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    Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    Jen Pawol to make big league spring training debut, on verge of becoming MLB’s first woman umpire

    Umpire Jen Pawol, front right, works with students during MLB baseball umpire camp at The Diamond in Richmond, Va., on June 25, 2022. Pawol is on the verge of becoming Major League Baseball’s first woman umpire. (Eva Russo/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

    West Palm Beach, Fla. — Jen Pawol will take a big step toward breaking the gender barrier for Major League Baseball umpires on Saturday when she becomes the first woman to work a big league spring training game in 17 years.

    The 47-year-old from New Jersey will work the bases during Houston's exhibition against Washington in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is among 24 minor league umpires assigned full-time as fill-ins at big league spring training.

    Last year, 21 of the 26 umps assigned full spring training schedules were picked for the in-season call-up list.

    Ria Cortesio was the previous woman to umpire spring training games in 2007. She spent nine years in the minor leagues, including the last five in the Double-A Southern League, then was released after the 2007 season.

    Pawol started in the Gulf Coast League in 2016, moved up to the New York/Penn League in 2017, then was promoted to the Midwest League after the first two weeks of the 2018 season. She worked the South Atlantic League in 2019, the High-A Midwest League in 2021, the Double-A Eastern League and the Triple-A International and Pacific Coast Leagues last year.

    “As a hitter, a longtime athlete, it was a big deal to hit over .300,” the former college softball player at Hofstra said this month. “But as an umpire, we have to hit 1.000 every night, and the challenge of that is absolutely riveting.”

    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 the men's soccer World Cup employed a female referee.

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