The Little League World Series will forever remain one of the best sporting events, and there's no changing my mind on that. But it might be time for Little League to finally change its process of selecting umpires, because there are some atrocious calls that take place every year.
Take, for example, the latest missed call in Ohio and Illinois' Great Lake Championship Game. It took place in the fourth inning of a 3-0 game in regional play, which make up the tournaments that decide who the ten teams on the U.S. side of the LLWS bracket will be.
If not for Little League expanding replay review to regional games in 2016, this call would've stood and screwed over one team.
LL umps at it again. WOW.. called out. LOL pic.twitter.com/sY0hFF0Z2I
— StockUpDean (@GilDEANdavis18) August 11, 2023
The first base umpire originally rules the runner out on an inning-ending double play for Illinois, but upon replay it's revealed that he blew the call — and it wasn't particularly close.
Of course, Ohio challenged the call and had it reversed. That meant the runner from third scored on the force out and the runner remained on first with two outs.
You can view the whole sequence in the YouTube video below, at the 7:12 mark:
Thankfully, the end result was the correct call.
But this umpire's call highlights a bigger issue in the Little League World Series and regional play. Umpires aren't consistent, often missing calls in the field. Strike zones can be hit or miss, and it's not uncommon to see pitches in the other batter's box called for strikes.
Yes, part of the draw for Little League events is the amateurism, but does that really have to include the umpires? I know replay review is a thing now, but at what point are we going to get sick of constantly stopping the game to review and overturn calls that are wrong?
Little League uses volunteer umpires for these widely-televised events, and the process is "lengthy and rigorous," according to the Little League website. Maybe it should consider paying for the best possible umpires considering it has a massive TV deal with ESPN, and while the details of it aren't known, the former deal that expired in 2022 was reportedly for about $60 million over eight years.
The Little League World Series in Williamsport begins Wednesday, Aug. 16 and will run until Aug. 27.
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