NEW YORK – Jen Pawol is about to become Major League Baseball’s first female umpire.
The 47-year-old from New Jersey was selected to work full-time in a Major League Baseball spring training program this year, people familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. That put her on track to become the first woman to umpire a regular-season Major League baseball game.
Pawol’s assignment to spring training would be announced later Monday. It was revealed 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 soccer’s World Cup employed a female referee. women.
Ted Barrett, a major league umpire from 1994 to 2022, met Pawol for the first time at an umpire camp in Binghamton, New York, in early 2015 and encouraged her to pursue her career. Barrett doesn’t think players or managers make Pawol feel uncomfortable.
“When I first got into this, thirty-something 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 or beliefs. If you can referee, you can referee, and if you can’t, you can’t. The concern of the guys who come up is: ‘Can she referee?’ If she can, she will be accepted and accepted. If she can’t, we have to get her out of there and find someone else who can.”
Pawol has been a minor league umpire since 2016 and worked his way up to the highest minor level last year, when he was behind the plate for the Triple-A Championship game.
MLB has 76 full-time staff umpires and uses substitute teams for vacancies created by injuries and vacations.
Twenty-six referees were assigned full spring training schedules last year, and 21 of them were assigned to the call-up list during the season. They all worked at least one assignment, whether on the field or in the video review control room, and one of them earned 149 major league assignments. In total, the call group had 1,590 assignments.
Due to the nature of their jobs, referees often face angry managers and players.
“Once you get to the big leagues, you start all over again, the learning curve,” Barrett said. “The question will be: can he adapt to that? And I’m sure he will. And then it becomes a numbers game, right? We have some older guys and there will be some rotation. So any umpire who has spring training in the majors this year, I feel like he has a pretty decent chance of becoming a full-time umpire.”
Pawol is among a small group of women who have officiated minor league games, including 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 major league spring training game, in 2007.
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 graduated in 1995 and was inducted into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2022. Pawol went to Hofstra to play softball. She scholarship and became a three-time all-conference selection, batting .332 with 15 home runs, 102 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 161 games from 1996 to 1998.
She played for the USA Baseball women’s national baseball team in 2001.
After umpiring NCAA softball from 2010 to 2016, Barrett and fellow major league umpires Paul Nauert and Marvin Hudson approached her at a clinic in Atlanta in early 2015 and went to an MLB tryout camp in Cincinnati. in August. She was among 38 hopefuls invited to the Umpire Training Academy in Vero Beach, Florida, and was offered a job in the Gulf Coast League in 2016.
Pawol was promoted to the New York/Penn League in 2017, then was promoted to the Midwest League after the first two weeks of the 2018 season. He worked in the South Atlantic League in 2019, the High-A Midwest League in 2021 , the Double-A Eastern League and the Triple-A International and Pacific Coast Leagues last year.
Violet Palmer became the first female NBA referee when she worked Dallas’ first game in Vancouver on October 31, 1997, and Sarah Thomas was the first female NFL on-field referee when she served as a linesman for the Kansas City game in Houston on September 1, 1997. December 13, 2015. The NHL has yet to have women as on-ice officials, but changed the job title from “lineman” to “lineman” this season.
Stéphanie Frappart of France became the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match when she worked Germany’s 4-2 group stage victory over Costa Rica on December 1, 2022, and Rebecca Walsh became the first to referee in the English Premier League when she officiated. Burnley’s 2-0 victory against Fulham on December 23.