Don’t Let This Happen: Failing to Background Check Umpires
At Little League® International in Williamsport, Pa., and at our Regional Offices, calls and emails come in all year long about situations that are happening at one of our 7,000 local leagues. Many of these calls and emails inform us of some very positive initiatives spearheaded by our millions of volunteers. However, there are also negative situations.
“Don’t Let This Happen to Your League” details a real-world scenario, how it has impacted a league, and how you might learn from it.
The names have been omitted in the following scenario, but the situation is real.
The District U-I-C completed the background check on a volunteer umpire, and the umpire began officiating local league games in the district. The umpire was chosen from a list of approved umpires that the district provided to the Board of Directors of each league. The local Board selected several umpires from the list and approved them to officiate in its league’s games. The local league did not perform its own background checks on the umpires it selected. During the season, parents and team managers notice that on occasion one of the umpires has been late to games, and seemed disoriented while on the field. During a game, a parent smells alcohol on the umpire’s breath, and threatens to call the police and remove his child from the league.
The League President and U-I-C are contacted and the umpire is removed from the game. The umpire informs the President that even though he has alcohol on his breath, he feels he is fully capable of umpiring. The umpire also states that he has had prior DUI convictions and the District was aware of them since they were revealed on his background check. The District did not remove him from the District’s approved list. After being informed about the arrests, the league Board of Directors votes to remove the umpire and not permit him to officiate any games for the league.
In view of this situation, the newly elected League President discusses the issue with the Board of Directors. The Board considers appointing a committee to assist the League President in conducting background checks. The Board supports the motion and approves the U-I-C to be on the Committee and review the background check procedures in the Little League Rulebook, and conduct background checks on all umpires providing regular service to the league. After the annual checks are completed, the U-I-C is required to report the findings to the League President and the Board. Even though the umpire did not have any automatic disqualifying offenses according to Little League regulations, the Board also voted in favor of excluding any volunteer with an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI), driving impaired or drug-related charge within the past three years.
Note to Little League Officials:
The League President is responsible for the nomination of all manager, coach and umpire candidates; and it is the Board of Directors that votes to approve (or deny) these nominees. The League President is responsible for confirming that all background checks are completed before any manager, coach or umpire may assume his/her duties with the league. In this case, no umpire is permitted to officiate any league game without the completion of a background check by the league to which regular service is to be provided. The League President may choose to delegate the background check responsibilities to another Board member (such as the U-I-C), but such a decision requires Board approval and the person entrusted with conducting the league’s background checks must report to the League President and the Board of Directors. In years past, leagues have been known to rely on the district staff to fulfill the background check responsibilities, and assemble a list from which the league can select umpires. This practice goes against Little League’s Child Protection guidelines and Little League Regulations I (c) 8 & 9 which require that all umpires who provide regular service and/or have repetitive access to, or contact with, players or teams submit to, and pass, a background check for each league to which they provide service. While we recommend that all Districts conduct background checks on all of their staff and volunteers, this does not alleviate each local league from conducting the required checks on potentially the same individuals in order to adhere to the Little League regulations. This is an example of why all local leagues must review their own records and incorporate their own policies in determining who will be involved in their league.