NJ Youth Baseball League Takes Innovative Approach to Umpire Abuse

A New Jersey Little League has devised an innovative approach to curbing umpire abuse the thinning of the available umpire pool that it creates. Now, parents and spectators who become abusive to umpires on the field at the Deptford Township Little League complex will be required to complete three volunteer assignments as an on-field umpire before they will be allowed to attend games as spectators again.

The new policy comes after abusive parents were filmed yelling and berating umpires at recent youth baseball games.

Many local umpires are volunteers and the growing abuse they receive from spectators has been impacting umpire retention.

The new policy will require a parent or another spectator who fights with an umpire to officiate themselves for at least three upcoming games. Deptford Little League officials intend to have a certified umpire together with them on the field to make sure decisions and calls are correct according to the rules of competition, but the approach is intended to show spectators just how difficult it can be to make instantaneous decisions on the field.

The concept has gained support amongst local parents in Deptford Township and Little League International President and CEO Stephen Keener has voiced support for the idea.

“Little League International expects its participants and fans to adhere to the highest level of sportsmanship while attending local league events. ... We applaud the volunteers at Deptford Township Little League for coming up with a creative, fun solution to shine a light on the importance of treating everyone with respect, on and off the Little League field,” Keener said in an interview with the Philadelphia local ABC News affiliate.

While this proposal is innovative, some detractors are skeptical that the administration of the rule will be effective. It is a good way to call out abusive spectators, however, the impact on the game is yet to be seen. It is also debatable whether the same approach can be used in sports such as soccer or basketball where decision-making is more dynamic and nuanced.

Regardless, the Deptford approach is a step towards holding spectators accountable for their own actions. The results will be something to monitor as the policy is implemented.

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