Although she may have to compete for work with robot umpires by the time she reaches the major leagues, female minor league ump Jen Pawol seems well on her way to making it to The Show.
The first female minor league umpire since 2007, Pawol debuted in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2016. From there, Pawol went on to call games at the Single-A, High-A and Double-A levels. This season, the 46-year-old became the first female umpire to reach Triple-A in 34 years and is currently the only woman umpiring above A-ball.
It won’t be easy for Pawol to advance to the next level and make history in the process as the first female umpire in MLB. However, her peers certainly believe she is capable of breaking through baseball’s glass ceiling. If she does, it will be on merit.
“If (Pawol) makes it up to the big leagues, it’s because of her ability,” MLB umpire supervisor Ed Rapuano told The Athletic. “It wouldn’t be fair to anyone if anyone thought she was fast-tracked. It wouldn’t be fair to our profession or to her. She gets treated, talked about and evaluated the same as everyone else.”
Surprisingly, MLB Fans Don’t Hate the Idea of Robot Umpires for 2024 SeasonAn automated ball and strike system is already being tested in the minor leagues
A former softball player at Hofstra University, Pawol is sometimes told by hecklers that she should return to playing her prior sports or to “go back to Little League school.” Just like many of her colleagues, Pawol has learned to tune out the noise and take the ribbing in stride. After all, it is part of the job at every level of pro baseball.
“They do it to everyone. I’ve had to shed tremendous amounts of preconditioned responses,” Pawol told The Washington Post. “I listen to the Harvard women’s business podcast all the time. I’ve done a tremendous amount of reading on all these potholes women tend to fall into: apologizing. Not taking the lead with male counterparts. Letting them do it first. The great thing about sports is once you know the ground rules, you just play the game.”
Pawol won’t be playing baseball if she reaches the majors, but calling balls and strikes at baseball’s highest level would actually be an even larger achievement as landing one of the 76 big-league umpiring slots actually is 10 times harder than making it to MLB as a player. Hopefully Pawol makes — and doesn’t have a robot take her job.