DEPTFORD TWP., N.J. -- A New Jersey Little League organization implemented a creative new rule in an attempt to cut down on spectators fighting with volunteer umpires.
For years, officials with the Little League in Deptford Township, a suburb of Philadelphia, say a small number of spectators yell at the umpires for calls they don't like.
Now league officials say anyone who fights with the umps could find themselves making the calls.
Spring is here and the fields are being prepped for another season of Little League baseball in Deptford.
Deptford Township Little League President Don Bozzuffi said kids love the arrival of spring baseball in their community.
"The kids come up to you, they're all excited, it's great," he said.
What's not great, he said, is the parent or spectator who fights with the umpire.
"They think that the call was bad, which always amazes me that they can see a strike better over there than the umpire can one foot in back of them," Bozzuffi said.
He said it's gotten so bad, two volunteer umpires have quit over the span of a week.
"They're coming here, they're being abused, they don't need that," Bozzuffi said. "So they're walking away."
Our sister station WPVI talked to folks who have seen similar behavior at youth soccer and football games.
"If one kid is shoving too hard, parents get really aggressive," said Paige Durham of West Deptford.
"It's bad sportsmanship, but it also, a lot of times, teaches the kids [that] winning is everything, rather than playing hard, competing," said Pop Little of Paulsboro, who played football through high school and college.
And so this season, Deptford Township Little League is trying out a new rule: if you fight with the umps during a game, you have to volunteer your time to umpire three games before you're allowed back as a spectator.
"The main purpose is not for them to be able to call a baseball game, but for them to see what's going on out here, and it's not that easy," said Bozzuffi.
Parents WPVI spoke to like the idea.
"If the parents are going to be sitting there yelling the whole entire game, they might as well use that energy out on the field," said Kateland Tokley, a mother in Somerdale.
Officials said they're trying to maintain a positive experience for the kids.
"They're not baseball players, they're children. So always keep that in the back of your mind and let them play," said Bozzuffi.
If they do have to use this new rule, Bozzuffi says a certified umpire would be there too, to make sure the calls are correct.
He adds 99% of the spectators follow the rules and are a positive presence.
He said if you do have an issue with a call made during one of these youth games, bring it to your child's coach or manager and let them handle it.