With baseball seasons at all levels cancelled or postponed because of coronavirus, local umpires are finding themselves with a lot more time on their hands than they usually have this time of year.
In a normal year, veteran umpire Bruce Kaufmann of Beaver Dam would be on the field up to six days a week in the spring and summer months working high school, American Legion, Home Talent and Rock River League games. Now, along with managing his local carpet cleaning business, Kaufmann has been spending more time on the golf course and taking care of home projects.
Kaufmann says one of the biggest things he misses about not being on the baseball field is the camaraderie you experience with coaches, players, and yes, even the fans, you get to be around on a day-to-day basis. He adds that there is a small hole in his heart not being able to umpire this spring. Kaufmann says doesn’t feel sad so much for himself, but for the young men who will not get to play baseball this year, especially the seniors who may never get to play organized baseball again.
With a few Little Leagues across the state, including Beaver Dam, still holding out hope of some sort of a season and if health officials deem safe, some area high school teams may try go play some games in the proposed 30-day summer window by the WIAA, there may still be a need for some umpires. Kaufmann says finding umpires for these games might pose a challenge. With the average age of umpires being over 50, and many with underlying health conditions, Kaufmann says a good number of umps are in the at-risk category when it comes to COVID-19. He says its hard to ask an umpire to put themselves in harms way for a game. He says it would be very difficult in the heat of summer for an ump behind the plate to also add a facemask to his gear. If some local Little Leagues do decide to play, Kaufmann says they are already working out a plan to get more inexperienced umpires to work those games and have an older veteran umpire available to mentor them as they hone their craft.
There currently is a dire need for not only umpires, but all officials for high school sports across the state of Wisconsin. If you love sports, Kaufmann encourages you to get involved. He says that officiating is a way to give back to sports that you love and it also offers you the best seat in the house when it comes to actually viewing the competition. Kaufmann that statistics show that if a new umpire makes it through three seasons, they will be in it for the long haul. He encourages both men and women of all ages to get involved.
If you have an interest in becoming an official in any high school sport, visit wiaawi.org and click on the “Officials” tab.
Click the link below to hear a full interview with Bruce Kaufmann