Local schools to play baseball games on Saturdays
CENTRAL COAST — The Central Coast Athletics Association and the Los Padres Baseball Umpire Associate have cut communication with each other after finding no resolution in talks regarding the amount of pay per game for the upcoming 2023 season. The two organizations began their disagreement when entering talks for a new contract in the fall of 2022.
When the CCAA schools agreed to move to the Central Section in 2017, departing the Southern Section, many things changed, like who teams play in the postseason, but also including the rates paid per game to officials. Each section within the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) sets its own rates for each of the units, or sports, offered in a given sporting year. Every few years, each CIF section gets together and sets new rates and adopts new rules that the schools, in turn, follow and offer to their local officiating organizations. 2023 was one of those years, and their new rates were given in the fall of 2022.
The Central Section offers lower rates per game when compared to the Southern Section. When making the move to the Central Section, the CCAA asked the then commissioner if the schools within the CCAA could offer the Southern Section rates to their officials. After initially denying the request, the commissioner agreed and the schools and local officials entered a Memorandum of Understanding.
“We asked the then commissioner if we could offer the Southern Section rates and he initially said no, then changed his mind on that and allowed us to do that,” Atascadero Athletic Director Sam Derose told the Atascadero News. “So, we created an MOU (a memorandum of understanding) that basically said that we will pay all the units, we have 10 units (all 10 sports the schools carry), we would continue to pay all 10 units the Southern Section rates. We don’t have the ability to negotiate, you get one or the other — Central or Southern — there is no negotiation and no doubt that Southern is better.”
The LBPUA addressed the original acceptance of the Southern Section rates in an email sent to the CCAA athletic directors on Friday, Feb. 10, stating, “When the 16 schools left for the Central Section for their own self-interest (less travel and more playoff opportunities), the coastal league schools were left in a lurch without nearby umpires. The LPBUA had a long-term relationship with those schools and in order to support them, we are forced to accept SS rates. If we didn’t support them, those schools may not have umpires, or those umpires would be quite expensive due to travel fees.”
This year, the Southern Section recently decided to restructure some of its pay scales with a goal to achieve a $35-per-hour range from the lowest to highest rates for all officials of all sports. The restructure is based on the hours of competition by each sport and is intended to be finished in three years’ time. The new rates caused some officials in other sports, such as football, to get a bump while others were frozen.
Both parties were presented with the new Southern Section-approved officiating fee schedule in April. In September, the LPBUA began representing themselves separately from the Los Padres Officials Association after the LPBUA members voted unanimously to reject the offer, according to Treasurer Brian Ashbrook.
All other officating associations accepted the proposal from the CCAA using the Southern Section rates.
Per the documents sent to the media by Derose and Mission Prep Athletic Director Kevin Hitchen, the CIF Southern Section rates came in at $92 per game. According to the LBPUA treasurer, the organization was looking to get a higher per-game average that was competitive with other local organizations like Babe Ruth, Little League, and club baseball to name a few. The negotiations began at around $120 and came down to around $105. Ashbrook also stated that he thinks the system is designed to keep official pay low.
“They weren’t trying to compromise, they weren’t trying to reach a resolution — they were trying to convince me to take the $92 fee back to the members that already voted 34-0 to reject the fee,” Ashbrook told the Atascadero News/Paso Robles Press. “We are a member-driven organization, if the members would’ve voted 18-16 to accept the $92, we would have accepted the $92.”
Ashbrook continued, stating that there is no Central Section bylaw that limits official’s game fees.
According to documents sent to the media, the CCAA sent its final proposal on Wednesday, Feb. 8, which would have raised the per-game rate to $106 via a new mileage column and by the schools paying the officials assigner fees for the year.
“We added an extra mileage column,” Derose told the Atascadero News / Paso Robles Press. “We added a 25-50 mile radius and we told them that we could pay the assigner fees. Well, when we met with them again, it became evident that their whole goal was to get 105 dollars a game.”
The LBPUA offered a counter, but was told Friday that the CCAA would no longer be negotiating as Wednesday’s offer was the final one being given. At this time, the two organizations are no longer in agreement and the CCAA has begun contacting officials from neighboring counties as they look to set up an alternative schedule for the 2023 spring season where teams will play on Saturdays.
As part of the alternative schedule, local schools will also begin switching some of their home games to road games to have registered officials available. Local schools will also look to host multiple schools at a single site on a Saturday and bring in officials from out of the area.
In response to the CCAA’s final email, Ashbrook responded with an email of his own, noting the extra money the schools will need to spend in order to bring in outside officials and the burden it may place on the athletes.
In a call with the Atascadero News / Paso Robles Press on Saturday, Feb. 11, Derose addressed Ashbrook’s email, saying, “This isn’t about money, this is about principle, because if this thing falls through, then every unit for every sport across the state is going to come out and make demands and hold people hostage for what they think is right and that’s not how it works.”
While the LBPUA has rejected the CCAA offer using the Southern Section rates, the organization has come to an agreement with the Coastal Valley League (Shandon, Coast Union, Maricopa, Coastal Christian, Valley Christian Academy, and Cuyama Valley) at the Southern Section rates stating, “In our discussions, we determined that these schools provided our new and junior umpires a good training opportunity to get experience for higher level games.”