Female Umpires in the MLB – Not In This Decade, No
Females make up a fair share of the MLB fan-base yet one startling fact remains: there are no female officials in the league. Recently, the National Football League (NFL) inducted its first female match official. This makes NFL the second major sports leagues in the US with female representation on the officials panel. Yet, the MLB has not explored this option so far. Baseball is considered the country’s favorite pastime but there will come a time when the game will be considered to masculine for females to truly take interest. Getting a female umpire into the mix could make a huge difference.
It is not like that there is an embargo on female umpires or officials. In fact, there are several women who have officiated games in the minor leagues. A couple of them were given the opportunity to umpire at the spring training games for the major leagues. However, the fact still remains that a female is yet to umpire an MLB regular season game. Over the past few years, other male-dominated sports are making a concerted effort to get more women involved in important roles. There are 230 umpires in the MLB, yet not one of them is of the fairer sex.
Exploring women officials in the minor leagues, there hasn’t been one since 2007. Also, the Minor League Umpire’s School which was set up a couple of years back has only attracted one female student. This goes to show that the problem may be occurring from both sides. Maybe women just aren’t interested in being part of a sport where they are surrounded by men on the field. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is some form of discrimination to keep women out of MLB umpiring stints.
Even if a decision is made today, it would still a female umpire at least five to six years to make it all the way to the MLB. Over the years, the path for MLB umpires has become more complicated and even experienced officials with the right training have found it hard to make a mark. And six years is if a female official tops her batch at the Umpire’s School and then speeds through the training levels as outlined by the MiLB. Even then, with 230 officials already, there is the chance that there might not be a job opening for a new official, male or female.
Generally, umpires have to bide their time in the minor leagues before they are called up to the MLB. The average number of years spent by umpires officiating matches in the minor leagues before making the grade is over 8 years, since the turn of the century. For a woman to make that kind of commitment would take a lot of sacrifices, not to mention the effort they have to put in just to sustain themselves at a level where the minor leagues are willing to retain them.
Then there is also the small matter of the remuneration. It has been a concern for a while that MiLB umpires aren’t paid enough. Newbies are paid $1,900 a month and the highest they can go to is $3,500. Given the fact that the Dodgers alone are shelling out $272 million in salaries and wages a season, the umpires are getting the short end of the stick. Not to mention that they aren’t paid during the off-season. Again, this is one more reason why female umpires are rare to find in baseball and the ones who do want to take on the job have to make do with all the issues mentioned above.
So, if you are expecting to see a female umpire in the MLB, it’s highly unlikely to happen in this decade (and the best part of next decade).