Have you ever caught yourself dreaming about becoming a Major League umpire? MLB umpires are the most elite bunch of umpires on the planet and it’s no wonder because making it to the major league level is quite a feat. MLB umpires have to work their way through the minor leagues, just like players, perform well, then wait for that once in a lifetime opportunity. It typically takes an umpire 10 years to get to the Majors, which is about double what it takes a player.
Alright, so it’s hard to become a MLB umpire. How do I get started?
Start off with some training. There are 3 MLB/PBUC sanctioned, professional umpire training schools; Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpires, Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires, and The Umpire School. Each of these schools’ instructors are former MLB umpires or other high ranking baseball officials. Be warned that the schools only enroll approximately 500-600 umpires each year, so getting in can be a challenge. But, a little silver lining is that most students who attend have never worked a game before the go to umpire school. It’s never too late to start your umpire career.
Next, stand out. Knowledge of the game of baseball is only one factor trainers look for. Almost as important is a strong presence on the field, confidence, and positioning. Umpires need to maintain the integrity of the game so soft skills are crucial to the success of an umpire. At the end of the 5 week course the top graduates are selected to attend an evaluation course. Under 20% of attendees are selected for the evaluation course.
Start your career. An evaluation course consists of instructors grading students who then make suggestions Rookie Ball and Class-A Short Season hiring managers. It’s a long road through the minors but when you reach Triple-A MLB starts to take notice and evaluates who will be a potential MLB umpire.
The waiting game. There are 225 Minor League umps and only 68 in the Majors and the turnover rate is very low. So, if you’re fortunate enough to make it to the minors, get comfortable because you may be there for a long time.