When you consider many of the umpires who make a living calling MLB games have seemingly no business holding a job at baseball’s highest level, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the people tasked with working the Little League World Series are even more prone to making mistakes.
You could argue the comparative lack of quality isn’t a huge deal when you consider the stakes at the LLWS are a bit lower. However, most of the kids who gather in Williamsport each year head there knowing it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it’s a shame to see that experience marred by an ump who can’t perform the most basic duties of the job.
Sadly, that’s what happened when Cuba and Japan faced off in an opening-round matchup on Wednesday.
Before we dive into things, it’s worth noting Little League strike zones are slightly different than the ones in the MLB; the former defines that area as the “space over home plate which is between the batter’s armpits and the top of the knees when the batter assumes a natural stance,” while the latter opts for a slightly smaller rectangle that caps toward the top of the batter’s midsection.
With that said, you don’t really need to be a strike zone expert to know some of the calls in that aforementioned contest left plenty to be desired.
The ump show began to unfold in the bottom of the first inning, as a player for Cuba was somehow sent back to the dugout after getting punched out on a pitch that basically made its way through the batter’s box before landing in the catcher’s mitt.
LLWS umps are must-see TVpic.twitter.com/7UR1459y9Q
— Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) August 16, 2023
I almost feel like the umpire felt like Cuba was owned a makeup call in the following frame, and they certainly got one at the expense of a batter from Japan who appeared to draw a walk after dodging a pitch that was very inside on a full count only to get rung up.
Imagine coming all the way from Japan to get rung up on this pitch, LLWS umpires ruin the tournament every year. pic.twitter.com/KCzYIypban
— Omar Khan (@HimothyCapAlot) August 16, 2023
That’s far from the first time umpires at the LLWS (who, for what it’s worth, are all volunteers who don’t receive any compensation) have left plenty to be desired, and it’s sadly not going to be the last.