Sports

Umpire Jen Pawol on the verge of making MLB history

She could soon become the first woman to break the umpiring gender barrier at the highest level of professional baseball.

Umpire Jen Pawol.
Umpire Jen Pawol.
Eva Russo / Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP
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Major League Baseball has been around for over 100 years, making it the oldest major sports organization in the United States. However, from the players and coaches to even the executives in the front office, one thing that's remained consistent over the years is that it's a sport dominated by men.

Now, things are starting to change, and Jen Pawol could soon become the first to break the umpiring gender barrier at the highest level of professional baseball.

A New Jersey native and former college softball catcher, Pawol went on to umpire NCAA softball from 2010-2016, but got her professional start in 2015 when she was invited to attend an MLB umpiring tryout in Cincinnati. She was then among just 38 people chosen to move on to the MLB's Umpire Training Academy in Florida, where she landed her first Minor League assignment in 2016. 

Why are women underrepresented in coaching?
Why are women underrepresented in coaching?
From the archives

Why are women underrepresented in coaching?

More than 3.4 million girls participate in high school sports. At the college level there is almost an even split between female and male athletes.

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After eight years of rising through the ranks, it wasn't until last week that the 47-year-old got the news that she was finally getting the call-up to officiate MLB Spring Training games this season, making her the first woman to do so since 2007.  

"I'm super excited," Pawol said in an interview with mlb.com. "I've been working hard in the offseason, training right out of the Fall League to get ready for Spring Training." 

Only a handful of female umpires — including Pawol — have officiated minor league games over the years, and she is among the nine who are scheduled to do so again this year. However, no woman has ever made it to the Major League level. 

And while Pawol is not among the 76 full-time umpires the MLB will staff this season, being named to the Spring Training schedule means she is among those who can be called up to fill-in for crews that may be down an umpire due to things like vacations or injuries. With history now in sight, Pawol says she's keeping the same mindset that's gotten where she is today and taking it one call at a time. 

"The only thing that matters is that I get the next play right," she told mlb.com. "And then I gotta get the next play right after that."