Female Umpire Moves Closer to Big Leagues

Jen Pawol will work spring training games this year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 12, 2024 5:55 PM CST
Female Umpire to Work MLB Spring Training Games
Jen Pawol, front right, works with students during MLB baseball umpire camp at the Diamond in Richmond, Virginia, in June 2022.   (Eva Russo/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP, File)

Jen Pawol is on the verge of becoming Major League Baseball's first female umpire. The 47-year-old from New Jersey has been selected to work a full-time big league spring training schedule this year, reports CBS Sports. That puts her on track to become the first woman to umpire a regular-season big league baseball game, the AP reports. Pawol's assignment was to be announced later Monday. The move comes 27 years after the gender barrier for game officials was broken in the NBA, nine years after it ended in the NFL, and two years after soccer's World Cup employed a female referee.

Ted Barrett, a former big league umpire, first encountered Pawol at an umpire camp in Binghamton, New York, in 2015 and encouraged her to pursue the career. Barrett doesn't think Pawol will be made to feel uncomfortable by players or managers. "When I first got into this 30-something years ago, that would have been the case," he said. "Right now, it's at the point in the major leagues, people don't care race, creed, color, religion, belief. If you can umpire, you can umpire, and if you can't, you can't." Pawol has been a minor league ump since 2016 and was behind the plate for the Triple-A Championship game last year. MLB has 76 full-time staff umpires and uses fill-ins to cover injuries and vacations.

Twenty-six umpires had full spring training schedules last year, and 21 were assigned to the in-season call-up list. All worked at least one assignment—either on the field or in the video review control room. Pawol is among a small group of women to umpire minor league games, among them Bernice Gera (1972), Christine Wren (1975-77), Pam Postema (1977-89), and Ria Cortesio (1999-2007). Nine women are scheduled for the minors this season, per the AP. Cortesio was the last woman to work a big league spring training game, in 2007.

(More MLB stories.)

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