It's baseball season, and umpires for youth games are already stretched thin. Local coordinators say the time will come when they won't be able to cover all the games.

Leaders with the Massachusetts Baseball Umpires Association, which coordinates the local umpire boards across the commonwealth, said the supply-and-demand problem has been festering for several years. But the turnover from last year hit especially hard, with roughly 20% to 25% of umpires across the state hanging up their masks.

"There's gonna come a point where we're just not going to have games covered," said Dominic DiMare, who staffs umpires for sub-varsity games on the South Shore. "It's not if it's going to happen, it's when it's going to happen."

There's no single factor to blame. Longtime umpires are aging out of the job. Leagues that used to play in the summer, like Little League, have moved up their games in recent years, leaving schedulers scambling to staff games that are falling at the same time. And abuse from parents in the bleachers have some umpires thinking it's not worth the pay.

DiMare said that 10 or 15 years ago, there were more than 300 umpires to cover games in his area. Now they have 140. And while he's been trying to recruit new umpires — local college students, for one — they're struggling to fill the gaps.

"You got to have some sort of feeder system in order to replenish the workforce that's either — God help us, but — dying off or just too old to work," DiMare said.

While Joe Cacciatore is confident the association will be able to keep varsity baseball games fully staffed, he's not so sure about younger and less competitive leagues.

"The biggest impact is going to be on sub-varsity at the high school level and summer programs that are now starting way too early," said Cacciatore, who assigns leagues in Eastern Massachusetts. "There's going to be a lot of games where there's only going to be one umpire in the games."

Coaches also threw their support behind umpires. Keith Verra, the president of the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association, told GBH News the association appreciates the passion and skill the umpires bring to the game.

"This may be a good time to thank players, parents, coaches and fans who demonstrate good sportsmanship and show appreciation for umpires/referees," Verra wrote. "And to those who do not should do some self reflection on their lack of sportsmanship and lack of appreciation for the roles umpires/referees play and how this may be affecting the shortage, umpires/referees walking away from the game, or not starting at all."

Figuring out exactly why now there’s such a shortage is the same problem other youth sports are trying to tackle so that they can recruit new members. Parent abuse is certainly a common thread: Massachusetts' youth hockey referee association partly pinned its massive shortage on parents mistreating the referees.

"It's not just us, it's every state in the country that's having problems. And it's not just baseball, it's every sport," Cacciatore said. "It's just something that people are losing interest — you know, they're being being abused by parents in the stands and it's just not worth it, money wise, for a lot of people to do it."

"I mean, we certainly have enough parents behind the backstop that certainly know the game of baseball when you're umpiring a game. And they certainly have no problem telling you. I would challenge those people to come out and guess what? Strap it on and try and do what we do," DiMare said. "Come on and do it! Please help us, you know. Help us help you."