Field is idle. There is no bat ping or ball blow to the glove to be heard.
And there is no sign of the man in blue calling the ball and attacking, getting out or safe.
Another branch of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed sports worldwide is that referees everywhere are basically unemployed.
Locally, some referees rely on the lead as a source of their full time income. However, there is no doubt the longer there is no game, the more that cuts their income stream.
Some regional referees agreed that no one got rich by leading. Most use additional income for home improvement projects, to enhance family holidays or have extra money for Christmas.
Spring sports in middle school begin on the second week of February, so there are at least a few payment days before everything is closed. At least for the near future, no additional money will come in for referees.
“When we get new people, we warn them to try not to make a living by becoming officials,” said Ricky Bryan of the Colbert County Baseball Umpires Association. “I’m sure there are some, but I don’t know many who do it just for income.”
No doubt, money is good. Bryan, a former middle school coach, said a full week calling high school baseball can net $ 575. The referee crew usually plays university and JV games for a week when they get their assignments. Middle school games are usually played every day except Wednesday and Sunday.
“If you do it only for money, you might have a problem,” Bryan said. “You have to enjoy it and like to do it. But you probably won’t do it for free. This is much more fun than cutting grass. “
Middle school referees receive $ 80 per game but do not get a travel fee unless they travel more than 60 miles for one game.
William Pate, of the Softball Umpires Association in Colbert County, said middle school softball officials made $ 65 for a university game, $ 55 for a JV game and $ 45 for a junior high school game. With multi-team tournaments every weekend, referees can make $ 260 or more just to lead on Friday and Saturday.
“I choose and choose when I call. I do maybe three days a week – usually on Saturdays, “said Pate, who noted that full-time work makes it difficult to refinance more than that.
The loss of Bryan and Pate’s income largely came from middle school games. Someone who wants to work on weekends at tournaments like USSSA or Perfect Game can earn more.
“You can go the referee somewhere every weekend,” Bryan said.
However, for now, even Cal Ripken and Dixie Youth were closed without relief.
Chris Liles, who works for a chemical company in Muscle Shoals, lost far more income from referees than those who called the high school game. Liles oversees non-conference SEC softball games, along with the Gulf South Conference, Ohio Valley and ASUN games where the money is much better.
Non-conference SEC games pay $ 300. ASUN pays $ 125 per game and Gulf South $ 100 per game. When he did the full season, Liles estimated he made between $ 15-18,000.
“This is a significant loss of income,” he said. “Most of the people I talk to and talk to, that’s not their main source of income. It’s more like a hobby that pays well. That’s a pretty good brotherhood. I miss money but I also miss friendship. “
Liles said he had been refereing for around 30 years – including the last seven at the college level. He said his class schedule was booked every weekend until early May. At its peak, Liles said he could do five or more college or high school games per week.
“Usually three college games on weekends and couples for a week,” he said. “I use extra income to do projects around the house or vacation.”
Pate and Bryan said each of their organizations always needed more referees.
“We have 37 and it’s difficult to cover most of the games we have,” said Pate of the softball referees association. “Florence Bash will have around 45 teams and we must use every official we have. That means everyone has 6 to 8 matches in three days. “
Bryan said the baseball referees association had around 40 referees “and we could use around 20 referees.”
“It seems like the years when unemployment was high, we have many referees,” he said. “The point is that the economy has been so good in recent years that many people don’t want to work in additional jobs.”
Right now, that’s not a problem because there isn’t a job for referees anyway.
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