Youth sports in the US are dealing with a major crisis right now. The quantity and quality of officiating is on a rapid decline and it’s because of the verbal and physical abuse to which we’re subjected. There are countless news stories on the subject, but here’s a pretty good synopsis and a link to a frightening compilation video:

USA Today Article

Little League RAGE

Comments: 412 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

Mantisbog544 karma

Are you blind?

scotthoffman1977611 karma

YOU’RE GONE. Outta here. I’m not listening to that the whole game.

TangerineChicken167 karma

What’s the most interesting insult someone has said to you?

scotthoffman1977319 karma

Great question! If you’re a baseball person this should make sense.

I called a strike three on the inside corner this summer in an 11U tournament game. The batter “scooted” his feet away from the plate as the pitch was delivered to exaggerate the appearance that it was inside. As he walked back to the dugout, a teammate yelled, “Hey next time wear that (or “let it hit you”) so he KNOWS it was inside.”

It took me a second to realize what it meant and I had a good laugh about it. FWIW, the manager of that team scolded the player and apologized to me between innings. I told him I wasn’t even mad, I was impressed an 11 year old thought of it!

Punk_Rock_Chef153 karma

As an umpire, are you allowed to eject unruly parents/attendees?

scotthoffman1977281 karma

It depends on the venue, rule set, etc., but generally speaking the answer is yes. However, it’s a last resort. Part of being an effective official is good conflict resolution. The line between what’s acceptable language and conduct from coaches and parents toward officials has been skewed over the last 10 years, so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to manage. It’s becoming more and more common to see on-duty law enforcement at tournament facilities today out of necessity.

DoggoDeGoddo92 karma


scotthoffman197776 karma

Hey! Thanks for coaching! The American Legion coach in my town growing up (Essex, MD) was a guy named Gus Smith. He was like a baseball Yoda to us whether you played for him or not!

Sadly I see grown ups trash talk children almost all the time. I had an 8U game last summer where I had to make an interference call because a GROWN MAN stood up and blew a nautical grade air horn just before an 8 year old child was catching a fly ball. I wound up ejecting the parent. I found myself trying to help him understand that, not only is it covered in the rules, but that it was inappropriate because they’re CHILDREN.

Honey_Badger_Badger27 karma

Former umpire here. Like OP said it’s a last resort type measure. I made it my business to focus on what happens within the fence boundary of the field. When a spectator or parent became particularly unruly (and it had to be pretty bad for me to willingly act) I’d call a meeting with BOTH managers and state the following or something like it:

“Gentlemen, I’ll be brief. I don’t know whose fan it is and I don’t much care. What I do care about is this is a name_of_league_game and it sets a bad example for players and by the sound of what is making it onto the field, parents in that section don’t enjoy sitting next to that behavior either. Do either of you have any question about who I am referring to?”

Universally, one coach will acknowledge they know exactly who I’m referring to and take ownership. The other guy will behave like I asked him if a cucumber is growing out of his forehead or feign ignorance.

Speaking to both managers but looking the home manager dead in the eye, I finish with this:

“Great. Sounds like we are in agreement about the problem. Let’s also agree on the solution: Please remove said individual from auditory and visual range of the park by the end of the next half inning or I will find someone who will. This goes for both benches. Any questions?”

For the teams I’m regularly working with usually I’d not have to explain that final statement any further. If the manager is young, new, questioning or a combination of those, I’d politely inform him I would be ejecting BOTH managers from the game, and continue through their staff one at a time until the problem is solved. I’m semi-addressing the home manager more directly because the home field manager is technically responsible for park management issues if they become part of the game. Warning both of them encourages “teamwork” to take care of the matter if needed. Also prevents the home manager from intentionally removing the wrong individual to escalate the situation out of protest.

Thankfully, I’ve never had to eject anyone. I have heard of guys having to call 911. That’s just crazy to me, but I can see how it could happen too.

When the stick is covered entirely in shit, it’s best avoided. When you can’t avoid it, it’s best to make sure everyone is on the same page BEFORE picking it up.

scotthoffman197718 karma

That’s good game management, sir. There’s a misconception that umpires take pleasure in or pride themselves in ejections, but it’s much more rewarding when I tell a coach, “I’m trying to keep you in this game,” (I really am and often in spite of themselves) and I do it.

Skwonkie_117 karma

Have you ever made a bad call and realized it after it was too late? I have.

scotthoffman1977244 karma

I have. Any official who says they haven’t is a liar. Those moments get fewer and further between as i get older,

Risen11116 karma

What was the worst interaction you’ve had with a parent?

scotthoffman1977354 karma

I had someone’s angry grandpa follow me to my car last year because he disagreed with the call I made that ended the game. He pointed an angry, trembling finger at me and said, “The blood of a dozen 9 year olds is on your hands you lowlife piece of shit!” I said, “Wow! I’m so sorry you feel this way. I’m so sorry you’re this angry over 9 year olds playing baseball.” I got in my car and left, but...BLOOD?!?! It was a 9U recreation baseball game...equal playing time, sometimes there are “do-overs”, time out because someone’s puppy ran on the field.

This is where we are!

CastrosExplodinCigar74 karma

How attracted are you to the mothers when they're shouting at you?

scotthoffman197794 karma

I AM A HAPPILY MARRIED MAN, SIR! But yeah, baseball moms are great!

lucky_lu64 karma

How feasible is it to be an umpire full-time?

What's the career and financial path?

scotthoffman1977110 karma

It can be done, but it’s not much different than most professional athletic pursuits. If you get serious about it any later than 19 or 20 years old it’s almost impossible. I work with guys who also officiate NCAA D1 baseball and (American) football that still need a 9-5 job to make ends meet. In my area, they usually start by volunteering as teenagers and progressing to a formal umpire association to work more competitive youth baseball games. From there it’s high school JV baseball for 2-3 years, then varsity for a few years. There are camps across the US conducted by collegiate athletic conferences that umpires can pay to attend to get higher-level instruction. These camps are also opportunities for commissioners and athletic directors to scout umpires to hire into their conferences.

Pay varies depending on the level of play. We get around $60/game for youth baseball, $70-$85 for high school, and college-level is usually $90 and up. D1 umpires can make $400/game plus expenses.

The path to Major League Baseball is a little different. There are pro schools in Florida that are similar to the education and training required for an associates degree, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get hired out of school. Quite often guys will have to attend two or three different schools and even attend some multiple times to get recognized if it happens at all. If it happens? It’s usually a 10-15 year grind in the minor leagues. The money is terrible and it takes a serious sacrifice and commitment to make it. The guys at the MLB level make around $150,000/yr at a minimum, but some of the veterans make $500,000.

aznwaffles90722 karma

You can make it full time profession if you do basketball instead of baseball. More money in it. D1 baseball umpire gets 400, D1 basketball can get up to 2500 per game. I do both baseball and basketball, youth, high school, summer college ball. 9 months out of the year I do games and make enough to pay my way through college with living expenses. I do about 500 games a year.

scotthoffman19774 karma

My baseball assignor is also a D1 hoops official. Between that, assigning, and selling officials uniforms and equipment, he makes it all a full-time gig. More power to you guys!!!

360walkaway48 karma

Do you know why Angel Hernandez is allowed to continue umpiring?

scotthoffman197772 karma

These guys aren’t perfect and there sure are some personalties in there, but as an umpire who works pretty hard (part-time) at being the best I can be, I can tell you I’ll NEVER be as good as any of those guys. Criticize them all you want, but when they’re locked in they’re robotic. They are so freaking good at that job.

There’s also a belief that MLB guys aren’t counseled or reprimanded for poor performance. It’s never publicized, but it happens quite a bit. Believe it or not, even though they made it to The Show, those guys all still work hard at getting better.

Nattylight_Murica42 karma

Are you a belly scratcher?

scotthoffman197747 karma

No. On a related note, I was a catcher.

Jackknife898941 karma

What happened in the single most wild game you’ve called?

scotthoffman1977149 karma

2 outs, last inning. Team at bat is down by one run and has runners on first and second. Batter laces one into the gap in right. The runner from second is jumping up and down on his way down the line and bounces RIGHT OVER HOME PLATE and never touched it. Now his team is coming onto the field because they think it’s a walk-off, and the runner from first is on his way to the plate, but I’m gonna have a play. I work the wedge to get my angle, it’s a banger at the plate, but the runner is safe! The kids are going nuts, but I have information that I can’t give away but I also can’t neglect. There are several rules here about when a team can no longer appeal the missed runner, and so far so good. Suddenly I hear a parent yelling, “MISSED THE PLATE HE MISSED THE PLATE HE MISSED THE PLATE THE FIRST GUY NEVER TOUCHED IT THE UMPIRE SAW IT THE UMPIRE SAW IT APPEAL APPEAL APPEAL!!!”

They appealed, I called it correctly, and all hell broke loose. Of course the perception/accusation was I only called it because the gentleman was a very large and loud man. My partner (we were a 2-man crew) peaked back and saw the same thing when it happened. We got full support from the tournament director and an apology from the team that lost their shit after I made the correct call.

It was nuts because I’ve never had a problem defending myself (not /iambadass), but I realized there were about a dozen grown-ass men that were super-pissed off at me and I was sure I could outrun about six of them and the others would surely catch me before the police would get there! I really felt helpless and vulnerable for a few minutes, even questioned whether my integrity might have cost me my well-being. I was SOOOOO glad cooler heads prevailed.

CheeseCurdCommunism36 karma

Thanks for the AMA. How do you feel about the relatively new pick off rules (where a right hand pitcher cant fake a move to third and throw to first) If a parent sucks, do you take it out on the team? Have you?

scotthoffman1977134 karma

I don’t mind the new pickoff rule and I’m glad most baseball rulesets are aligned on the “third-to-first” move.

No, if a parent sucks I NEVER take it out on the kids. I don’t even take it out on the kids when the kids are jerks.

Parents and coaches would be HORRIFIED to know the things the kids will say to my partners and I or even among themselves. I had a player this past fall come to the plate to bat and say, “I’m sorry about my dad, Blue.” I had no idea what he was talking about, but I smiled and said, “Hey, are you having fun and playing the game the right way? Then you don’t have to apologize to me for anything, ok?” I’ve heard 10 year olds tell each other they wish parents couldn’t come to their games. I would be heartbroken if my kids ever felt that way about me.

Breaker02327 karma

Why do you continue to do it, with the constant stream of abuse? I'm assuming you have a full tjme job that pays the bills, so what makes you leave work or get up from in front of the television to go make calls and get screamed at?

scotthoffman197759 karma

I’m a baseball nerd. I love this game I learned a lot of life lessons on the field. It’s been a significant part of my life since I can remember. This is a way I can stay connected to the game and put a few extra bucks in my pocket, but it’s also deeper. I feel a sense of obligation to the game itself, specifically youth baseball. There are a lot of adults out there, some with the best intentions, that are ruining the game. Umpiring affords me a unique opportunity to affect the game positively and on multiple platforms. If nothing else? They had a pretty nice guy, knowledgeable, who hustled his ass off umpire that game. It’s fulfilling despite the negatives. I’m also optimistic it can be fixed.

Sognar52425 karma

What’s the worst call you’ve ever made?

scotthoffman197777 karma

I don’t think there’s a “worst call”, but I umpire 90-130 games every year and there’s one every so often that I find myself wanting to dig a hole, crawl in, cover up, and stay there until the game is over. Almost always it’s a strike zone struggle...sometimes I’ll get too tight out of the gate and then struggle with myself whether to stick with it or call it a little wider/lower. If you don’t stop this internal dialogue quickly, it can make the strike zone inconsistent. It’s the worst feeling ever and it’s been quite a few years since I felt like digging that hole, but yeah...

TL;DR - It’s the worst when my strike zone gets away from me.

CannibalCrowley17 karma

What's the rule that seems to upset people most often? At my daughter's level it seems to be batters being called out for leaving the box during a swing.

scotthoffman197758 karma

I umpire a lot of 11U and 12U games in the summer, so the balk rule is always tough. The kids and coaches are usually still learning it. Sometimes pitchers melt down after it’s called, so I usually walk out to the mound with a smile, tell him it’s not a big deal and I can show him exactly how to do it right. I always end it with, “Alright you good? Now take a deep breath with me <inhale, exhale>, and let’s get back to playing ball kid!”

shabamon14 karma

Who do you find to be worse to deal with, coaches or parents?

scotthoffman197741 karma

Parents. Parents have lost their minds. A few times a year, I head a tense situation off with, “Sir/Ma’am, do you let people talk to you like this where you work? No? Then why do you think it’s ok for you to talk to me like this while I’m working?” There are more and more stories every season of parents leaving the stands and assaulting officials. In some cases the victims are volunteers and often teenagers. It’s also happening while hoards of parents stand around and watch and listen without saying a word.

There’s always a chance with coaches you’ll be dealing with someone who knows the game. Nothing worse than a well-intentioned dad who decided to be the manager coming down the third base line yelling, “NO NO NO! The hands are part of the bat everyone knows this!” LOL

bdu75413 karma

You said you umped national TV. What match was it that was being broadcasted nationally? Also, an umpire myself, do you have any advice for me on how to improve on umpiring, as I am about to enter my 2nd year of umpiring next spring.

scotthoffman197718 karma

It was the Futures Game during a Ripken World Series. David Justice and Jon Franco were the guest managers and they were mic’d up. It was fun!

SoonerE5 karma

Not OP, but I’ve been umpiring for 26 years.

Keep doing it and find yourself older and smarter than you and watch what they do and how they move. I’ve learned so much going to AA games and watching the Blues.

Also find a good association. We have associations around here that do classes and take you out on the field and show you positions and movement, etc. It’s super helpful to the new guys. Good luck!

scotthoffman197710 karma

I watch the two-man crews in the New York-Penn League (Short A) and those guys are robotic! If you want to know the textbook mechanics, the guys at the lower levels of minor league baseball can be the best example.

sirgrumpycat9 karma

Favourite pizza topping?

scotthoffman197715 karma

Pepperoni and meat sauce from Pizza Johns in Baltimore, MD. It’s just...the best.

HobbitFoot8 karma

Why do you think it has gotten worse?

scotthoffman197725 karma

I don’t know exactly. I think we’re desensitized to outrageous behavior in general. What was acceptable 20 years ago for an adult to say to another adult while kids are playing sports has changed dramatically. I blame the internets!

Topo1172 karma

Have you ever done softball? And if so, do you think the parents and coaches are even worse there?

From my experience I would say that it is a resounding yes.

scotthoffman19772 karma

I worked one season of high school softball.

One. Season.

The rules knowledge possessed by softball parents and coaches was way worse than baseball.