre Dame high school. There are sessions every Monday evening through February with the seasons starting in mid-March. Each weekly session lasts about an hour with training for the newcomers handled by veteran umpires. This year there is no exam to take to register with the state. The tests were decided to be counter-productive to retaining good umpires and that's most definitely a move in the right direction.  There are also a few pre-season play days or tournaments to not only get the players ready but get the umpires ready to go as well. 

I know what some of you are thinking, "Why should I go on the field and take the abuse fro/m coaches and fans while getting paid a small amount of money? That's a viable question but in the eight years that I have umpired baseball and softball games on the high school level, I have seen very very few examples of abuse. I have yet to eject a coach in a high school game and I have done hundreds of games since I joined the association in 2010.

So, I challenge former players, both male and female to get back in the sport you love and give back. You will be glad you did.  

* * *

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer.  His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for 30 years. He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga television for more than a quarter-century. In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith. They have five grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, Mattingly, DellaMae, and CoraLee.



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