June 01, 2020
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Spring sports officials miss interaction with teams more than the lost earnings

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Dave Jeffrey, president of Brewer Timing Services, times races at the Pine Tree State Track and Field championship in July 2019 at Cameron Stadium in Bangor. COVID-19 has left his business idle this spring.

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For spring high school coaches and athletes, the COVID-19 pandemic has left a massive void. That is especially true for seniors who will never have the opportunity to complete their high school careers.

The sports shutdown also has impacted for baseball and softball umpires, lacrosse referees and track and field officials.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

Dave Jeffrey, the owner of Brewer Timing Services, had 82 track meets lined up this spring all across the Northeast. They have been wiped out at an estimated cost to his business of $70,000.

“It is making an impact but there’s not much you can do about it,” Jeffrey said. “We have college kids who depend on the income and that’s not going to happen.

The special education teacher in Brewer, a former track coach for the Witches, joked that the landscaping at his house is going well this spring.

“The business, for me, is kind of an extra thing so it’s not affecting my life. I have a job so everything has been OK that way. But I feel bad for the kids who lost a season,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to do some timing this fall.”

Mary Cady of Orono, a fixture on the Maine track and field scene as a league and meet director and statistician, feels out of sorts.

“This is the first time in 30 years I haven’t been doing track meets in the spring,” Cady, who works with Brewer Timing Services, said. “It’s weird not having track meets and getting to see the kids and what they can do and not seeing coaches you have dealt with for years.”

Pete Warner | BDN
Pete Warner | BDN
Umpire Chris Parker prepares to make the "out" call on a play at third base during the 2017 Class B baseball state championship game in Bangor. High school and college umpires and other sports officials have been idle this spring after the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sheridan Davis is a longtime softball umpire who serves as the assigner for the Eastern Maine board.

“I am completely frustrated by this whole thing,” Davis said. “We had nine new members coming on and that was going to be a plus for us.”

Baseball umpires earn $65 per varsity game and softball umpires get $64.50. Umps receive $45 for JV and middle school games.

They also earn mileage which consists of 44 cents per mile up to 120 miles and 22 cents per mile after that.

Bill Patterson has been umpiring baseball games for 48 years. He also works college games, which pay him $220 per contest and more than $300 for a doubleheader — along with a mileage stipend.

He will lose approximately $5,000 in income this spring, he said.

“That’s a lot of pocket change for a two-month season,” Patterson said.

But the lost wages take a back seat to the joy of umpiring, David and Patterson said.

“Ninety-nine percent of the umpires do this because they enjoy being with the kids, being outside and being active. It’s the same in any sport we do,” Davis said. “They aren’t doing it for the money.”

“It will leave a big void. I know people everywhere I go, from Mount Desert Island to Millinocket,” Patterson said. “I have really missed seeing the people.”

Pete Warner | BDN
Pete Warner | BDN
Umpire Jeff Mertzel (right) prepares to make a call on a play at home plate during the 2018 Class A baseball state title game at Saint Joseph's College in Standish. Umpires, track and field officials and lacrosse referees are among those who are losing out because of the canceled spring sports season in Maine.

Patterson also misses the challenge of umpiring a game, especially behind the plate.

“You try to get everything right. You thrive on that,” Patterson said.

Softball umpire Brian Clark has been surprised by how much he has missed interacting with the players and the coaches, he said.

“It’s nice to see a player or coach recognize you even when you’re wearing facemasks [due to the coronavirus]. It makes you feel good. You aren’t just there to call balls and strikes. You develop relationships over the years,” Clark said.

The money Chris Parker — the assigner for the Eastern Maine baseball board and an umpire himself — makes from umpiring goes toward a vacation for him and his wife, he said.

“We have guys who will work six days a week and make $2,000 in six or eight weeks if not more,” Parker said.

He has umpired at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and this summer was scheduled to work at the European Senior League championships in Poland, which were canceled. Parker is taking things in stride.

“This year will be a year off, so it will be me and my golf clubs,” Parker said.

Umpires do not get paid for Little League-sanctioned tournaments but Parker doesn’t mind.

“It’s for the love of the game,” he said.

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