Jack Robinson, director and assigner of officials for Orange County high school sporting events, says the staffing of officials for Orange County baseball games has reached "a crisis situation" following the 1985 season.
Robinson had only 111 certified umpires to work freshman-sophomore, junior varsity and varsity games this season, and consequently, some schools were forced to reschedule, postpone or even cancel a game.
Robinson's task of scheduling umpires on Fridays, when generally 30 schools were playing, was virtually impossible when you consider one umpire was needed for a frosh-soph game, another for a JV game and two for the varsity game.
"You don't need a calculator to figure we needed about 120 umpires on Fridays," he said. "I generally lose 20 umpires to college and junior college games on Fridays. Then, you have another 20 who are unavailable or can't make a 3 o'clock game.
"I can remember the last Friday in April where I was calling 11 different schools at noon on Friday and telling them I simply didn't have an umpire for their games. The country's national pastime is in serious trouble in the county."
Robinson, who is completing his fifth year as the county's assigner, can remember when there were 212 certified umpires only two years ago. He said several factors have drastically reduced the umpiring corps and created the crisis situation, including:
- The emergence of girls' softball, which has attracted many of the boys' umpires. Softball games are generally an hour shorter, less demanding and an umpire can earn virtually the same amount of money officiating the sport as he can umpiring a baseball game. A varsity baseball umpire earns $30 behind the plate and $28 in the field; a girls' softball umpire earns $28 behind the plate and $26 in the field.
"In the past two years, the number of softball officials has risen from 30 to 85," Robinson said. "It's no secret a lot of officials are moving over to softball, and you can't blame them."
- The influx of walk-on baseball coaches. Many varsity positions and the majority of junior varsity and frosh-soph posts are held by non-faculty members, or walk-on coaches. Walk-on coaches can generally be categorized as college students or recent graduates with little coaching experience.
"Some umpires have complained that they've had problems dealing with non-professional people," Robinson said. "Baseball is a game of decisions that are often debated. Some of the walk-on coaches who weren't trained as educators can go overboard arguing with an umpire."
- The pay. The pay scale for umpiring, or for officiating any other high school sport, has simply not kept up with inflationary times. Umpires have received a $1 pay increase per season for four straight years.
"A lot of guys are saying the pay doesn't justify the time involved," Robinson said. An average prep baseball game takes almost three hours to play, so an umpire is earning about $10 per hour.
- The majority of games are played in the afternoon with few facilities available for night games, putting a strain on the already-depleted umpiring corps. "We only play about 3% of our games at night," Robinson said. "Some guys have a tough time getting off work for a 3 o'clock game."
Robinson is already working on some possible solutions to alleviate the problem for the 1986 season. He's asked some league to switch from the traditional Tuesday-Friday format or Wednesday-Friday format to stagger some games on Saturdays. The Angelus and Sunset leagues were the only leagues who competed on Saturdays this season.
"We're also looking into playing the JV games on Thursday," Robinson said. "I'm trying to recruit officials from some other sports to umpire. We have a surplus of officials in football and basketball.
"I've met with the county's athletic directors and everyone is concerned and willing to help in any way. We're hoping to stage an official's forum in August to recruit some new people. If I could just get 10-12 more bodies, we'd pick up 10% and alleviate the problem."
Prep Notes U.S. National women's volleyball Coach Terry Liskevych heads the list speakers scheduled for the first Orange County Volleyball Coaches clinic on Saturday at 8 a.m. at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Gym. Other scheduled speakers include Dr. Dixie Grimmett (Cal State Long Beach), Fran Cummings (Cal State Fullerton), Rudy Suwara (San Diego State) and Bill Ashen (Laguna Beach). The clinic is free to all county volleyball coaches. . . . Adam Mathieu of Dana Hills was named the most valuable volleyball player in the South Coast League. The Dolphins' baseball team failed to qualify for the postseason playoffs but broke a school record with 28 home runs in 21 games. Catcher Scott Hefner hit eight homers and struck out only three times in 82 plate appearances. . . . Ocean View junior Jackie Oakley was named the most valuable pitcher and Edison's Martha Noffsinger was named the most valuable player in a vote of the Sunset League softball coaches. . . . Adam Lockwood, who will attend Chapman College on a basketball scholarship next season, was named the most valuable volleyball player in the Sea View League. . . . Former Santa Ana Valley football star Eric Price of Stanford has signed a free-agent contract with the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. . . . Huntington Beach assistant football coaches Howard Isom and Kurt Clemens have joined Karl Gaytan's staff at Ocean View. Isom will be the Seahawks' defensive coordinator and Clemens will coach the offensive and defensive lines. Ocean View's only league win was a 34-14 victory over the Oilers last season. Former Seahawk head coach Ken Moats has also joined Gaytan's staff and will be the team's offensive coordinator. . . . Sunny Hills pitcher Paul Abbott has signed a national letter of intent with Cal State Fullerton. Abbott led the county with 127 strikeouts and was 9-2 for the Lancers. . . . Ocean View guard Mike Labat, 6-5, has signed a national letter of intent with the University of Idaho.