Jen Pawol could potentially serve as Major League Baseball’s first female umpire in the near future. The 47-year-old will serve as a full-time MLB umpire during spring training in 2024, according to an announcement from Major League Baseball.
24 minor league umpires have been selected to serve as MLB umpires during spring training. Several professional sports, including the NBA and NFL, have had full-time female officials for many years.
Pawol has served as a minor league umpire since the 2016 season and climbed the ladder in those ranks. She served as the home plate umpire in the Triple-A Championship game in 2023.
MLB has 76 full-time umpires, and also has umpires who can fill in if opportunities become available due to injuries and other circumstances.
A total of 26 different umpires were assigned to a full slate of spring training games last season, and 21 of those umpires were called up at some point during the 2023 season. Of those that received a call-up, every one of them worked at least one regular season MLB game. One of those umpires actually filled in for 149 regular season games.
As of 2022, Pawol was one of only nine women to have umpired minor league baseball games, and her peers include the likes of Bernice Gera (1972), Christine Wren (1975-77), Pam Postema (1977-89) and Ria Cortesio (1999-2007). Cortesio was the last woman to umpire an MLB spring training game when he did so in 2007.
Nine women are expected to umpire minor league games in 2024.
Pawol umpired NCAA softball from 2010 until 2016 before she went to an MLB tryout camp in August 2015. She was eventually invited to the Umpire Training Academy, and was offered an umpire job in the Gulf Coast League in 2016. Pawol also umpired in the New York/Penn League, Midwest League, South Atlantic League, High-A Midwest League and Double-A Eastern League before working in the Triple-A International and Pacific Coast Leagues in 2023.