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Officials striking out on extra income with no spring sports

  • (Left) Pinckneyville's Corey Hastings and (right) Benton's Chris Kays  are currently on the sidelines due to the COVID-19, thus unable to earn an extra income.

    (Left) Pinckneyville's Corey Hastings and (right) Benton's Chris Kays are currently on the sidelines due to the COVID-19, thus unable to earn an extra income.
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By Spyder Dann
updated: 4/16/2020 9:22 AM

As Cory Hastings puts it, some of his trips won't be as extravagant and the toys won't be as plentiful.
Hastings, a PE teacher and cross-country coach at Massac County Unit 1 who graduated from Pinckneyville High School in 2009, is also a professional softball umpire, who has worked in 19 different states.
Now sidelined by the COVID-19 virus, the loss of that extra income is hitting Hastings' wallet hard.
Hastings worked five Division II games in February before stay-at-home orders in Illinois and nearby states shut down sports across the nation.
Because of that, Hastings estimates he is losing more than $5,000 in extra income this year.
Others in his profession are losing much more, up to $15,000 or even $20,000.
Everyone involved, he says, is adjusting on the fly.
"I have some friends (for whom) umpiring is their main source of income," Hastings said. "This is definitely hitting them hard."
"Some officials, myself included, use their officiating money to take trips or buy big boy toys. With this loss of games and income the trips won't be as extravagant and the toys won't be as plentiful."
Hastings said he's also missing out on time spent with friends before and after games.
"We as officials become more than just people who are on the field or court together," Hastings said. "We become brothers and sisters."
One of Hastings' friends is Benton native Chris Kays, a 2005 graduate of Benton High who has been officiating for the better part of 14 years.
Kays, who officiates club volleyball in the summer, said he will be hit in the wallet if sports do not resume.
"For those of us who do club (USAV) volleyball, this hits at a time when we were starting our qualifier season where every weekend up to the end of April we have three day tournaments," Kays explained.
"As of now USA Volleyball is trying to reschedule as many qualifiers as they can hoping this all calms down."
Kays adds most officials he knows are working five or six days a week once the season really gets going.
"The lost income can add up very quickly -- throw in those who work levels beyond the high school ranks and we begin to see some big numbers," he said.
Kays said this is particular hard on officials who are retired or close to being retired from their day jobs.
"The additional income helps them in so many different ways, either by supplementing income lost by retiring or by allowing them to save more," he said. "There are a few who have made officiating a very large part of their income and with the loss of games its absolutely devastating.
"As far as college games and what has been lost thus far at the high school level, those aren't going to be made up. It's lost revenue."
The head of the Southern Illinois Coaches Association, Bobby Blondi, started officiating games in 1954. He said he's never seen anything like this in his life.
"This is not only going to affect officials right now, but also into this summer," said Blondi, who is from Benton and is an assistant baseball coach for the Rangers.
Blondi said about 5% of high school officials do this as a primary source of income. Those who also work JUCO and college games make triple what they would just doing high school games."
He said there's nothing much he can tell officials who call him for information on the stay-at-home order.
"There really wasn't anything I could tell other officials that they didn't already know," Blondi said. "No games means they can't work."
Meanwhile, Hastings is trying to find the "new normal" in his life, which he says is being at home spending more time with family, something he enjoys.
"Being a college and high school softball umpire my 'normal' spring week is pretty busy," Hastings said. "It includes working three or four high school games, then leaving after work on Friday and driving a few hours, checking into a hotel for two nights and umpiring Saturday and Sunday. Then, hopping in the car and driving a few hours back home.
"So not a lot of time at home with my wife. This cancellation of games has allowed me to spend quality time at home."
By day, Mark Goldman, of Eldorado, is the sales manager for Point Of Sale Plus out of Marion. By night he is an official for football, basketball, baseball and softball.
Goldman hates what COVID-19 is doing to high school and college athletics.
"I really don't do this for the paycheck," Goldman said. "It's a way to stay involved in the game I love. But I also understand the larger issue.
"A lot of us are trying to stay in 'game shape' by sending out film clips. We are all still talking and still trying to get better and be ready should we be able to go out and officiate. We're just all hoping for the best."
Prior to the season, Goldman said he spent about $60 on official books, $120 on new plate shoes and $50 on miscellaneous items.
"We, as officials, miss the camaraderie with our fellow brother and sister officials, but we also miss hanging out with the kids," he added.
"Their high school years are some of the best years of their lives and I just hate that a lot of them are having to miss out on that."

• Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.

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