BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — When you pass any sports field in Kern County, there is no one playing. The basketball courts are empty and the baseball diamonds are bare. This is the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on sports in town and across the globe.
What's missing from those fields is immediately apparent: the players, the coaches and the fans. However, an entire group of workers who rely on sporting events have taken the hit too.
"For a lot of officials, there’s just an empty feeling that just everything was taken away," said Mark Roberts, the president of the Kern County Officials Association.
There are currently 250 referees in the KCOA who are without games to officiate for the time being. With no spring sports, the refs will no longer have the extra cash or for some, the paycheck they need to live.
"A big part of it is missing out on the game fees they get for working those games," Roberts said. “They’re also missing out on enjoyment for themselves, the fun of being out there and being a part of the game."
Another loss is that these referees won't have the chance of officiating state title games and other high-profile contests that they work towards all season long. Nick Ellis is a local freelance photographer and was a referee for 27 years in Kern County.
"I would be devastated," he said. "It would be a real big let down, I understand it, it’s what has to happen.”
Ellis knows how these referees are feeling with no sports. His main photography clients are Bakersfield College and Cal State Athletics and the Kern High School District.
“I’ve never seen a shutdown like this nor have I ever heard of a shut down like this," he said. “To be on the sideline, down at the baseline shooting when there is action going on or a big crowd, even if I didn’t get paid for it, I'd be out there doing it.”
CSUB and Bakersfield College have officially canceled their spring seasons but there has been no decision made on whether or not spring sports will be played at the high school level.