USSSA tightens up zero-tolerance policy in response to unruly spectators

USSSA tightens up zero-tolerance policy in response to unruly spectators
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 6:32 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - ‘For the love of the game’ is what most officials cite as their reasoning as to why they become referees, umpires, or any sports official.

In recent times, however, the game has been anything but a love for Indiana umpires.

“The love of it is slipping because of the abuse we’re taking,” Chad Roach said. Roach is the Indiana Umpire Coordinator for the USSSA.

Roach says since the return of the game following the COVID-19 pandemic, fans have become increasingly unruly towards the 300 umpires he oversees.

“The decline in the last three years for umpires has been consistent,” Roach said.

Roach says bringing in younger guys to do the job is increasingly difficult. With 80 percent of the 300 Indiana umpires falling into the 45 to 55-year-old range, many are hanging up the uniform due to ridiculous conditions caused by spectators.

“The mental abuse of being called names and being cursed at by parents is terrible, it’s just terrible,” Roach said.

The USSSA is taking their zero-tolerance policy up a couple of notches. In an email sent to parents of fastpitch softball players, USSSA Directors wrote the following:

“Starting this weekend if a parent is ejected from the park their child must leave with them. If that player is in the lineup and the team have no sub, then they will be forced to take an out in that spot.”

The email goes on to read:

“Since the fall has started, we have had issues with a parent slinging his fist around and hitting me in the arm, coaches and parents following umpires to the parking lot threatening and cursing them. Cursing and I mean cursing dropping the F Bomb in front of little 8-year-old kids.

Coaches if you are ejected from a game there will now be a two-game suspension instead of one game. Regardless of the event you were in if it was a USSSA event directors will see your schedule and if we must enforce that suspension at the beginning of your next scheduled event it will be done.

A parent or spectator if you are ejected you will be ejected for the remainder of that game and at least one more event. The penalty may be stronger according to how severe the incident is.”

Former Umpire Alan Nonte says the problem has been going on for as long as he can remember.

“They get mad, and I try to keep my cool, but sometimes after the games they want to approach so I tell them, ‘Hey, there’s where I’m at if you want to take it further,” Nonte said. “You can’t tolerate the fans or the managers having conduct like that.

Spectators can now face a two tournament ban for ejections, but that could be escalated to a year, or even a lifetime.

In addition to these new policies, Roach says they’ve had to start hiring police officers to work games for everyone’s safety.

“Nobody’s perfect,” Nonte added. “You know, yeah, the officials may have made the wrong call, but he did the best he could. He didn’t make that call because he was trying to throw the game one way or another.”

The new changes go into effect this weekend and will be carried out for the foreseeable future.