The Baseball/Softball Seasons That Almost Did Not Occur

By Ken Enderley

Retransmitted courtesy of

As umpires, we eagerly await the start of the baseball/softball seasons. Unfortunately not this year. Little League International declared that their season would start on May 11th and adhere to local mandates. The Little League WS was canceled, as well as state and regional tournaments, because of travel bans. Those things that we sometimes take for granted were taken away from us.

The “new normal,” wear a face mask, wash your hands often, and use hand sanitizer. Wait, weren’t we told a couple of years ago that too much hand sanitizer was no good for us? Hmm! Social distancing (don’t shake hands or hug anyone) and of course the big one, quarantine! No school, no movie theaters, no restaurants, etc. Only drive-by celebrations allowed. Lock Down!

My umpire association in New York state was cautiously optimistic. We comprised our “own” COVID-19 social distancing policy that was to be forwarded to the leagues that we officiated. My suggestion was that all involved should wear a mask during a game.

Leagues had pushed government officials to “let’s play ball.” Other associations that I officiated for were trying to implement their own social distancing umpire mechanics. Leagues comprised their own policies as well.

May 11 came and went with not a whimper. LL International would not open for another month. Most leagues followed that trend. June 22nd was the next proposed date to “open the season” in both NY and NJ. I finally officiated my first game, a men’s softball game. Calling balls and strikes from behind the pitcher’s circle wearing a face mask that my wife made. We were all happy just to be back on the diamond. Ah, the smell of the grass, the clicks on my indicator, and the plate brush in my back pocket. Also the smack of the ball in a glove and the crack of the bat. “Play Ball!”


My first assignment from my association was a college baseball showcase. Our COVID-19 social distancing policy was to umpire from behind the pitcher’s mound calling balls and strikes. The young men who participated in this showcase were grateful that they were able to play ball again. They were respectful to me. The showcase director was also grateful. I had a great time being back on the field. We all knew what the alternative could have been. It was cool that I was asked when I was coming back to umpire more games. “In two weeks,” I told them.

Travel baseball leagues were also given the green light to start their seasons. The “plate” mechanics were changed to behind the pitcher’s bump and the “base” umpire was to position three feet behind the catcher and batter (to call fair/foul). That lasted less than a week. Received an e-mail, right after my partner and I finished our  first game, from our Travel assigner. I was the “base” umpire. “No more base umpire behind the catcher and batter!!!”


Two umpire mechanics were now the “plate” umpire is to remain behind the hill and the “base” umpire was to use the modified “A” position. Great. Some backstops are shorter than others, so I doffed my plate equipment and moved up the first base line. Responsible for fair/foul on that line. “Plate” umpire was still responsible for the third base line. Good luck with the screaming line drive over there. Third base coaches were on the honor system now. Yeah right!

So we tweaked our association’s COVID-19 mechanics to reflect those modifications. No umpire behind the dish because the catcher and batter were not mandated to wear a face mask. However, we did when we entered the facility and when we were on the field or in common areas, etc.


One of the Little Leagues that my association officiates for said that they would open the season in July. With our new social distancing mechanics in place, we had to retrain the LL youth umpires with the new modified A position. They wanted more responsibility, but we had to say a big NO to that! Remember there is a pandemic. My first LL game was in August.

Some managers and coaches adhered to the new social distancing guidelines set forth by their respective leagues. Umpires are not the COVID-19 police. Yet, conversations such as these still took place.

“Coach put your mask on when you want to talk to me!”

“No arguing balls and strikes, safe or out calls!”

“I’m not here for you coach! I’m here for the kids.” 

Parents who were told that they were not allowed to be near the players were very creative. They came up with innovative “chirps” to express their opinions regarding our calls.

“You can’t call balls and strikes from behind the pitcher” or “you can’t call that outside pitch a strike.” Thought bubble: Um, yes I can.

A classic: “The catcher caught that pitch on a bounce, that’s not a strike?” Some parents saw the game better than we did from down the left and right field lines.


It was beneficial in so many ways to wear a face mask on the field. You could answer them back without them hearing you and they could not see you grinning from ear to ear. Very cathartic.

My colleagues and I officiated plenty of games during this unprecedented pandemic. We did abide by the local government standards. Umpires adhered to our COVID-19 social distancing mechanics. However, we did get back to “normal” umpire mechanics in late September and wore face masks under our umpire masks. Hope that you all stayed healthy.

The baseball/softball season that almost did not occur, came to a close in November.

Stay Safe!

Ken Enderley began umpiring when he was thirteen years old. He’s been a volunteer LL umpire, since 2001, in Rockland County, NY and joined the Rockland ASA chapter in 2006. His continuing knowledge of baseball and softball rules as well as umpire mechanics has enabled him to teach both adult and youth umpires. Ken is currently Co-Director of the Lower Hudson Valley Umpire Association. You can follow them on Instagram at lhvua.