Fukushima baseball federation seeks young umpires amid shortage


Fukushima baseball federation seeks young umpires amid shortage

The number of umpires available for amateur baseball tournaments in Fukushima Prefecture has been steadily declining over the past four years. The current fiscal year sees a decrease of 94 registered umpires compared to four years ago. Meanwhile, the demand for umpires has risen in recent years, as tournament organizers aim to shorten the duration of tournaments by holding games at multiple stadiums on the same day.

The Fukushima baseball federation recognizes that the shortage of umpires is primarily due to their age and the challenge of committing to weekend schedules, when most games take place. To address this issue, they are actively seeking to recruit younger individuals with baseball experience to participate in umpire training sessions. The federation emphasizes the essential role of umpires in ensuring that games can be held.

Umpires for amateur baseball games, spanning from youth games to nonprofessional adult matches, must register with prefectural baseball federations. Unlike a nationally standardized exam for umpires, individuals aspiring to become umpires must attend training sessions conducted by prefectural baseball federations to become officially recognized.

In Fukushima Prefecture, the number of registered umpires has been steadily decreasing, totaling 540 in the current fiscal year compared to 634 in fiscal 2019. Despite efforts by the Fukushima federation to encourage individuals, especially those with playing experience, to attend training sessions, attendance remains low.

Most tournaments and practice games are scheduled on weekends and holidays, which means that many umpires, who work as public servants or company employees during weekdays, have to sacrifice their days off to officiate games. While some organizers provide modest rewards or daily allowances, these are typically only a few thousand yen per day, making umpiring almost a voluntary endeavor.

The aging umpire population is another factor contributing to the shortage, as umpires are required to possess dynamic visual acuity, judgment skills, and physical strength to make calls on every pitch and hit. Some high school baseball tournaments even have age restrictions, such as requiring umpires to be under the age of 60.

As tournaments have started to hold games simultaneously at multiple venues in recent years, securing an adequate number of umpires has become a challenge for organizers. The Fukushima baseball federation is actively encouraging anyone who loves baseball, especially young people, to consider becoming umpires to help address the shortage.

Ren Matsumoto, an 18-year-old student at Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai, is one such young individual who has taken up umpiring. A former baseball player at Motomiya High School in Fukushima Prefecture, he transitioned to umpire activities during the current season and is dedicated to making accurate calls on every pitch and hit. Matsumoto aims to continue his umpiring journey, with the ultimate goal of officiating at the national high school baseball championship at Koshien Stadium in Hyogo Prefecture.





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