CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The last time Chris Connell was on a Countryside Little League field he was a star player playing all the positions.
He is now back a few years later as a much-needed umpire for a league desperately short of people policing home plate.
Chris is just 16. He calls the games on his own.
Like most umps, he gets razzed by parents – but he says it does not bother him.
“Every once in awhile you hear someone talking, but that’s all part of the game,” Connell says smiling.
Chris is inexperienced but eager. Countryside Little League could use a lot people more just like him.
A national trend is now a local one, as more and more leagues are dealing with fewer people willing to become an umpire.
“Every league in the area is short on umps,” says Matt Werner, Countryside Little League president. “It’s the same nationally. One of the challenges is dealing with parents and coaches, dealing with those close calls."
But mouthy moms and dads is just part of the problem. Countryside Little League doesn not have the money to hire professional umps.
Also a factor, the national decline in the numbder of baseball fans finally trickled down to umpires.
As for Chris, he says loves to umpire and recommends the job to others.
“I feel comfortable. I feel assertive. And I feel good," says Connell.
To volunteer as an umpire for Countryside Little League, visit www.countrysidell.com.