Finding a sufficient number of baseball and softball umpires for the 2013 season is among the unique challenges first-year Payson High School athletic director Don Heizer is facing.
“Right now, we don’t have the officials we need due to several reasons,” he said. “One of our umpires from last year has moved out of state and another, I heard, will not return due to a health problem.”
Those two umpires, Heizer added, shouldered many of the officiating duties the past few seasons.
Many of the umpires needed in Payson will be for junior varsity games, of which there will be about 11 each in both baseball and softball. Most games are played on weekday afternoons after school is dismissed.
Of course, umpires can also be asked to travel to other nearby towns and cities to officiate prep games.
The first question most potential officials want answered is, “How much will I get paid?”
The pay for regular-season games, $25 for non-varsity games and $50 for varsity, is set by the Arizona Interscholastic Association. Umpires can also receive mileage fees for travel to and from games.
Umpires, however, are responsible for buying their own officiating uniforms.
Around the state, especially in the urban areas, some umpires are called upon for only a few games each season. But in the Rim Country, Heizer emphasizes, there will be ample opportunities to officiate both baseball and softball.
To umpire, candidates must be 18 years of age, not in high school, and register with the AIA.
They must also have a strong knowledge of baseball and softball and, probably most importantly, personal integrity.
AIA officials stress that high school coaches and athletes consider games the most important thing occurring in their lives at the time, which umpires — if their goal is to be successful — must also do. Umpires must also have a healthy dose of self-confidence and a strong presence on the field to go along with a love of athletics and young people.
Tim Fruth, a former PHS coach, teacher and administrator who has officiated several sports for the past 20-plus years, warns that potential umpires, “Shouldn’t do it just for the money. They should enjoy the game, working with kids and being able to handle some pressure situations.”
While umpiring and officiating can be a rewarding profession, it is not for everyone and requires some personal adjustments, mostly because quick decisions must be made and they often don’t please everybody.
Even though criticism from fans and students can be biting and is usually misdirected, the AIA points out that umpires and officials play a huge role in the success of interscholastic athletic programs and the student athletes they serve.
Fruth says he and his longtime officiating partner, Teddy Pettet, handled criticism in a unique manner, “We believed that there is only a very few people in the world that can do the job right, take the heat and still manage the contest in the correct manner.”
Criticism, he added, should not be taking personally because, “Officials are simply making necessary decisions.”
For more information on umpiring, call Heizer at (928) 474-2233 or log on to the AIA website at www.aiaonline.org/officials /become_official.php.