Umpires Clint Vondrak and Ryan Wills Promoted to Major League Staff

Ed Hickox and Jeff Nelson Retire Following Accomplished Careers; Chris Guccione Named New Crew Chief

February 12th, 2024

Major League Baseball announced today that two umpires have been promoted to the full-time Major League staff. The newest members are Ryan Wills and Clint Vondrak, who each join the Major League staff after over 10 years of Minor League service. The pair each made their Major League regular season debuts during the 2020 season.

Wills, 36, has been a Minor League Umpire since 2011 and has worked Major League Spring Training since 2020. The Virginia resident has 402 games of Major League experience as a call-up umpire during the regular season. Vondrak, 34, has been a Minor League Umpire since 2012 and has worked Major League Spring Training since 2022. The Missouri resident has 286 games of Major League experience as a call-up umpire during the regular season.

The new umpires fill the slots left by the retirements of two veteran Major League Umpires:

Jeff Nelson worked four World Series over his 26-year career as a Major League umpire, in 2005, 2009, 2014 and 2018. He was behind the plate when the San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in 2014 to clinch their third World Series crown in five years. Nelson served as a Crew Chief since the 2014 season and filled the role during the 2019 NL Wild Card Game and the 2019 ALCS. The Minnesota native worked the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh and again in 2014 at Target Field in his home state.

Ed Hickox worked 19 years as a Major League umpire. He was behind the plate for Matt Garza’s no-hitter on July 26, 2010 and for Homer Bailey’s no-hitter on September 28, 2012. Along with those two plate assignments, he was on the field for a “cycle” of no-hitters, having been at first base for Jered Weaver’s no-hitter in 2012; at second base for Clay Buchholz’s 2007 gem; and at third base for Jim Abbott’s feat in 1993. Ed was on the field for Alex Rodriguez’s first Major League hit (July 8, 1994) as well as his 3,000th (June 19, 2015). He worked the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 and the 2011 All-Star Game in Arizona.

With the retirement of Nelson, 17-year veteran Chris Guccione has been promoted as a new Crew Chief. He has worked the 2016 and 2020 World Series. Guccione has been a member of the full-time staff since 2009.

Michael Hill, MLB’s Senior Vice President for On-Field Operations, said: “On behalf of Major League Baseball, it is a pleasure to thank Jeff and Ed for their professionalism, leadership, and contributions to the game. We wish them well as they conclude their accomplished careers. I also congratulate Clint and Ryan on their promotion to Major League Umpires and Chris on his promotion to Crew Chief.”

In addition, 24 Minor League Umpires have been selected to work Major League Spring Training: