As the Iowa high school baseball and softball seasons wrap up with their respective state tournaments, the season certainly has been anything but traditional, thanks to COVID-19.
Larry Bouchard, a 1999 Jefferson-Scranton High School graduate, umpired several baseball games this season and says there were some adjustments, which made for a difficult transition to start the season mid-June. Some of those changes were the defensive team being responsible for retrieving balls that went out of play, as well as Bouchard remembering that he no longer had spare balls to throw back to the pitcher.
“Every now and then it would be a reflex, like a foul ball would go back to the back screen, and I’d reach into a ball bag and go ‘I don’t have any.’ It got better as the season got moving along. Coaches either assigned an assistant coach or a player that their job really was, ‘Okay the ball is out of play’ or ‘the ball’s fouled back to the screen, get the ball back to the pitcher kind of now.’”
Bouchard officiated games in surrounding areas including Webster City, Roland and the Des Moines metro area. He says 90-percent of the games he officiated, the teams followed the COVID-19 recommendations and none of his games were cancelled or postponed due to a positive COVID-19 case. Bouchard has prior umpiring experience when he was in the military and traveling to different states, and says he wanted to get back into officiating but wasn’t too concerned about the potential exposure to the virus.
“My plan was to get back into doing this anyways. The 30-day season, (it’s) short and get your feet wet. The other part is that I’m in an age category that I’m not overly worried about (the virus), even if I do get it, being severely symptomatic. Looking at a lot of older umpires around the state that don’t want to do it for that reason because they are in that (more vulnerable) category, it was kind of like, well it’s a no-brainer then.”
Bouchard says he looks forward to officiating the next baseball season.