(L to R) MLB umpires Jordan Baker and Lance Barrett, Kaden, MLB Call-Up umpires Charlie Ramos and Tom Hanahan, Sandi Gomez and Bryan Fields Photo By Wynter Photography


Kaden is a 16-year-old high school sophomore from the Phoenix area who had never considered umpiring until his former Little League Baseball team reached out to him about taking an umpiring class.

The class would allow him to umpire games for younger kids, and Kaden thought it would be a nice way to give back.

Little did Kaden know when he signed up for the course that he would catch the umpiring bug.

Now he is so busy calling balls and strikes. Some days, he has worked as many as three games a day.

During the week, he plays baseball for his high school team. On weekends, he is umpiring.

“I was pretty sure I was going to like it,” said Kaden, who started playing baseball when he was 5. “For one, I’m on the baseball field. And two, it’s a different experience. I am seeing another side of the sport.”

He’s also earning good money – upwards of $50 per game.

Win win.

The class he took was through the UMPS CARE Charities Official Leadership Program, and longtime professional umpire Bryan Fields was the lead instructor. Bryan worked in Minor League Baseball for 12 years finishing with five years at Triple-A and three years as a Crew Chief. He now runs Top Choice Baseball, an umpire association which also provides training and development programs for aspiring officials.

Teens can learn more about the Official Leadership Program at sites across the country HERE.


Major League Baseball umpire Malachi Moore offers some instruction to Kaden during our Official Leadership Program clinic in Phoenix.  Photo by Arianna Grainey

Kaden’s father, Russell, played baseball in high school, and mom, Crystal, was active in tennis, figure skating and track, but none of them had tried umpiring until now. Now none of them can see baseball without noticing the umpires. Russell can often be seen at the baseball games snapping photos of Kaden working behind the plate.

The Arizona Diamondbacks partnered with UMPS CARE and Top Choice Officials for the second consecutive year and this year, the program was held at Salt River Fields, the baseball facility the D’Backs use for Spring Training.

Half of the class is devoted to learning umpiring mechanics on the field, and the other half focuses on imparting life skills such as financial literacy, goal setting and perseverance. More than 50 teens registered for the course, and they got an opportunity to meet several Major League Baseball umpires.

“I thought the course was really well run and it was great to hear from the Major League guys and hear their stories.”

MLB umpires who took time out to meet with teens in Phoenix were Malachi Moore, Alex Tosi and Nick Mahrley. In addition, UMPS CARE president and retired MLB umpire Gary Darling and UMPS CARE vice president and MLB umpire supervisor Jim Reynolds also participated. Minor League Baseball umpires David Saball and Jeremy Rodda also took time out to help instruct on and off the field as did retired professional umpire Adam Dowdy.

The Official Leadership Program was created in 2021 to address the shortage of umpires and sports officials nationwide. According to the National Federation of High Schools, approximately 50,000 individuals stopped working as high school sports officials since the 2018-19 season – the last full school year unaffected by the pandemic.

Officials from all levels – from the Major Leagues to Little League have been gravitating to this program because they know how important it is to be leaders in their own right and to inspire the next generation of umpires.

“It is crucial to develop a new generation of umpires,” said Jennifer Jopling, Senior Director of Programs and Development at UMPS CARE Charities. “All across the country, games are being canceled due to the shortage of umpires.”

“We created the Official Leadership Program to introduce umpiring as a career opportunity for teens but also to teach them life and leadership skills. Through umpiring, our students develop so many skills that will help down the road – teamwork, conflict resolution, handling finances.”

Another important part of the course is mentorship.

“What we have seen is that the umpiring chiefs have sought us out at games,” said Russell, Kaden’s father. “They have introduced themselves to us and have provided good feedback. It’s been so valuable for him to practice and continue to learn. To see that whole process play out is really, really cool.”

Some teens are hesitant to try umpiring because they have heard about the verbal abuse directed at umpires, but so far, Kaden’s positive experiences have outweighed the negative ones.

“I haven’t seen anything too bad,” Russell said. “Although I did see him reprimand a coach for using bad language and in the end, I think the coach understood that Kaden was the authority on the field. It is hard sometimes, because he is younger than the coaches, but the umpires have a job to do.

Teens from the Phoenix program and their families were invited to meet the umpire crew before a Spring Training game at Salt River Fields. Umpires Jordan Baker, Lance Barrett, Charlie Ramos and Tom Hanahan took time out for a meet and greet with program graduates.

Our young umpires asked the umpires about their travel schedule, ejecting coaches and players, and memories of their Major League debuts.

The surprise of the day was that UMPS CARE honored Kaden with the Pedro Gomez All-Heart Award winner, an honor in memory of Pedro Gomez, an ESPN baseball reporter who was a supporter of the charity. His wife, Sandi, started the Pedro Gomez Foundation which has provided grant funding for the Official Leadership Program.

Sandi attended the Spring Training game and presented Kaden with the award and a copy of the book, “Remember who you are: What Pedro Gomez Showed Us About Baseball and Life.” The umpire crew also presented Kaden with a signed baseball.

“Kaden has been a great student of this side of the game since starting umpire training in January” Bryan Fields said. “He continues to learn and impress every time he takes the field. With his efforts and willingness to improve he is a great up and coming umpire to be presented with the Pedro Gomez All-Heart Award.”

Afterward, Kaden and his parents got to watch the D’Backs play the Cleveland Guardians Spring Training game and see the professional umpires at work!

And the next day, Kaden was back at work, umpiring three more games.

All of us at UMPS CARE Charities congratulate the Official Leadership Program graduates. To learn more about this program or how to get involved, click HERE.