Foster holding umpiring classes for 2020 season

PARKERSBURG – The winter sports season is in full swing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look forward to some exciting action on the basepaths in the next couple months.

The only problem with that is a shortage of umpires for the upcoming season in both West Virginia and Ohio.

That’s where Rex Foster steps in.

Foster, the president of the Baseball Umpires Association in West Virginia and Ohio, has been a mainstay on the diamond for more than 20 years. Now, he’s looking for new umpires to help fill the void left after years of declining numbers.

On January 26, Foster is holding a baseball umpiring class at Parkersburg High School’s Hall of Fame room. The following day, a softball umpiring class is taking place. Both classes work in coordination with the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, and Foster wants anyone with questions to call him at (304) 834-0272. Foster is also available for questions by email at wvurex48@yahoo.com.

A number of factors over the years have contributed to the decline in high school officials, and sports like baseball and softball are no exception.

“It’s a national trend. Why that is, there are probably a lot of different reasons,” Foster said. “Whether it has to do with time, dealing with people, sportsmanship stuff, that could be part of the problem, but that’s neither here nor there.”

The effort of Foster hasn’t gone unnoticed, as officials have done what they can to spread the word. In addition to this article, officials are spreading awareness via social media among other platforms. For Foster, this is about the love of the game and its future. Without an adequate number of umpires, area baseball and softball games could be in a pinch. Certain logistical issues make it hard for potential umpires to be available for some games they may be assigned.

“In the last four or five years, it seems to have gotten worse. Baseball and softball are different from other sports, because a lot of the games are played during the day like at 4 o’clock, 4:30, 5 o’clock, and a lot of the facilities around here don’t have lights,” Foster said. “That creates another problem, and of course, people work, so they might not be able to make it. Even if you were working as an umpire, it may be difficult to make it to Ritchie County for a 4 p.m. first pitch.”

Most important to Foster and like-minded officials is the reason why they do what they do.

“We’re just trying to reach out and see if there are people who aren’t aware of the opportunity is. If you like the game of baseball, it’s a great way to stay involved,” Foster said. “To me, it’s the great American game. You’ve got to have umpires to be able to play.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com