Umpiring in Little League and youth baseball has changed dramatically in the last decade. In the beginning, most leagues used volunteers to umpire their games. Parents, family members and past coaches would give up one night a week to do the best they could calling balls and strikes, fair and foul and safes and outs. Some were good and some were not. A few umpires had some training; but for the most part, it was limited to their own experiences from playing ball. What these volunteers did have was a love for the game and an interest in providing children a place to grow and learn in sportsmanship and character.
As it became more difficult to find volunteers, local leagues turned to paid (patched) umpires to officiate their games. Most of these Umpires were trained using high school rules and were expensive to leagues.
On the positive side, the patched Umps were a lot better at calling balls and strikes and controlling games than the volunteers that came before them. However, most had limited understanding of the differences between the various leagues. Additionally, there was a growing sentiment that a percentage of these Umpires were calling games for the sake of speed and remuneration. Another unfortunate development was that as Umpires joined Pro-Camps to refine their skills, a greater divide grew between them and the Coaches. The lens that was being used to view the relationship between the two most influential figures on the field became slanted and unfortunately left both sides feeling that the other was the enemy.
We were both High School Umpires that had officiated for over twenty years when the idea of creating an association took root. A common dominator in our friendship was our shared love for Little League baseball. Earl was the Chief Umpire at Peekskill Little League and Tom held the same position at Cortlandt American Little League. We heard many of the complaints from local league officials and observed many problems when attending games, and so it was then that we decided that we had to act on it.
In order to mitigate the problem of not having appropriately matched Umpires to youth baseball, we decided to create our own association composed of umpires just like ourselves. Although both of us are trained Umpires, Earl and I each have a heart of a teacher. We care deeply about not just teaching the rules, but helping fellow Umpires understand the complexities of the rules, how they should be applied and how umpires can be stewards in passing on baseball ethics to others. We want to bring back the reason why people umpired games when it was an act of volunteering; and being able to match it with the reward of being compensated for their time.
Umpires make the difference between a scrimmage and an official game. Umpires can also make the difference in providing an opportunity for mentorship and growth with anyone that takes the field. EBUA Umpires are human and understand that there is no such thing as perfect - including always making the right call. We welcome the chance to work alongside Coaches, and when there is a misunderstanding or need to discuss a call further, we will explain our ruling in between innings.
Where We Are Today
After the first year of providing Umpires for local Little Leagues, we received calls from other youth baseball leagues not affiliated with Little League and began providing Umpires for them. We made sure that each Umpire we assigned to those games were knowledgeable of all the applicable rules and rule differences between Little League, Cal Ripken and Federation regulations. More importantly, we assigned Umpires who have a love for baseball and care about the longevity of the game; and care about developing relationships with the Coaches, Teams and Players that will foster the love of baseball and pay it forward for future generations.
Because of our experience and dedication to the game, we are honored to pass on our knowledge and love of baseball to the more than 260 Umpires who now proudly wear the EBUA branded apparel. As an Association, we fully expect every single one of our umpires to handle themselves with dignity, class and respect while “Calling 'em as they see 'em”.
Tom first fell in love with baseball when he was six years old and would go early each Sunday morning to Isham Park in the Inwood section of Manhattan to watch his father play.
Tom umpired his first Little League game in 1970 for the Wallkill Area Little League in Ulster County, NY. When his job sent him across the country, he started umpiring for Little Leagues in Missouri, Ohio, Indiana and California before returning to NY and becoming the Chief Umpire for the Cortlandt American Little League. This is when he met Earl Berry. He has worked numerous NY State Little League Championship games at all age groups as well as the twelve-year-old Regional Tournament in Bristol CT. He also was chosen to work the Little League Senior League World Series in Kissimmee, FL. As a long time varsity High School baseball Umpire, he served on the Rules committee for the Westchester County Baseball Umpires Association for several years. He has been teaching Rookie Umpires for over twenty years for numerous Umpire Associations based out of NY. The idea of EBUA turned into a tangible reality in 2010 during the District 33 Tournament where Tom and Earl were responsible for assigning the Umpire Crews.
Growing up in Peekskill everybody played Little League Baseball. Before Earl was eligible to join Little League he would play stick ball in the street, play catch in the back yard or walk to Franklin Park and play baseball until dark.
Earl's officiating career began in the late 1970’s umpiring men's and women's softball. When a fellow softball player and Little League Parent asked if he would be interested in volunteering for the Peekskill Lapolla Little League, Earl thought it was a good opportunity to give back to the Kids, the Community and to the game of Baseball.
In 1980, he joined the Peekskill Lapolla Little League and served on the Board of Directors as Umpire-In-Chief. He was then appointed Umpire in Chief for District 20 and District 33. He also served as the Umpire Coordinator for NYS Sections 3 and 4.
He was selected in1992 to work the Major League Regionals in Bristol CT, the Senior League World Series in Kissimmee, FL and the 1995 Little League World Series in Williamsport PA.
Earl is a long time member of the WCBUA and has served on the Ratings Committee, the Examiner Board, former VP and is currently the President of the Association.