Umpire Employment in USA Baseball

By Michael Rosenthal

Becoming an umpire requires a special personality when it comes to all the other careers in pro baseball. Herein lays the most thankless position in the baseball world. Basically in charge of the game from beginning to end, these individuals are often subject to the brunt of the players, managers, and fans anger. And sometimes it can get brutal, both verbally and physically. Enforcing the rules, making judgment calls, and disciplining managers and ballplayers are responsibilities of the job as well. Do you think their plate is overflowing or what?

An acquaintance of mine who officiates at the junior college and college levels has discussed on numerous occasions what all is involved in becoming a game official. The three things he stressed above all else were

  • attending an actual umpire's school (and they aren't cheap)
  • taking advantage of every opportunity possible to umpire at any level of baseball
  • practice, practice, and more practice.

'Get used to watching yourself in the mirror. It'll help you develop your own unique style of umpiring' was some advice he often gave people.'

Something to be very aware of is that the average MLB umpire spends seven to eight years to get into the pros, sometimes longer. And the odds of succeeding are extremely low. There are two private umpiring schools that are the only authorized schools for MLB umpiring hopefuls, and you won't get anywhere without attending one of them. There are no prerequisites for attending these schools. Here are the two sanctioned schools and the links to them:

  • The Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring
  • The Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires

There are also recommended umpire camps that are often listed as 'tools for success.' The camps are designed for the amateur experienced (or beginner) who wants to further his career and sharpen his skills with more on the field training. The camps are normally operated by current and former game umpires. One is located in Atlanta, GA and the other in Southern California. The latter appears in several articles at MLB.com so I have listed the link to the main page to get you started in the right direction. Here are their names and the links to find them on the web:

  • Major League Baseball Umpires Camp located in Compton, CA
  • Southern and International Umpires Camp

Here's another tidbit and I'm not trying to discourage anyone, I'm only stating facts. professional umpires always begin their career Class A ball, never at a higher level, making this job one that you have to earn. But here are two interesting stats quoted directly from Wikipedia:

  • ''there are currently 70 umpires on Major League Baseball's permanent staff, and 22 Class AAA umpires eligible to umpire regular season Major League games as a 'fill-in' umpire''
  • Major league umpires earn between ,000 to ,000 per year depending on their experience, with a per diem for hotel and meals. Minor league umpires earn between ,800 and ,400 per month during the regular season. The exact amount is based on the umpire's classification and experience
  • I was absolutely amazed at the amounts they get paid, but one thing is for certain. I think they deserve that when you consider the millions that professional ballplayers get paid.