Sunday, February 25, 2024

Jen Pawol on verge of becoming 1st MLB female umpire, gets spring training assignment

NEW YORK — Jen Pawol is set to become Major League Baseball’s first female umpire.

The 47-year-old from New Jersey was selected to work full-time in the big league spring training program this year, people familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. This put her on track to become the first woman to umpire a regular-season major league baseball game.

Pawol’s spring training assignment was expected to be announced later Monday. The information was disclosed to the AP by people familiar with the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

MLB’s move comes 27 years after the gender barrier for game officials was broken in the NBA, nine years after the NFL ended and two years after the FIFA World Cup employed a woman arbitrator.

Ted Barrett, a big league umpire from 1994 to 2022, first met Pawol at an umpiring camp in Binghamton, New York, in early 2015 and encouraged her to pursue that career. Barrett doesn’t think Pawol will be made uncomfortable by players or managers.

“When I got into this business about 30 years ago, that would have been the case,” he said. “Right now in the major leagues, people don’t care about race, creed, color, religion, creed. If you can referee, you can referee, and if you can’t, you can’t. The concern of the guys coming in is: “Can she referee?” If she can, she will be accepted and accepted. If she can’t, you need to get her out of there and find someone else who can.

Pawol has been a minor league umpire since 2016 and worked her way up to the highest minor level last year, when she was behind the plate for the Triple-A championship game.

MLB has 76 full-time umpires and uses replacements on teams for openings created by injuries and vacations.

Last year, twenty-six referees received a full spring training program, and 21 of them 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 — with one backup getting 149 assignments in the big leagues. In total, the convocation group had 1,590 assignments.

Due to the nature of their work, referees are often confronted with angry managers and players.

“Once you get to the big leagues, you start the whole thing again, the learning curve,” Barrett said. “It’s going to be: will she be able to adapt to this? And I am convinced that she will. And then it becomes a numbers game, doesn’t it? We have some older guys and there’s going to be some turnover. So any umpire that goes to major league spring training this year, I feel like they have a good chance of becoming a full-time umpire.

Pawol is one of a small group of women who have umpired minor league games, including Bernice Gera (1972), Christine Wren (1975-77), Pam Postema (1977-89) and Ria Cortesio (1999-2007). . Nine women are expected to work in the minor leagues this season.

Cortesio was the last woman to appear in a major league spring training game, in 2007.

Pawol became an all-state softball and football player in New Jersey for three seasons in each sport at West Milford High School, where she graduated in 1995 and was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. track and field in 2022. Pawol went to Hofstra on a softball. scholarship and became a three-time all-conference pick, hitting .332 with 15 home runs, 102 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 161 games from 1996 to 1998.

She played for the United States women’s national baseball team in 2001.

After umpiring NCAA softball from 2010 to 2016, she was approached by Barrett and fellow big league umpires Paul Nauert and Marvin Hudson at a clinic in Atlanta in early 2015 and went to a tryout camp for MLB in Cincinnati in August. She was one of 38 prospects invited to the Umpire Training Academy in Vero Beach, Fla., and was offered a job in the Gulf Coast League in 2016.

Pawol joined the New York/Penn League in 2017, then was promoted to the Midwest League after the first two weeks of the 2018 season. She worked in the South Atlantic League in 2019, in the High-A League Midwest in 2021, in the Double-A Eastern League and in the Triple-A International and Pacific Coast leagues last year.

Violet Palmer became the first female NBA referee when she participated in Dallas’ opening game in Vancouver on October 31, 1997, and Sarah Thomas was the NFL’s first female on-court official when she was linesman for the Kansas City game at Houston on September 31. 13, 2015. The NHL has yet to have women as on-ice officials, but changed the job title from “lineman” to “linesman” this season.

France’s Stéphanie Frappart became the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match in Germany’s 4-2 group stage victory over Costa Rica on December 1, 2022, and Rebecca Walsh became the first to refereeing in the English Premier League when she officiated. Burnley’s 2-0 victory at Fulham on December 23.


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