Arnie Mann spent the opening months of the 2020 calendar year as he has for over two decades as commissioner of the Greater New Haven Baseball Umpires Association.
There were 30 new umpires, all of whom went through the training session. There were presentations on rule changes made to the area coaches. And Mann assigned umpires to each of the area’s scrimmages and regular-season games — approximately 350 of them.
But not one game has yet to be played. The COVID-19 pandemic has postponed all athletic activities until at least May 20.
“Everybody is itching to get on the field,” said Mann about the 156 umpires in the New Haven association. “We just love to umpire, that’s No. 1. We love to be on the field, we love to be with the kids and the coaches. To be able exercise the rules of baseball has been taken away from us.”
There are eight baseball umpiring boards in Connecticut. Not only has Ray Faustich been associated with the Fairfield County board for almost 50 years, he has been an umpire since age 16 — starting first while living in Long Island. He also has been the state rules interpreter for the past 37 years.
“Disappointed is the one word I would tell someone. There is a good chance none of them (the games) will be played,” said Faustich, also the commissioner of the Fairfield County board.
It’s not just baseball umpires who have lost out. Softball umpires, lacrosse officials, boys volleyball officials and even officials for the postseason track and field events are not working. That’s over 1,000 officials whose livelihoods, even on a part-time basis, have also been affected by the pandemic.
Dan Scavone is in his first full season as the director of the CIAC Officials Association. He said there are approximately 3,500 officials in the association, a number of whom officiate for more than just one season.
“We were able to have a small number of meetings on new rules before the shutdown,” Scavone said. “The officials are in a holding pattern like everyone else. I’ve talked to a few of the leadership (commissioners). The level of optimism is not high right now like a lot of the folks out there.”
In addition to his new duties, Scavone recently finished his second season assigning officials for both the CIAC boys and girls basketball state tournaments.
That ended up being for just one day of the boys tournament and through half the quarterfinals of the girl tourney: the CIAC canceled the remainder of the state tournaments on March 10.
“All of a sudden it just ended. From a personal standpoint, everything came to a screeching halt,” Scavone said.
Dave Leete is celebrating his golden anniversary with the Connecticut Lacrosse Officials Association. He retired as an official in 2006. He started assigning games in 1989.
He assigns games for 130 officials for all schools except in Fairfield County. That’s almost 1,450 games. Almost all of them are either postponed or canceled.
We say almost because, believe it or not, one prep school game was played, according to Leete: Brunswick (Greenwich) vs. Belmont Hill (Mass.) on March 7 at Trinity College.
“We are all holding out hope,” Leete said. “If we have one, you have to have a certain amount of days for conditioning. So how much of a season can you have?”
Leete said he normally partakes in the weekly conference call the CIAC has with athletic directors, principals, league commissioners and others who want to pitch ideas or try to bring some closure to the spring sports season for everyone.
Scavone, who also is on that weekly call, remains optimistic something will be salvaged for the spring. He also noted a couple of other things, including the National Federation of State High Schools offering free courses for officials to take through July 1.
In addition, Scavone sent out an uplifting message from Barry Mano, founder and president of NASO (National Association of Sports Officials), to all of the league commissioners.
“Right now, my role has changed really to be a provider of information and try to keep the spirits up of our officials,” Scavone said.
Mann, now 79, said he has yet to assign “the non-academic” games, like Little League, American Legion, National Adult Baseball and AAU among others. Some of those leagues have already had the start of their season delayed. To say all are in jeopardy would not be a big stretch.
“This is a very traumatic thing we are all going through right now. In the overall scheme, baseball is not really that important,” Faustich said.
Said Mann: “Emotionally, it’s been a tough year. I love all my 156 guys. I love every one of them. I want each of them to go out and represent us well and they can’t do that now. It’s not just three of four months of activity. It’s something that consumes our people 12 months a year in some manner.”