This week, 22-year-old Emma Charlesworth-Seiler became the newest professional female umpire when she was hired by Minor League Baseball to work in Florida's Gulf Coast League. She will begin umpiring games in June.
Charlesworth-Seiler, from Golden Valley, Minn., started her baseball career as a middle infielder and occasional pitcher. She began umpiring Little League games in her hometown in 2014 simply because the league needed umps.
"We didn't get much training," she says. "But I enjoyed it."
So much so that during the summer of 2015, Charlesworth-Seiler volunteered to umpire at the first national tournament held by Baseball for All -- an organization that provides opportunities for girls to participate in baseball -- in Orlando, Fla. It was there that she was first spotted by MLB and MiLB Directors of Umpire Development Rich Rieker and Dusty Dellinger.
"Emma had very little knowledge of umpiring at that tournament, but we saw a lot of upside with her," Dellinger says. "We spoke to her in between innings and showed her a few things, and she was able to make the adjustments in the next half-inning. Her coachability is one of the cool things about her that has helped her succeed. She's a fast learner, and she's very smart."
In December 2015 and '16, Charlesworth-Seiler attended MLB's Pro Prospect Development Camp in Fort Myers, Fla. In between, she got her degree from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., and spent a summer playing and umpiring baseball in Australia. After her second camp, she was offered a scholarship to the MiLB Umpire Training Academy in Vero Beach, Fla. She completed the program -- in which she was the only woman out of 100 participants -- in February.
"Anyone who goes to umpire school with the intention of getting into the Minor Leagues has Major League dreams, but at this point, I'm looking at the short term," Charlesworth-Seiler says. "I'm excited to get the season started, learn a lot and progress and work hard, and hopefully that leads me on a path to the Major Leagues."
Charlesworth-Seiler's path is much the same as the one taken by umpire Jen Pawol, who umpired in the GCL last summer and has moved up to the Short-Season Class A New York-Penn League for this season.
Charlesworth-Seiler will be the eighth woman to umpire in an affiliated league. Pam Postema (1977-89) was the first; she umpired a big league Spring Training game, advanced as high as Triple-A and appeared on the March 14, 1988, cover of Sports Illustrated, headlined, "The Lady is an Ump: Pam Postema Gets a Shot at the Big Leagues." The other women were Bernice Gera (1972), Christine Wren ('75-77), Theresa Cox Fairlady ('89-91), Ria Cortesio ('99-2007) and Shanna Kook ('03-04) and, of course, Pawol.
While no woman has yet made the big leagues as an umpire, Charlesworth-Seiler says she's in it for the long haul. According to Dellinger, it takes an average of eight years for umpires to work their way from the GCL through Short-Season Class A, Class A, Class A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A. Umpires can spend up to three years at the Triple-A level before being called to the big leagues -- if they are called at all -- and Rieker says gender has nothing to do with who gets the nod.
"It doesn't make a difference what sex you are if you can do this job," Rieker says. "We look for umpires with athleticism and good judgment who handle themselves well under pressure and respond well to constructive criticism. So far, Emma has fit that bill."
In the GCL, Charlesworth-Seiler will be part of an eight-umpire crew that will do two-week stints in Jupiter, Tampa and Fort Myers throughout the season. She can't wait to start.
"I just love baseball," she says. "I enjoy being on the field. I enjoy that umpiring is a craft and a profession that you are always perfecting and always learning. I like trying to learn different things and improve continually, and this is the type of career where you will be doing that often and always."
Anyone -- man or woman -- who is interested in becoming an umpire or bettering their umpire skills is invited by MLB to attend one of the four free one-day clinics held each year. While Dellinger says more women have been attending the clinics, they are not exactly coming in droves. The success of Pawol and Charlesworth-Seiler, however, may change that.
Confirmed 2017 clinic dates and locations are: May 20 at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, N.M.; June 24 at FDR Park in Philadelphia; and July 29 at Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, Ky. A final camp will be held on Aug. 19 at a yet-to-be-determined location. Attendees will be selected from the one-day camps for MLB's Pro Prospect Development Camp in Fort Myers in December.
"Anyone who wants to learn more about umpiring, at any level, is welcome," Rieker says. "We are about providing an opportunity, and we invite all people to come and take advantage of that opportunity."
For the latest info on all MLB Umpire Camps, visit www.mlbuc.com.