Youth leagues’ costs rise as bad coach, fan behavior contributes to umpire shortage

When Jeff Siegel was an 18-year-old baseball umpire in Morton Grove, a coach angry with a call he made started yelling at him. Then the coach grabbed Siegel by the arms and shoved him.

Police were called to the ballfield, and the coach was arrested. The charges ultimately were dropped, and Siegel continued working as an umpire.

“He had to go to court, and that was enough for me,” Siegel said. “It made me stronger as an umpire.”

Not every umpire shakes off something like that as easily as Siegel did. Actually, most don’t. Bad behavior by coaches and parents at youth sporting events has contributed to an umpire shortage in the suburbs, which has increased officiating costs for most leagues, league officials say.

Many youth leagues now outsource umpire jobs to regional “assigner” companies or associations, which is far more expensive than having in-house umps recruited from within the community, a common practice in the past.

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