Baseball – America’s pastime – has been entertaining fans young and old for well over a century. This long reign of popularity owes its strength to its players and fans, but would not have been possible without the dedication of its many umpires. The broad base of popularity means innumerable points of entry for athletes, and a widespread demand for umpires at every level. In this article, we share everything you need to know if you want to become a baseball umpire.
STEPS TO BECOME A BASEBALL UMPIRE:
Step 1: Find an organization or association
The first step to becoming a baseball referee is to find an organization that provides training to new officials and bookings for existing ones. There are a few different ways to go about finding an organization or association to umpire baseball for. You can start at the local level or you can reach out to a national organization.
Connect with local leagues to ask how to umpire for them, or go directly to their umpires to ask how you can help. You can also try searching for a local sports official association. In most areas there are associations for sports officials that are looking to expand their reach, and are set up to help bring in and mentor new umpires.
The gold standard for national youth baseball is the Little League, so they should be the first large organization you turn to.
Alternatively, you could download the Go Silbo app for free on the App Store or Google Play. Silbo will connect you to training opportunities and will allow you to officiate for multiple leagues in your area.
Once you’ve selected an organization, you’ll want to confirm their requirements including what training or certifications you’ll need, if you’ll need a background check, and other similar requirements.
Step 2: Complete training
There are a variety of training options available including digital training and in person training sessions. Most organizations or associations will either offer training or be able to connect you to training options. Training and certification requirements typically vary from organization to organization. Some trainings will be free and others may require a fee.
USA Baseball offers a free Umpire Certification that is a good online starting point, although eventually you’ll want to get some on the field training. You can also access training resources by joining the Little League Umpire Registry.
Step 3: Get equipment
Equipment includes your umpire uniform, plus chest protectors, helmets, brushes, bags, and indicators. Equipment will likely cost you around $600 if you purchase everything new. To get more details, we’ve put together a blog post on what to wear when you umpire with links to specific products. Your uniform is an important part of the impression you make when you first step on the field so make sure you follow all league rules and make yourself look presentable.
Step 4: Start officiating games
Once you’re trained and have equipment, you’re ready to start umpiring games. If you’re umpiring for an organization that uses an assignor, they will assign you games based on your schedule. If you’re umpiring through the Go Silbo app, you can select your own games. You might be nervous and make mistakes in your first game, but just like playing baseball, umpiring is all about getting better each time you get on the field.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BECOMING A BASEBALL UMPIRE:
Types of Baseball Umpires
Baseball is played with anywhere from 1-6 umpires. One umpire might be used with younger players on smaller fields or in a pinch if the second umpire doesn’t show up for the game. Otherwise, 2 to 4 umpires is typical. In MLB, 4 umpires is standard although occasionally 6 will be used for major events like the playoffs. In nearly all levels of baseball, including the majors, the umpire crew rotates so that each umpire in the crew works each position, including plate umpire, an equal number of games.
Home Plate Umpire/Umpire in Chief: In a game officiated by two or more umpires, this umpire is the one in charge of the entire game. The plate umpire calls balls and strikes, fair balls, foul balls short of first/third base, and makes most calls concerning the batter or concerning baserunners near home plate. Plate umpires also wear more equipment, including a mask, chest protector, shin guards, and plate shoes to protect them from stray balls.
Field Umpires/Base Umpires: When two umpires are used, the second umpire is simply called the base or field umpire umpire. This umpire will make most calls concerning runners on the bases and nearby plays, as well as in the middle of the outfield. When three umpires are used, the second umpire is called the first-base umpire and the third umpire is called the third-base umpire, even though they may move to different positions on the field to view plays. When four umpires are used, each umpire is named for the base at which he is stationed.
Outfield Umpires: Occasionally a game will have six umpires. The extra two are stationed along the outfield foul lines and are called the outfield umpires, specifically the left-field umpire and right-field umpire.
Umpiring baseball can be a great way to earn some extra money. Pay is influenced by the level of the game, geographic region, and the number of umpires working. Also, sometimes the plate umpire is paid more than the field umpires.
Pay for entry level umpires varies. In some cases, umpires are volunteers and don’t get paid anything. Entry level Silbo baseball umpires make an average of $42 per game. As you gain experience and can work higher level games, pay should increase.
Cost to Get Started
Training/Certification fees: There are a number of free online training programs for umpires, but the more technical and advanced courses can range into the several hundred dollar range.
Background Check: Some programs require a background check for those over 18. That will typically cost roughly $30-$35.
Registration fees: Some sports official associations and assigning organizations charge registration fees. These vary in cost from as little as $20 to $100 or more depending on the organization. Of course not all organizations charge this fee. Silbo does not charge any registration fees to work games through the Go Silbo app.
Equipment: Equipment includes your umpire uniform, plus chest protectors, helmets, brushes, bags, and indicators. Equipment will likely cost you around $600 if you purchase everything new.
How old do you have to be to umpire baseball? It depends. Age requirements vary based on the state you live in, the organization you get certified through, and the association you work for. Silbo requires that you be at least 13. Other programs allow you to be as young as 11.
Your age will dictate what level you’re allowed to work with younger umpires typically umpiring games for younger teams.
Nearly all referees are independent contractors. As an independent contractor, you’ll need to file a 1099 if you make $600 or more. Your employer will be responsible for sending you the 1099 if you’re eligible.