Breaking barriers: Jen Pawol poised to become 1st woman umpire in MLB history
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.
Jen Pawol, who was the home-plate ump for the 2023 Triple-A National Championship Game, is set to work MLB Spring Training games.<br><br>She'll be the first woman to umpire big league Spring Training games since 2007: <a href="https://t.co/qHvR3asNKz">https://t.co/qHvR3asNKz</a> <a href="https://t.co/tnDecs4NXv">pic.twitter.com/tnDecs4NXv</a>
Ted Barrett, a big league umpire from 1994-2022, first encountered Pawol at an umpire