‘You’re my boy, Blue!’: Grand Park looking for umpires this spring
WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — While central Indiana shivers in a deep freeze, thoughts of spring and summer needs are already warming up in Westfield, and the city’s signature attraction, Grand Park, needs people to call balls and strikes.
“We’re looking for more umpires!” exclaimed Derek Whitfield when he joined us on WISH-TV’s Daybreak. Whitfield represents United Umpires, the organization that trains and hires officials for baseball at Grand Park.
Whitfield says the need for officials at all levels has “exploded” in recent years, with more games happening than ever before.
He says the role of the umpire is not a simple matter of making the right call. “This day and age, every game that is being officiated is videoed at some point, no matter if it’s the mom that’s behind the backstop that is recording the game or if it’s being live streamed on TV, umpires are under the spotlight more than they ever have,” he said.
Whitefield says recruits will get support throughout the process of learning the job and starting to call games, including on-field placements that will give them a sense of the pressures they will face both on the diamond and from the stands.
“We work guys out at the lower levels, the 9U and 10U (age) levels, and you get to figure out pretty quickly if they’re able to handle those games. Because those parents at that age, I tell you, they love their babies,” he said.
Umpires United is reaching out beyond the typical channels to recruit new officials. One way is by offering opportunities to high school athletes. Whitfield says he visits Westfield Schools each week to reach out to work with young prospects.
The group is also starting a new partnership with Protect the Game to help military veterans and their families get trained and work the plate and bases at little or no cost. A series of clinics starts this month.