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BY JEFF FALK

HELP WANTED: Part-time. Essential seasonal work. Great pay. Flexible schedule. Amazing benefits. Some local travel involved. Experience preferred, but not necessary. Will train the right persons. Company will help with certification expenses. Must be fair, conscientious, responsible, focused and observant.

Not unlike every local scholastic sport, the Lebanon chapter of PIAA softball officials is hiring. And while the need is certainly great, the local softball umpires’ association has a lot to offer perspective members.

Over the last decade or so, the Lebanon chapter of PIAA softball officials’ membership has remained fairly steady. But that membership is getting older and the time has come for the group to add some new blood to ensure the future of the chapter, and the local health of the game of softball overall.

Denny Galbraith is a current member and a past president of the Lebanon chapter of PIAA softball officials.

“I thoroughly enjoy it,” said Galbraith. “I’ve been around sports all my life. I enjoy being around people. I enjoy the challenge of it. I don’t want to say it’s all about the money, but the money is nice. Over the years, I’ve developed a good rapport with the coaches and players.”

For years – before the on-going Coronavirus pandemic – the Lebanon chapter of PIAA umpires’ membership hovered around 15 or 16. But recently, retirement has cut into that number and knocked it down to about 11 active members.

For the most part, the Lebanon chapter is responsible for providing umpires for Lancaster-Lebanon League softball games played in Lebanon County. But local umpires can also work games in Lancaster County, through the league’s assigner and based on their schedules.

“To maintain our chapter, we need to add some young blood, maybe four or five new umpires,” said Galbraith, an 80-year-old resident of Cornwall. “But I’m sure we’d take as many as possible. We provide about a third of the softball umpires for the Lancaster-Lebanon League and we’d like to maintain that.

“In the past, we’ve usually maintained a crew of around 15 or 16 umpires,” continued Galbraith. “We’ve never had a problem keeping our chapter. We have some good umpires, but it’s always been the same umpires. It’s just dropped, pretty much in the last two years or so, because of age or retirement or injury.”

One would be hard-pressed to identify a better paying part-time side hustle. PIAA umpires are paid $88 for varsity games and $78 for JV contests.

Depending upon the level of play, many softball games are fast-paced and don’t require a huge investment of time.

“It’s a nice little extra income,” said Galbraith. “I’ve had games end in 45 minutes. It’s so much easier doing softball than baseball. It moves. It’s a good game. When you get two good teams, it’s an exciting game.

“I think what holds people back is the hours,” added Galbraith. “You need to be available in the late afternoon. A lot of people don’t have that flexibility.”

Umpires are as essential to the game of softball as fields, bats, gloves, even balls. Without them, there would be no games, and a decrease in their presence could threaten the integrity of the competition.

“I would say they’re just as important as the players on the roster,” said Galbraith. “They know the rules and they’re there to give you a good, clean game.

“I don’t think umpires will ever be eliminated,” Galbraith added. “But if we ever got low in numbers, you could see one umpire per game. It’s pretty hard to make the right calls, because you can’t be in two places at one time. I’ve done games by myself. It’s not all that difficult, but sometimes it’s hard to make all the right calls.”

Not only is the need for more softball umpires great, it’s also universal. Over the last decade, almost every scholastic sport locally has struggled to recruit and maintain a solid core of officials.

But that trend also seems to reflect an overall decreased participation in our society as a whole. We just aren’t as active as we one were, for a variety of reasons.

“If I had to blame it on anything, it would be the fans,” said Galbraith, of the shortage of softball umpires. “I think they’re different now than they were 20 years ago. Nowadays, fans seem to live life through their kids. It’s the coach’s fault or the umpire’s fault, but never the kid’s fault. I think fans are the biggest problem why we can’t get officials.

“I’m at a point where, because I have back troubles, I don’t know how many more years I can do it,” Galbraith continued. “I’ve been umpiring softball for 22 years and I’ve only had one incident. You’ve got to try not to have rabbit ears. As an umpire, you don’t want to be noticed.”

But there is hope.

The Lebanon chapter of PIAA softball officials recently added two new umpires, one of whom is a female. Over the years, the number of officials working PIAA scholastic sports overall has always been predominantly men.

“I still think that a good target for umpires would be to attract more women,” said Galbraith. “We’ve had a few over the years, I would say maybe three or four at the most. I think ex-softball players would make excellent umpires.”

To get involved or for more information contact Galbraith at 717-272-0719, Steve Hollich at 717-507-0411 or hollichs@hotmail.com, Bruce Kilmoyer, Jr. at 717-304-8151 or brucemkilmoyer@gmail.com.

To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

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