Going to bat for young umpires
JANESVILLE — Jerry Burhans hit a home run when he pitched the idea of teaching a class in umpiring at the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville.
“What appealed to me was him teaching the kids a skill they can use for the rest of their lives while hopefully providing them some sort of income,” said Carrie Kulinski, executive director at the club.
Even Kulinski's son T.J. enrolled in the class. T.J. knows he can make about $30 per game and work up to five games a day umpiring.
“He's excited to make some money,” she said. “I'm excited as a parent to get him out of the house and off the computer.”
Eight local teenage boys and girls take part in the class, which meets twice weekly for 12 weeks.
Burhans is deputy chief umpire for the Amateur Softball Association of Wisconsin. On Tuesday, he opened class with a review of material from the ASA's “2012 Umpire Manual: Official Rules of Softball,” which has been talked about in class for the past three weeks.
“I wanted to give an opportunity to boys and girls 14 and older interested in getting a spring/summer job, to make extra money with the potential for a career in this field that would fill a void,” he said.
Burhans believes umpires are a dying breed.
The ASA now has 38,000 umpires. By 2014, however, the association expects it will need an additional 10,000 umpires because of the baby boom of 2004, which was larger than the one that followed World War II, he said.
“These children will be 10 in 2014, creating the need of future umpires,” he said.
Burhans, who assigns 300 umpires to tournaments and conducts evaluations on them, plans to hire some of the youth who graduate from his course for spring and summer umpiring. By the time the course is completed, graduates will have learned the philosophy of umpiring baseball and softball, plus the rules and mechanics of the game, he said.
Those who pass field and written exams will become certified Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association baseball and ASA softball umpires. With those certifications, umpires can earn between $25 and $40 per game, Burhans said.
Hunter Schneider, 14, said he initially enrolled in the class because he plays baseball and “thought it would be cool to umpire.” Now the Parker High School freshman realizes he can make more than $400 in three days if he umpires 12 games at $35 each.
Another student, Ethan Hernandez, 13, said he just wanted to learn more about baseball and softball when he signed up. Now the Marshall Middle School student hopes to umpire as a summer job.
“My goal is to make a lot of money,” he said.
Kulinski said she would like for the partnership between the club and Burhans, who teaches as a volunteer, to continue next year. Both sides believe there is a strong chance that will happen.