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Local high school baseball umpires potentially sitting out season

Posted at 10:56 AM, Feb 06, 2023

High school athletic directors and local umpires are not seeing eye to eye regarding fees for umpiring upcoming games despite the high school baseball season nearing opening day.

"We want our local officials to officiate," said Atascadero Athletic Director Sam DeRose.

"How we pay officials is decided by the CIF section," explained Mission Prep Athletic Director Kevin Hitchen. "There was going to be a massive pay cut to our local officials and that didn't feel right."

The Central Coast Athletic Association (CCAA) formed five years ago with 13 schools from Santa Maria to Paso Robles.

Recently, the CCAA added Lompoc, Cabrillo, and Santa Ynez.

"When we created the CCAA, we joined the Central Section and that was a very purposeful move by the local community at the time," Hitchen said.

The 16 schools are struggling to come to an agreement with high school baseball umpires.

"We got the Central Section Commissioner to allow us to continue to pay those Southern Section rates, which was very kind and generous of the commissioner at the time," Hitchen said.

"For our officials, my hat's off to them in all sports," DeRose said. "Eight out of the nine units accepted the Southern Section rate."

The one unit holding out is the Los Padres Baseball Umpires Association.

With a potential holdout, schedule changes are necessary to keep the high school baseball season alive.

"We're working on establishing the best potential schedule that we can, and it's going to alter it," DeRose said. "It will be different."

Staffing numbers are a key issue for the umpires.

"We used to be about 60 strong," said Los Padres Baseball Umpires Association (LPBUA) Unit Secretary Brian Ashbrook. "Last year, we were at about 30. We've been trying a number of different ways and methods to recruit umpires."

"There is a referee shortage, an umpiring shortage, and we're all cognizant of that," DeRose said.

"Our startup costs for an umpire can range from $500 to $1,000," Ashbrook said. "The only thing we haven't tried is increasing our fees to try to attract more talent."

The early negotiations did not work out between the LPBUA and the CCAA.

"The Central Section fees were low, so this group was created to maintain the higher fee structure," Ashbrook said. "That was a three-year memorandum and it expired last year. One of the ways to be heard is to sit down with key participants on the CCAA and work out the issue."

Los Padres Baseball Umpires Association posted a statement on their Facebook page Friday saying, “The first step in solving the problem is for the leadership of the CCAA to sit down with the umpire association board."