Jen Pawol, the first female umpire to reach Triple A in three and a half decades, is another step closer to the big leagues. Pawol will umpire major-league spring training games in Florida this season, becoming just the third woman to do so.
Pawol, who will also be elevated to the role of Triple-A crew chief, is aiming to become the first woman to umpire a regular-season MLB game. She is one of 24 umpires who will be announced Monday to do big-league spring training games.
Pawol, who was promoted to Triple A last spring, started her career in the Gulf Coast League in 2016 and has been steadily working her way up. It’s possible she could be called up to MLB in 2024 if needed; the crew chief is considered the most senior umpire on each crew.
“No one can take (getting to) Triple A away from me,” she told The Athletic last summer. “I’m three months in and no matter what happens, I can continue to make a positive impact on the game, and that’s really exciting.”
Baseball’s history with female umpires has been, at times, contentious. Pam Postema spent 13 seasons in the minor leagues, becoming the first woman to umpire a big-league spring game in her final season in ’89. After six years at Triple A, Postema had her contract canceled.
Ria Cortesio was the second woman to umpire a major-league spring training game. She was released in 2007 after nine years, the last five at Double A, following a season in which she started as the top-ranked umpire in the league. The 47-year-old Pawol is friends with both women and has cited Postema, who wrote a tell-all book on her experiences, as a mentor.
Last year, five women were umpiring in pro ball, though Pawol was the only one above Class A. A former softball player at Hofstra, Pawol is passionate about advancing that pipeline. She has written a workout for amateur umpires and provides a curriculum for baseball and softball umpires for high school kids, as well as a junior umpire certification course through the charity UmpsCare.
(Photo courtesy of Jen Pawol)