Ricardo Torres/Ben Davis High School
This year the baseball team has found great success. As of May 27, they boast a 22-5-2 record that includes wins over Carmel and Westfield, two of the top five teams in the state, and a City championship win over Heritage Christian at Victory Field.
However, the continuation of this success could be in danger in the future, as there has been a struggle to find umpires for games this season.
The varsity team has not had to deal with this problem yet, but the same cannot be said for other programs, or even other Irish teams. Varsity games have been canceled around the state due to the lack of umpires, and Cathedral has had several junior varsity games not played due to the lack of available umpires.
Head Coach Mr. Ed Freije ‘99 detailed the impact on both JV teams, saying, “(Lack of umpires) impacted both our Blue and Gold teams on a number of occasions for regularly scheduled games. It also made it very difficult to reschedule this year.”
According to Freije, both the Blue and Gold JV teams had up to four games canceled this year due to having no umpires. He also added that both teams had to play games with only one umpire, in contrast to the usual two.
But why is this problem occurring? Freije said he believes that there are a few reasons for the decline in umpires. One, he said, was the coronavirus. Freije said, “I think Covid-19 allowed some that are currently in the profession to take a year or so off until things felt safer.” Freije also detailed other reasons, saying, “Not as many young people are getting into umpiring.” He also added that the time commitment and sometimes negative or even nasty behavior of coaches and parents toward umpires has contributed to the problem.
This issue has not come out of the blue, either. Freije said, “It was starting to seem like it was going to be a problem two years ago.” Covid-19 has just added to the severity of the issue, with fewer umpires being available after the pandemic.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association is working to fix the problem, along with others. Freije said that there is a bigger emphasis on sportsmanship and behavior toward umpires this season.
This situation could eventually jeopardize baseball seasons for high school athletes throughout the state. Freije does not see a change coming soon, saying, “It doesn’t seem like there will be drastic improvement in the short term.”