More weather issues

Not only has the weather been affecting the players and coaches this spring season, but the umpires are beginning to suffer as well.

With so many games being canceled, umpires simply haven’t gotten to work games. Once the season does get into full swing – with so many games that need to be played in such a short time period – there will likely be a shortage of available umpires.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said Jerry Reilly, high school assignment secretary for the Chautauqua County Baseball Umpires Association. “Our numbers have never been lower. We have approximately 35 umpires and not all are varsity certified. Our numbers have gone down year after year. Granted, with fewer schools (due to consolidation of programs) we need fewer umpires, but 45 would be ideal. That would give us some wiggle room.”

Going into the 2014 baseball season, there were 141 varsity games on the schedule. So far, three weeks into the season, a total of 11 games have been played.

That leaves 130 games to be played between now and May 17. Considering the fact that schools are currently on Easter break with a limited sports schedule, there will be a lot of games to play in a very short period of time.

Reilly explained when he runs into a situation where there is this many games and a limited number of umpires, a pecking order develops.

Varsity takes first priority. Two varsity-certified umpires are needed for every varsity game.

Next comes jayvee, which is easier to schedule, due to the fact they can play with one umpire if needed and there isn’t the need for the higher-level certification.

Modified is last in the order of priority and this is where the impact is felt the most.

Only one umpire is scheduled to cover a modified game, but in an extreme situation such as this season may present, modified games may be played with no umpire present.

“In the worst case scenario, I have to call the schools and explain that either they will have to play the game without an umpire or I can try to bring in an umpire from Cattaraugus County. We send umpires to Cattaraugus County more often than they come here, but it is an option if one is available.”

In the 20 years that Reilly has been assigning umpires, he can’t remember a time when it was this difficult.

“I don’t remember a situation where the bad weather combined with a late Easter like this,” he said. “Some schools aren’t playing at all over break. Teams are going to jam their entire season’s schedule into a time between the end of April and mid-May. Many teams don’t have enough pitching to get through a whole season let alone a whole season in three weeks.”

It’s now to the point where non-conference games are likely to be eliminated from many of the team’s schedules. This presents its own set of hardships.

Non-conference games are often a good opportunity for teams to test themselves against tougher competition and they can also give coaches a chance to play some younger athletes that may not have gotten an opportunity to see the field in a crucial league matchup.

Now, as a result of the weather and a late Easter break, these valuable games are likely to be completely eliminated. This would leave the majority of teams playing a 12-game season. Teams in CCAA East I (Olean, Gowanda, Salamanca, Allegany-Limestone, Portville and Randolph) would be left with a 10-game season.

Everyone is suffering, and once the weather finally breaks, the level of enjoyment for everyone involved may not be what it has been in years past.

“Coaches want to coach, the kids want to play and the umpires want to ump,” Reilly said. “Spring is already short. We look forward to the game we love all year. When you have to play all of these games in such a short period it becomes more of a job than a pastime.”