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MLB umpires join picket line
By Chuck King

Striking minor league umps received some help from four major league umpires who joined a picket line in front of Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown, Md. on Tuesday.

Jeff Nelson, Dale Scott, Ron Kupla and Dan Iassogna joined approximately 25 minor league umpires who were chanting and handing out flyers in the hour that led up to the Hagerstown’s South Atlantic League game against Lake County.

"We're glad to be here because none of us got to our position without going through the minor leagues," Scott told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "We all understand what they're going through and we support them. If it wasn't our crew here, it would be another crew."

Minor league umpires have been on strike all season. They are asking for an increase in pay and per diem.

The Professional Baseball Umpires Corp, the division of minor league baseball which handles the umpires, has offered a modest. Striking umpires say it doesn’t cover the increase in their health care deductible.

“It showed solidarity,” striking umpire Jon Saphire said of the major league umpires walking the picket line.. “They talked to us and told us this is where they came from. They had to go through the minor league system. They told us they knew how bad it was.”

Without the striking umpires, minor league baseball has turned to retired, college, and high school umpires as replacements. The replacements haven’t worked without controversy.

Two Florida State League games have already been protested because of disputed rules interpretations by the replacements and Norfolk Tides outfielder Victor Diaz injured his ankle when he collided with an umpire behind first base.

And fans, generally the first to criticize umpires, are ready for the professionals to return.

“I know (the replacements) are trying,” said Ed Drosten, a season ticket holder for the Daytona Cubs and the Brevard County Manatees, “but it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

Both sides have reason for optimism. PBUC and the Association of Minor League umpires have agreed to meet with a federal mediator Wednesday and Thursday in Cincinnati. It will be the first discussions since the season started.

If an agreement isn’t reached, AMLU is planning another picket with major league umpires in Lexington, Ky, on Saturday.

Check out my blog for more on Minor League Baseball and MLB umpires.

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