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STATEWIDE–The Indiana High School Athletic Association is dealing with a baseball umpire shortage, which has led to lots of games being either postponed or canceled in 2021.

There are several reasons for that.

The average age of our officials is 56 years old. You couple that with the COVID-19 situation and the concerns of those who are high-risk at that age and older. It’s a tough thing to battle,” said Robert Faulkens, assistant commissioner of the IHSAA. “Having bad weather doesn’t help either. We’re just struggling to get all of our games covered.”

There are about 1,400 baseball umpires across the state registered with the IHSAA, but many of them have opted out of this season because of COVID-19 concerns.

“That has put us in a predicament for getting all of our games covered. I have no idea how many games have been canceled (altogether), but I do know that there have been a lot because I hear from our member schools all the time about how they’ve had to cancel games,” said Faulkens.

Faulkens says the association is doing a lot to recruit younger umpires.

“We’ve got a good effort by our current umpires to go out, getting kids, and training them after they get out of high school. We’re targeting kids who are playing baseball right now. We’re offering free licenses to those kids once they get out of high school and then we’re going give them the mentoring and the opportunities o work. Hopefully, that takes off,” said Faulkens.

Faulkens says they’ve added several new umpires over the last few years, but the number of people leaving the ranks of umpires is greater than the number of umpires who are signing up.

“But we’re hopeful things will improve this year with the vaccinations coming out and the restrictions being rolled back in many places,” said Faulkens.

He says unruly fans continues to be the “biggest cause” of umpires not wanting to continue to participate.

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