March 29 2007: A woman’s work is never done. Or, in the case of umpiring a big-league baseball game, rarely done. On Thursday afternoon a minor league umpire, Ria Cortesio, worked the bases as part of the umpire crew for the Chicago Cubs-Arizona Diamondbacks game at HoHoKam Park, the first female umpire to work a Major League exhibition game in nearly 20 years.
Cortesio is the only female umpire in pro ball. She will be in her fifth season at Class AA and ninth overall. “I was kind of expecting it,” she said. “Umpires with my seniority usually get picked. I’m looking forward to it. There will be a lot more people in the stands than I’m used to.”
It’s good for baseball, too. and it’s about time.
During her college softball years Cortesio would hear comments, many times from other females, about how female umps were all terrible. Generalizations and stereotypes such as this are unfair. There are some terrible female and male umpires. There are also outstanding female and male umpires.
Now, the only woman umpire in organized baseball is hoping to open doors for others to follow her in a pursuit she was determined to undertake as far back as high school. But she in no way considers herself a trail blazer in the fashion of Pam Postema, who called balls and strikes with passion in the 1980s.
A native of Davenport, Iowa, who graduated from Rice University, Cortesio is one of five women to have umpired in professional baseball. Postema came closest to reaching the Major Leagues when she worked Spring Training games in the late ’80s.
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