Johnny wants to grow up to be a fireman.
Sally wants to grow up to be an astronaut.
Jimmy insists he will conquer the world of classical piano, and Vivien is on her way to becoming an outstanding United States Senator (if not our President)!
But, your kid wants to be a baseball umpire?
Is he ok? Have you checked his vitals?
Well wait, wait wait wait… hold it all together! Your kid is… a girl?
Ladies and gentlemen, baseball fans, and those just hanging around… who knows any one, let alone a young girl or woman, who aspires to become a professional umpire?
Seeing no raised hands, I rest my case.
Ah-oh, wait a second.
The fate of the game can rest in your eyes? Employment is rather steady. There’s travel. Benefits. And, you’re outdoors. In fact, you’re kinda like a standing judge with a chest protector and a face mask. Hmmmmm…. all right, maybe it is kind of cool.
But how in the world do you get there, and are there even any opportunities?
You gotta go to school. But, there are only two schools presently approved by Major League Baseball You gotta do real real real well to even get to the Minor League Baseball Advanced course. The instructors are not observing you only for making good calls. There are a variety of characteristics, over and above knowledge of baseball rules when it comes to scrutinizing whether someone is going to progress through the umpire academic process. Research indicates that an individual’s confidence, including a strong presence on the field, knowledge of the mechanics — where to go when the ball is hit, forceful calls, good use of voice, hustle and ability to handle situations on the field — all are critically assessed. You must show not just good judgment but excellent character. And, to be completely unequivocal: You have to maintain your integrity on and off the field. We hardly want someone calling plays who has engaged in questionable behavior outside the ball park!
It is indeed a long, long haul. Typically it takes 7 to 10 years in the minor leagues before an umpire will get to the majors, if you even get there. Ironically, that is two times what it takes for a ballplayer to get there.
Then… look at the stats: There are only some 70 umpires in the major leagues, and 22 Class AAA umpires eligible to umpire regular season games. Yet, it is not like there is a lot of turnover. The monies not bad, $100,000 to $300,000 per year depending upon experience, and a per diem for hotel and meals; however, the fans if not the manager and players at any given time might well be screaming about your inability to see, and bottom line that you ought to have your head examined because you just called someone out who obviously (obbbbbbbbviously) was safe! You might even be second guessed in a rather formal manner through the replay process. Then you get the pleasure of being over ruled right in front of every body else.
So, let’s go through this one more time: Your kid wants to be an umpire? And it’s your daughter?
Pam Postema (1977-89) was the first woman to ump in a big league spring training game, and got all the way to Triple-A. Other women of note are Bernice Gera (1972), Christine Wren (1975-77), Theresa Cox Fairlady (1989-91), Ria Cortesio (1999-2007), and Shanna Kook (2003-04). But, on the horizon…. and drum roll indeed: Jen Pawol. She has worked and is working very diligently, and very gladly, to become the first women umpire assigned to a regular-season major league game. She is the seventh woman to umpire in an affiliated league, and the first in over 10 years. She was behind the plate in February of this year for an MLB-affiliated exhibition game involving the Detroit Tigers, and earned praise for her work.
“I’m the luckiest woman in the world,” Jen has said. “I get to take the field every day with the best men in the world. I am so thankful for the opportunity.”
We all know the expression “Waiting for the call..” For Jen, for other women as well — and not just in baseball by any means — getting the call to step up, to be equal, to be the crew chief, to run the show, to call the balls and strikes, all that and a lot more.
It’s past the time.
You know what?
Tell your daughter we salute her. And I bet she looks awesome in blue.