Johnson, Porter make umpiring history as crew chiefs

January 19th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Umpires Adrian Johnson and Alan Porter were named the second and third Black crew chiefs after assignments for the 2023 season were announced on Thursday. Johnson and Porter join Kerwin Danley (2020-21) as the only Black umpires to hold that position in AL/NL history.

The two have a combined 27 years of experience on a Major League field, and they will be leaders of a four-man crew during the regular season.

“To be considered for the position by the Major League Baseball staff is a big deal,” Johnson said via telephone. “You can put your name in the hat and apply for the position, but for there to be mutual interest and naming you as a crew chief -- that’s an honor and that means a lot.”

In order to become a crew chief, umpires must formally apply for the position. League officials will then review their body of work, factoring in leadership, communication, ability to handle contentious on-field disputes and game management.

Porter is grateful that MLB has faith in him to lead an umpiring crew, but he would also like to see more African-Americans in a leadership role.

“It’s an honor and it’s good for us to get into positions of leadership,” Porter said. “It is good [to be a crew chief], especially with the lack of African-Americans in the game at this point. We would like to see some more. It’s nice to be on that platform, especially now that we are giving announcements and everything, for us to be seen in a position of leadership.”

Johnson has been a full-time Major League umpire since 2010. He received his first All-Star Game assignment in '16 in San Diego, and his first postseason series a year later. Since then, Johnson has worked in six postseason series, including last year’s American League Championship Series between the Astros and Yankees.

Johnson said his biggest highlight behind the plate occurred on June 25, 2010, when D-backs right-hander Edwin Jackson tossed a 149-pitch no-hitter (while walking eight) in a 1-0 victory over the Rays.

“That’s why it was really weird,” Johnson said about the number of pitches thrown. “You really don’t realize you have a no-hitter until the sixth, seventh inning unless a catcher says something. You kind of look at the scoreboard and you go, ‘There are no hits up there.’ Jackson threw a lot of pitches, and the team was still running him out there. I look up and I ask, ‘What is going on?’ To find out at end of the game, he threw so many pitches, that would be the biggest one from me.”

Porter became a full-time Major League umpire in 2013 after serving as a substitute from 2010-12. He has had his share of playoff action, working 10 postseason series, including last year’s World Series between the Astros and Phillies, the second Fall Classic of his career. He also worked the 2019 World Series between the Nationals and Astros.

“I’ve been fortunate with getting postseason assignments,” Porter said. “The [league office] has trusted me a lot to be out there since I’ve been hired. I’ve been fortunate to work a lot of big games.”

As Johnson was thinking about his promotion, he couldn’t help but think about Danley, who retired after the 2021 season.

“Kerwin Danley is a good friend of mine and a big mentor of mine,” Johnson said. “He took me under his wing when I was in the Minor Leagues. He was a guy I could always talked to. He was a guy who would be on me if I did something wrong or if he saw something wrong. He is just like a brother. He passed that on to me, and I was able to grab hold of other guys below me and talk to them the way he spoke to me.”