Emma Charlesworth-Seiler is the latest in a line of female umpires in affiliated professional baseball that dates back to 1972.
Sometimes progress starts with a trailblazer, like Jackie Robinson, and steadily progresses over time. It’s like an initial wave coming to shore, with many waves following soon after. Other times, progress moves in fits and starts, with long breaks with little movement. The history of female umpires in professional baseball has followed the second pattern over the last 45 years, but it may be gaining steam these days.
In June, 22-year-old Emma Charlesworth-Seiler will join Jen Pawol as the only female umpires in the minor leagues. Pawol umpired in the Gulf Coast League (GCL) last year and has moved up to the Short-Season Class A New York-Penn League this year. Charlesworth-Seiler is following in Pawol’s footsteps by beginning her career in the GCL this summer.
Charlesworth-Seiler was discovered by the directors of umpire development for MLB and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) when she worked as a volunteer umpire at a 2015 Baseball for All tournament. Baseball for All provides opportunities for girls to play baseball. She then attended MLB’s Pro Prospect Development Camp two straight years, with a summer playing baseball and umpiring in Australia sandwiched in between.
In February, Charlesworth-Seiler was the only woman out of 100 participants to complete the MiLB Umpire Training Academy. Now she’s ready to begin the long trek towards the Major Leagues, which takes seven to 10 years, on average, for those who reach the highest level. Charlewsworth-Seiler acknowledged that she is just taking her first steps:
“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. 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.”
When Charlesworth-Seiler takes the field in June, she will be just the eighth female umpire to ever work a game in affiliated professional baseball. The following slides will take a look back at the previous seven women and the difficulties they faced while trying to succeed in the male-dominated field of professional baseball.