JOPLIN, Mo. — The local official shortage has been an issue since last football season, and is still a growing problem. This spring, 30 softball and baseball games in southwest Missouri alone have been cancelled due to lack of umpires- and officials believe the problem will only get worse.
“It’s just sad that if we don’t get something change here quick,” says Mike Greninger, softball assignor for MSHSAA and the Joplin Umpire Association. “You’re going to see games on Friday nights and aren’t going to be able to be played and softball baseball games are going to have to the lower level games are going to get to the point to where they don’t even have a program.”
Greninger believes the tough hours and demanding schedule of referees and umpires is making it hard fill open positions. But part of it is also the abuse officials take from fans in the stands.
Greninger says, “I think the school administrators realize that nobody wants to come out here and get yelled at for an hour and a half anymore. It’s just not appealing. If you continue to have a disrespect towards officials, you’re going to see even more of a shortage down the road, and your kids aren’t going to get to play.”
Dr. Phillip Cook, the superintendent of Carl Junction, has also been a coach and an official for over 30 years. He says he doesn’t often see fans go too far, but when those incidents arise, early action is key.
“Remind them that hey, these officials are out there they they’re doing it for the for the good of the kids. That’s their only intention. So let’s help them out,” says Cook. “And if you got some parents or some spectators that are that are getting a little bit outline, let’s address it quick.”
With more people aware of the problem-, the Joplin Umpire Association is hoping they can get more people on board to officiate, especially former athletes.
Greninger says, “Some of our our best officials over the years been former players and what a better way to keep up with the sport that you grew up playing and you can keep attached to it. And you kind of, you pay back and give back to the great sport that you participated in.”
If you want to become an official, the Joplin Umpire Association says you can contact them via their Facebook page.