MLB is overdue for a female umpire. One may be on the way.
The first thing to know about Jen Pawol — and listen closely because this is important — is that she would rather no one know much about her at all. Professional umpires are professionally inconspicuous, and women in baseball always have known the key to a life in baseball is the ability to blend.
The second thing to know about Jen Pawol — and this is important, too — is that she someday may become the first woman to umpire a Major League Baseball game. Pawol, 45, would never say that herself. From her perspective, she and the other members of her three-person Class AA umpiring crew are all in the same position, two steps from the majors, on the cusp of living their thankless dreams.
But people like her crewmates Tanner Moore and Kellen Martin have made the journey to the majors before. No woman ever has. So she is not in the same position as they are, even though she says everyone is doing a remarkable job of treating her like she is.
Fifty years after the passage of Title IX, many women are finding their way into baseball roles no one like them has had before. Kim Ng is the general manager of the Miami Marlins. Eve Rosenbaum was just named assistant general manager of the rising Baltimore Orioles. Kelsie Whitmore is playing in the Atlantic League. Alyssa Nakken is a coach for the San Francisco Giants. Rachel Balkovec is managing a New York Yankees minor league affiliate. That list is hardly all-inclusive.
But only nine women have umpired in the minor leagues, according to MLB. Two, Pawol and Isabella Robb, are currently umpiring in the minor leagues. Numerically, she is an outlier. On the field, she is far less so.