Jen Pawol becomes first woman to umpire MLB spring training game since 2007

Umpire Jen Pawol participates in the lineup card exchange before the start of a spring training baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Pawol took a big step toward breaking the gender barrier for Major League Baseball umpires when she became the first woman in 17 years to work a big league spring training game Saturday night. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
This won't be the last spring training game Jen Pawol works. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

History was at third base Saturday in a game between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros.

Jen Pawol made her MLB spring training debut at CACTI Park of The Palm Beaches and, in the process, became the first woman since 2007 to umpire such a game, per the Associated Press. The last woman to do so was Ria Cortesio.

She was visible from the second pitch from Nationals starter Patrick Corbin:

Pawol graduated from Minor League Baseball's umpire camp in 2016 and became the seventh woman to call a minor-league game, per the Society of American Baseball Research. Her cap and mask from that game are now in the Hall of Fame. She has risen through the ranks since then, working in Triple-A last year all the way to the Triple-A championship game.

Per SABR, she doesn't think her gender has much bearing on her job:

“I don’t really view umpiring as a gender job. I just view it as, if you’re good at it and you like it, you should do it.”

Aside from umpiring, Pawol is an artist, with degrees from the Pratt Institute and Hunter College, who has worked part-time as an eighth-grade art teacher.

This won't be the last time Pawol is seen in Florida, as she is expected to work other spring training games while working out of Palm Beach County over the next few weeks. After that, we'll see if she earns an unprecedented promotion to the big leagues, where she would be the first woman to work a regular-season game.

From the AP:

"For any umpire, working in the pro system, this is a big, big deal," Pawol told reporters on a Zoom call in February. "This means so much. It's the culmination of a lot of innings. I've probably put in about 1,000 professional games at this point."

Unlike MLB, the NFL and NBA have already seen female officials work at their top level.