NEW YORK — After nearly a decade climbing through the minor leagues, Jen Pawol is poised to break the umpiring gender barrier.
“I’ve put the gas to full throttle and we are going for it. Full speed — full speed ahead,” she said Monday after she was among 24 minor league umpires assigned full-time as fill-ins at big league spring training.
A 47-year-old from New Jersey, Pawol is set to work her first major league exhibition game on Feb. 24 when Houston plays Washington at West Palm Beach, Florida. She also was promoted to a minor league crew chief and is on the verge of a regular season big league debut.
“As a hitter, a longtime athlete, it was a big deal to hit over .300,” the former college softball player said. “But as an umpire, we have to hit 1.000 every night, and the challenge of that is absolutely riveting.”
Twenty-six umpires were assigned full spring training schedules last year, and 21 of those were assigned to the in-season call-up list. Pawol was informed of her bump up in a phone call on Feb. 5 from director of umpire development Rich Rieker and supervisor Cris Jones.
“I was like: Yessssss!” Pawol recalled.
MLB’s move comes 27 years after the gender barrier for game officials was broken in the NBA, nine years after it ended the NFL and two years after soccer’s World Cup employed a female referee.
Ted Barrett, a big league umpire from 1994-2022, first encountered Pawol at an umpire camp in Binghamton, New York, in early 2015 and encouraged her to pursue the career. Barrett doesn’t think Pawol will be made to feel uncomfortable by players or managers.
“Right now, it’s at the point in the major leagues, people don’t care race, creed, color, religion, belief,” he said. “If you can umpire, you can umpire, and if you can’t, you can’t. The concern of the guys coming up is, ‘Can she umpire?’ If she can, she’ll be accepted and bought in. If she can’t, you got to get her out of there and get somebody else who can.”
Pawol has been a minor league ump 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 staff umpires and uses fill-ins on crews for openings created by injuries and vacations.
Pawol is among a small group of women who have umpired 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 to work in the minor leagues this season.
Cortesio was the last woman to work a big league spring training game, in 2007. Pawol has been texting with Postema and Cortesio.
“They are pretty fired up,” Pawol said.
Pawol became an all-state softball and soccer player in New Jersey for three seasons in each sport at West Milford High School, where she was a 1995 graduate and was inducted into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2022. Pawol went to …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – Sports