WCOA seeking umpires for this spring, beyond

WCOA seeking umpires for this spring, beyond

Fred Schludecker


High school baseball players and coaches aren’t the only ones working in the offseason to hone their talents in preparation for the upcoming spring season. Area umpires including Wayne County Officials Association veteran Fred Schludecker are getting their ducks in a row too.

The goal is to be well-equipped when there are “ducks on the pond” once again.

“All the games last year were canceled because of the coronavirus,” Schludecker said. “We had our guys ready to go, and it was kind of late notice that there would be no games. I felt bad for those who had gone through the training and all but never got to get on the field.”

Optimism reigns, however, as the 2021 season looms in just a few weeks. So Schludecker is back at work hoping to shore up the pool of umpires who will call all the action between the white lines.

“I’d like to get this year’s classes started around Feb. 1,” said the 61-year-old Schludecker, who begins his fourth year of instruction for individuals hoping to get licenses that permit them to work Ohio High School Athletic Association contests. “We do games in Wayne County and some in Holmes County too. We need two umpires for every game, and when you think of all the schools in the area that are playing games, it takes a lot of umpires to cover the schedule each week.”

Last year the WCOA had 45 members primed for baseball. There actually is a second group that handles softball, although some umps do try to do both if their schedules allow. The instruction and licensing for softball officiating is handled separately.

Schludecker’s goal is to infuse some younger blood into the area’s umpiring ranks. He said he’s in the “younger half” of those currently in the pool.

“We’re looking to get younger, but it’s one of those things where you really have to want to do it,” Schludecker said. “Yes, you can make a little money, but really, it’s a good way to just keep in touch with the game and enjoy working with people. Being on the other side of the game and umpiring gives you a different perspective of things, different from when you are playing or coaching.”

With eight years of umpiring under his belt, Schludecker spent many years coaching in the youth and high school ranks. Most notably, he was an assistant and head junior varsity skipper at Waynedale High until work commitments made that role impractical.

To become an OHSAA-licensed umpire, candidates must complete 25 hours of schooling. Generally, Schludecker said he holds two 2-hour classes per week for six weeks. The cost is $125, of which $65 goes directly to the OHSAA. An ump’s first-year license also is included in the initial cost. Dues are then required for each year that follows.

Other start-up costs for a new umpire also include a chest protector, protective face mask, shoes and proper clothing. The expectation is umpires work both behind the plate and on the bases. “Rookie” umps handle junior varsity games at the outset, working their way into the varsity action.

“When two umpires arrive at a site for a game, they usually decide between themselves who does the plate and who does the bases,” Schludecker said. “I actually prefer being behind the plate. It’s kind of reactionary. There’s a flow and a rhythm.”

The instructional schedule being what it is, time is of the essence when it comes to being ready for the beginning of the 2021 season. Anyone wishing to get involved may call Schludecker at 330-201-8121 or email fred.schludecker@gmail.com.

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