Is It Time For Little League World Series To Dump Amateur Umpires?

  • Rick Chandler

Jackie Robinson West from Chicago, IL., is your U.S. Little League World Series champions, topping Las Vegas, 7-5, on Saturday for the right to meet Japan for the overall title today. Good game and all that, but one has to wonder what could have happened if, for instance, the first-base umpire hadn’t blown a painfully easy call in the fifth inning.

With no outs and a runner on first, Chicago turned a double play … except that on the replay, it was clear that the runner at first was safe. By a lot.

But it’s not just the occasional blown call. LLWS home plate umpires are routinely putrid — their strike zones more wobbly than that earthquake I just felt while writing this (seriously, there was an earthquake here).

If you’re going to keep these games on the local level where they belong, fine — use the amateur umps. But if you’re televising the games and making boatloads of money doing it, at least make them watchable. As it is, the umpiring ruins it. Take some of that money and hire college-level, or even Minor League umpires. Not only will it make the games more presentable, but kids will learn something in the process. Such as, what a real strike zone should be.

An umpire can only work a Little League World Series once, so there’s no real effort made to get the best, most consistent umpires on a recurring basis. It’s not a meritocracy, as it is with the players. I know, because I’ve coached Little League, and seen a couple of umpires who got the call to Williamsport — and they were not the best umpires in our district, or even our league.

If you paid college-level or Minor League umpires to do the LLWS, you wouldn’t have situations like this:

That should be “fill-in” umpire.

Note: Last week there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the performance of home plate umpire Robert Freeman, who was widely criticized (see above) in Las Vegas’ win over Taney, Philadelphia. Turns out that Freeman’s house had burned down, and he chose to work the game anyway.