Jen Pawol has moved a step closer to becoming the first woman umpire to call a regular-season game in major league baseball.
The 47-year-old New Jersey native was assigned to work spring training games this year, ESPN reported. She will be based in Jupiter, Florida, for a one-month assignment before becoming a crew chief at the Triple-A level once the regular season begins, according to the cable sports network.
Major League Baseball said that Pawol was one of 24 minor league umpires to work Grapefruit League games, The Washington Post reported. Her status as a crew chief in Triple-A leaves her one rung below the big leagues.
“I’ve put the gas to full throttle and we are going for it. Full speed -- full speed ahead,” Pawol, 47, told The Associated Press on Monday.
Pawol is scheduled to work her first spring training game when the Houston Astros face the Washington Nationals at Cacti Park of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida, according to the news organization.
Pawol, who has eight years of umpiring experience in the minor leagues, will be the first woman to umpire a game since 2007, MLB.com reported.
When Pawol made her debut in 2016, she became the seventh woman to umpire in a minor league game, according to MLB.com. She followed Bernice Gera (1972), Christine Wren (1975-77), Pam Postema (1977-89), Theresa Cox Fairlady (1989-91), Ria Cortesio (1999-2007) and Shanna Kook (2003-04).
Postema umpired major league spring training games near the end of her career in the late 1980s, the Post reported. Cortesio made it to big league spring training in 2007.
“The women who came before me, they moved some big boulders to make it easier for women to come through,” Pawol told MLB.com. “And I’m just so grateful for what I get to do for a living. I love it.”
Pawol said she has been texting Postema and Cortesio about her assignment, according to the AP.
“They are pretty fired up,” she said.
The same year that Pawol was promoted to Triple-A, she was chosen to work that circuit’s championship game behind the plate, according to the Post. She was also selected to work in the Arizona Fall League, the newspaper reported.
Moving closer to getting the call to the majors is a milestone that Pawol embraces.
“For any umpire, working in the pro system, this is a big, big deal,” she said during a Zoom call on Monday, according to ESPN. “This means so much. It’s the culmination of a lot of innings. I’ve probably put in about 1,000 professional games at this point.”
While Pawol has been approached for autographs by fans, she knows the friendliness ends when the umpire yells “Play Ball!”
“As an umpire we have to hit a 1.000 every night,” Pawol told reporters. “The challenge of that is absolutely riveting. It’s what makes me get back out there the next day.
“I want to get the next play right. I love being an umpire.”
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