Female umpire works plate during Tigers win
Jen Pawol is one of two women umpiring in pro ball
One of two women umpiring in professional baseball was behind home plate for the Tigers' 6-1 exhibition victory over Florida Southern University in Lakeland, Fla., on Thursday.
Jen Pawol worked a game involving a Major League team for the first time in her career, which has spanned 11 years, most recently in the Short Season Class A New York-Penn League last year.
"Unbelievable," the 41-year-old Pawol told the Detroit News. "Just really excited now that I got through it. It took like three-years' worth of professional work to get here. I went out there pretty confident, and I feel pretty good how the day went."
Pawol was discovered at an MLB umpire camp in Cincinnati back in 2015. Prior to that, she had been umpiring Division I college baseball for a decade. In 2016, she debuted in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, becoming the seventh woman to ever umpire in organized baseball, and first since Ria Cortesio in 2007. Emma Charlesworth-Seiler also joined the GCL as an umpire last season.
Last September, Pawol was approached by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum about donating some gear to the Diamond Dreams exhibit, celebrating the history of women in baseball. She donated the only mask she had ever used in her entire career to that point, as well as the cap she wore during her tryout at the MLB Umpire Training School.
"I was very overwhelmed," she said. "I presented the mask. I gave it a kiss before I gave it away. I didn't realize how attached I'd gotten to my gear. I was trying to hold back how I was feeling and look cool. To be accepted into the history of baseball is such an accomplishment, and I'm so thankful for it."
Pawol, a native of Binghamton, N.Y., about an hour and a half drive from Cooperstown, continues to make history each time she takes the field.
"It's interesting to us that Jen is continuing to work her way up," said Erik Strohl, vice president for exhibitions and collections at the Hall of Fame. "We want to keep that exhibit as fresh as possible to remind people that this is an ongoing story. It's about women trying to make gains in the game of baseball. Being a cultural, as well as a sports institution, it's important for us to cover those stories."