2022 Candidates’ Question Responses

1. Currently there are no term limits for serving NBUA Board of Directors. Should there be term limits?

PEYTON COFFIN – I believe the term limits are set by members’ votes. If the members believe another candidate is more qualified than an existing board member at election time, they will vote as such.

HANK MARGESON – The nature of life tends to regulate the length of a person’s tenure on the NBUA Board of Directors. Over the past several elections new Board members have joined and have brought their ideas forward. At the same time, there’s a few Board members with a history of serving which adds continuity to the mix. Ideally, the mingling of newer members with veterans enables creativity while honoring our forbearers who helped make the NBUA the fine organization it is.

GREG OLMSTEAD – I do not believe so. Members serve 2-year terms so every two years there is an opportunity to remove board members and replace them with new candidates. Furthermore, every year the new board elects officers so annually there can be a shake up even if no new members join.

Before every election the association has to recruit and plead with people to run. Removing people dedicated to working for the NBUA and who still want to volunteer their time will not make the association better.

EARL SMITH – We are volunteers in our positions…and can be voted out at any time….if this question is asking if we need this “safeguard” I do not think it is warranted. The process now ensures that we have half of the board up for election each year. We can resign, not seek re-election, or be voted out of the board positions….possession of a board position does not mean it is a given we will keep it.

BRIAN SWEET – My short answer is “No.”

The use of term limits is most implemented by voters to prevent the accumulation and abused of political power. This is why the U.S. Constitution was amended to limit Presidents to only serving two terms after President Franklin Roosevelt, who was elected 4 times, died in office.

NBUA is run by a board of directors, who each volunteer their time and efforts to run and manage our organization. Allowing those members who understand and know the background on the issues and also desire to serve on the board should be allowed to continue to do so. But I also believe it is also important to strongly consider new candidates and board members who bring fresh perspectives and ideas to our organization. As voting members of the association, your vote is the most equitable way to implement term limits.

HENRY VON JOUANNE – I generally support term limits for various positions (i.e. city, county, or state positions); however, I do not currently see a driving reason for term limits for serving on the NBUA Board of Directors.  As a current board member, I can genuinely assert that serving on the board is very time-consuming and not many can support this time commitment.  If an NBUA member believes a board member has served too long and is no longer effective or is not serving as an advocate for the NBUA, then the members can elect to not vote for the candidate.

2. How actively do you see your Board of Director position as to actively increasing the marketing, advertising and social media positioning in recruiting new members?

PEYTON COFFIN – NBUA has Facebook and Instagram, which I opened, and our web page. We do well with Google hits. Most of the inquiries we get through the website portal indicate that an umpire suggested the candidate look into the website. A few years ago, I had recruiting cards printed up and we’ve been trying to make sure all members carry a couple in their wallet and lineup card holder if an opportunity to recruit arises. More will be handed out at the banquet. As always, our members are the best recruiting tool.

HANK MARGESON – I think all members of the NBUA have a stake in helping to recruit new members and help keep and retain members. It is my hope that by actively advertising, marketing, and using social media, we’ll catch eyeballs we would have ordinarily missed in our recruiting efforts. But the bottom line is each of us is the best ambassador for the NBUA every time we walk onto the baseball field.

EARL SMITH – My board position does not specifically deal with social media efforts to brand, market, and recruit for the NBUA. We rely on those members of the association that have that expertise to help and guide us in our social media presence. We also realize how the younger generations interact with media and, I believe, we try to have a presence and exposure. In the current officiating environment, it is extremely difficult to recruit and retain officials…. this shortage will have impacts on all of us willing to pursue this vocation. We will be asked to work more, while compensation creeps up slowly. Even if we were to have a robust social media budget, and more aggressively seek recruits in social media advertising, I don’t think the returns would justify the outgoing money.

BRIAN SWEET – Having served on the Recruiting and Retention Committee several years ago and that experience, our recruiting efforts need to go beyond social media. In my 15 years as a member of NBUA, the most effective recruiting tool we have is our current membership and the networks we all have in our work and personal circles.

Over the past several years, many of our recruits have come from PSSBL players. What a great fit. People who love and know baseball. On a personal level, I continue to volunteer my time as an umpire with Washington District 9 Little League (LL) and over the years have been able to share my experience with NBUA and quite a few joined NBUA.

The use of social media could play a significant roll in reaching out to likely the biggest and largest untapped pool of new umpires. High School and College students. In my regular job for the Port of Seattle as Sr. Construction Manager – Airport Terminals & Concourses, I spend quite a bit of time in the hiring of employees, Construction Management Consultants and Contractors. We use social media and marketing to help us find and hire the most qualified. My experience will be a significant benefit to our Board of Directors.

HENRY VONJUANNE – As a current board member, I have promoted increased marketing and social media to recruit new members.  The explosion of social media suggests we can and should increase our on-line availability.  This should be a priority for the Board of Directors.

3. The current game compensation appears to be the same regardless of if the crew is 2-man or 1-man. What do you think about increasing the 1-man game fee over the standard rate listed?

PEYTON COFFIN – There is an increase. High School game fees are set by WIAA/WOA. Varsity baseball game fees are $66.75 each for a 2-man crew and $74.75 for a solo umpire. Sub-Varsity fees are $55.25 for 2-man and $63.25 for a 1-man game. Summer league game fees also increase for 1-man games by at least $11.00.

Where baseball umpires are at a disadvantage is working the 2nd High School game at the same site. An $18.00 travel fee is paid for the 1st game, but not the 2nd. That’s not so bad for basketball or volleyball (the other two sports I officiate) because you basically end game #1, sit down, hydrate, relax, walk back on the court, blow your whistle and get the 2nd game underway. Baseball umpires have to change uniforms, at times in inclement weather. A game fee of $37.25 for the 2nd sub-Varsity game that could go well over 2 hours and include changing uniforms in the cold is simply ridiculous. That is something we are working to change.

Reminder: Officials will get a $15.00 increase for High School games next season.

HANK MARGESON – Our current game fee structure pays a 1-person game fee of (on average) $15 more than a 2-person crew. If you worked a solo game and were not properly compensated, please contact our Assignor so we can remedy that situation

GREG OLMSTEAD – I am absolutely for this. In fact I believe it should be offered to many levels of our customers as a way for them to save money, NBUA provide more coverage, and individual umpires compensated

EARL SMITH – I was under the impression that the 1-man game fee was compensated better than if the game were officiated over with the two-man system. I would support a better game fee for one man officiating…. but I also believe we should not umpire in the one-man system. I did not join the association to do one man mechanics. We have more games than umpires…. this is a fact…. but then we should retain those customers that best fit our association’s needs and stay within our means.

BRIAN SWEET – I know directly the WOA does increase our game fee for 1-umpire high school games by $8 and it would be great if there were similar increases for all our games when worked by 1 umpire. A higher game fee for 1-umpire games could and should be negotiated into our contracts.

Sounds simple and sounds straightforward, right? However, we need to carefully consider this as there could be unintended consequences by including a 1-umpire game fee schedule in our contracts. One potential consequence may be those leagues routinely scheduling their games with just 1 umpire to save money. Based on your and my experience, we know that 1-umpire games are less effective.

HENRY VONJOUANNE – I believe there are two parts to this question:

1) If a game is submitted as two-man by the customer, and the game is worked by one umpire, I believe the game fee should be increased.

2) Some leagues sign agreements with the NBUA that request one-man only, and the game fee is part of the agreement.  In this case, we allocate the agreed-to game fee.   

4. What do you think about the 2nd and 3rd year WOA fee increase of $3.00 and then $2.00 and keeping the first game travel fee?

PEYTON COFFIN – I think it’s preposterous to not even meet inflation. I touched on this subject while speaking with Todd Stordahl, Executive Director of the WOA, a month ago. He is well aware of the inequity. Those that were heavily involved in the fee increase negotiation with the WIAA, such as your president, Hank Margeson, were mainly concerned with getting the $15.00 bump and battle for following yearly increases after that was secured. They succeeded.

HANK MARGESON – While it would be nice to amend an agreement between the WOA and WIAA for years 2 and 3 of the current agreement, unless the WIAA comes to the WOA to suggest changes are needed, the likelihood of any changes to compensation are slim. Having said that, I have committed to working with the WOA to ensure that umpire’s compensation continues to increase and the penalty for working two games at one site is eliminated. It’s an uphill battle, but something I’m happy to advocate for on behalf of the membership.

GREG OLMSTEAD – I would prefer a flat rate for any game and remove the travel fee – except for very long distances traveled.

EARL SMITH – The WOA is increasing our game fees yes, but our membership in the WOA will also increase……The NBUA makes a member “whole” in the sense that we make the first and second game fees of a double header the same, and we do that at the out-of-pocket expense of the association. The message to the WOA should be, we will dispatch a second crew and not expect our umpires to cover double headers if the game fees are not compensatory and equal. This may jeopardize our relationship with the WOA, but we are being taken advantage of here.

BRIAN SWEET – While $3 and $2 increases seem very small, we must look at the total picture. My understanding is the 1st year increase for all HS officials will increase $15/game in the 2022/2023 school year. In total games fees will go up $20/game over three years or 30% for varsity and 36% for sub-varsity games. Those are very acceptable “raises” for most anyone. So overall the planned increases are very acceptable and very well deserved by all officials, not just umpires.

Regarding the travel fee, my position is straight forward. The travel fee should be eliminated and $18 be included in all game fees.

HENRY VONJOUANNE – The NBUA Board of Directors has learned that game fees in Washington are generally far below the fees in similar urban areas around the country.  The Board of Directors has therefore approached the WOA for game fee increases above the current WOA fee schedule.  I support our efforts to increase game fees because there is no reason to be paid less than an umpire in a similar urban area.  In addition, I believe increased game fees can contribute towards improved recruitment.

Regarding the first game travel fee, I support keeping this fee.  The travel fee is oriented towards umpires in remote areas of the state; however, one can readily drive a long distance – perhaps 100 miles – in a remote area in less time it takes me to travel from my workplace to Eastlake (on a weeknight).

5. With the seemingly increasing parent and coaching umpire abuse, what do you think about the NBUA sanctioning teams, putting them on notice?

PEYTON COFFIN – I believe NBUA should consider sanctioning a team if the coaches and/or spectators are abusive toward the umpires after being officially warned or, in the event of contact, immediately. NBUA does not involve itself with a league’s discipline of a coach, as it should not. However, if necessary to protect the umpires and the sanctity of the baseball game and the youth players, informing a league that NBUA will not be providing services to Team “X” for a week or 10 days is appropriate. I wrote a resolution which the board passed to insure all members had confidence that NBUA could and would act when necessary.

It can be considered a “cooling off” period for that team and it’s a, hopefully never having to be implemented after a warning, tool in NBUA’s toolbox.

Players and spectators tend to conform to the culture of the head coach and assistant coaches. I believe that in the very unlikely event that NBUA sanctions a team, every other team in the league would hear about it within hours and league-wide behavior would change.

It’s also a bit tougher to recruit when the potential recruit has just witnessed uncontrolled screaming and cussing directed at an umpire.

HANK MARGESON – The NBUA generally does not prescribe consequences that a league or team metes out to a player or coach. Rather, we work with the team or the league to ensure that steps are taken to adjust the behavior when umpires are threatened. Examples from the past include advocating for a player to be banished from a league for a particularly egregious action and recommending a one game suspension for ejected participants. During this current season a warning was issued to a league regarding the behavior of a team which had several incidents over the past few years. The warning stated that further service would be withdrawn if additional incidents were encountered.

GREG OLMSTEAD – The reality is our ejections and incidents are on a downward trend. Better umpire training and culture and teams starting to get it. MLB no longer has the huge tirades that fed the culture.

My suggestion is that we allow the league officials we work with to maintain control of their teams and discipline members. That can go both ways as on occasion umpires misbehave and we can use their feedback to make our own ranks stronger. Strengthening the relationship of the league officials and board will make for better long-term results.

EARL SMITH – As we do on the field, we have a process in handling game friction. Ignore, acknowledge, warn, eject……I believe we can and should adopt some sort of similar protocols for teams and organizations that do nothing to offending coaches/teams. We will have ejections, unfortunately it is the reality of the officiating climate today. They may increase annually as the behaviors of players, parents, and coaches have not magically aligned with the tenants of sportsmanship. What this question suggests is withholding services. This could be a way of punishing egregious incidents. We could warn, then withhold our services. We have actually done this in the past with a client who continually had coaching staff ejections. If we were to adopt a policy, it would be difficult to implement as each situation is unique and it can be open to interpretation. We as board members do not often see the ejections firsthand.

BRIAN SWEET – Most if not all of us have read or seen the numerous videos on social media and in the news about abuse of officials in youth sports. As a member of the NBUA Board I would have no issues addressing any situation one of our members encountered with a team or a coach.

If elected, one of the first items I would bring up for discussion will be the inclusion of a contract clause to address this concern. Currently as Sr. Construction Manager for the Port of Seattle, my team and I are updating all our construction contracts to include language for an “Acceptable Workplace”. It is an anti-bullying and anti-hazing requirement with consequences for non-compliance and would be the model for what I would propose to the Board.

HENRY VONJOUANNE – The NBUA currently has a policy to address serious umpire abuse:  

1) we can place a team on notice that any further egregious behavior will result in with-holding services, or

2) we notify a team that we are with-holding services.

Note that the Board of Directors receives all ejection (or behavior) reports, as such, the better we are as an organization in documenting serious umpire abuse, the better we can address the situation with our policies.

6. Currently there is no fall NBUA training. What do you think about NBUA offering training during fall ball games during the nicer fall weather to supplement the February on field training and have those hours count towards the tier training requirement?

PEYTON COFFIN – I think it’s a great idea but, realistically, who is going to do the training?

NBUA’s Director of training, his staff and the trainers put in an inordinate amount of time to coordinate and conduct the annual training. Trying to assign a trainer to a single game is a time commitment a trainer might not volunteer for. The best in-season training comes from your partner’s post-game comments and suggestions –and our mentor program.

HANK MARGESON – The NBUA has a rich history of training during fall ball, mostly by working local Junior College fall games. When the NBUA stopped providing umpires for NWAC schools, we also stopped providing free service for those schools. That’s freed us up to handle more youth fall ball games which could easily be used as an on-field training opportunity, especially for learning, practicing, and perfecting 3-person mechanics. And yes, training credit for the following season would be counted.

GREG OLMSTEAD – Typically, our volunteer training teams are exhausted at the end of the season. I believe in theory this is a good idea, but I worry more about tapping into our resources. I would opt for simply good peer feedback rather than an organized program.

EARL SMITH – This on-the-job approach to training does exist at some levels for our officials…. There is the concept of volunteering in college fall ball situations when umpires are trying to attain the collegiate level of officiating. The training staff works incredibly hard in the spring before games start to give our officials the best training in the area. We do not live in a sunshine state….and asking them to have both a spring and a fall training schedule is a bit much, again, these are not paid positions…..we should all have the mentality of “each one teach one” in our mentorship and partner feedback….I for one, have gotten better by asking for, and listening to, constructive feedback. The collegiate fall ballgames have officials mentoring throughout the live game, attempting to teach, and vet officials for that level…. the system has its advantages for the College Assigner/Association….Participation is “mandatory” for the less tenured officials, and it is a learning opportunity. officials have a chance to work in the three-umpire system, move around the field, and get some repetitions in. I am not saying the NBUA could not do the same thing, but as I said, this is all volunteer on behalf of the officials and the mentors…. the only thing suggested in the question might be a training hour requirement could be satisfied…… Nothing is out of the realm of possibility, but I think the training block in the spring is excellent, and while the weather is more accommodating in the fall, it is a big lift to develop and implement training when it is all volunteer hours.

BRIAN SWEET – This suggestion falls right in line with the new field training we implemented at the start of this season bringing 6-8 umpires to work live scrimmages. The feedback from trainees this past training period was extremely positive and we are looking forward to expanding it next year. Having served on the Training Committee for the past 3 years, I am 100% in favor of the concept of 3-man training in the Fall. I’ve had several conversations with other Training Committee members about this concept during this season.

As with any new program, we should begin with a single training focus. For the “Fall” training, the 3-umpire system was discussed. During the season, there is no time for on the field 3-umpire training, we learn it “on-the-job”. Fall ball fits the bill to provide this training to our members and should be counted toward next year’s training.

In summary, I would also add that I’m proud of the training that NBUA provides its members. It directly reflects the quality of the product we put on the field; however, we can’t rest on our accomplishments or simply relax when we’ve “checked” the box at the end of each preseason training period. One of NBUA’s biggest obstacles to bringing on new umpires is training. With a few exceptions, NBUA does not add new members during the season. When we do find individuals interested in umpiring in April/May/June their training is “trial by fire”. I believe that if NBUA can develop a mid-season training program for new umpires, we can increase our membership by capturing high school and college students among others and provide on-line training through an online platform, such as YouTube. If the internet can show me how to replace a heater coil in a dryer, it can provide the classroom training during mid-season for new umpires.

HENRY VONJOUANNE – As the current NBUA training focal, I have awarded training credit to those that supplement their NBUA training by training with outside organizations (e.g. Black and Blue, pro-school).  

Note that we are hoping to conduct training at the upcoming fall-ball games at Lake Washington High School.  The focus will probably be on 3-man mechanics; however, we are considering mixing-in two-man mechanics as well.  We anticipate this training will count towards the tier training requirement.