At the fifth annual SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference on September 30, 2023, an Umpires Panel included Greta Langhenry, Sophiyah Liu, and moderator Perry Barber.
- Video: Click here to watch a replay of the Umpires Panel (YouTube)
Here are some highlights:
On her first day at umpire school
Langhenry: “The instructor asked the room — there were about a hundred of us in the room — ‘Has anybody here never umpired before?’ I was in the front row, and I raised my hand. The instructor looked around the room and said, ‘Interesting.’ I turned around to see what the rest of the room looked like, and I was the only person with my hand up, and I was the only woman in the room. So, knowing what that felt like, it can be intimidating sometimes if you don’t understand. Then the next day, or the day after, to raise your hand, knowing I am the only one who has never done this and I am the only woman here, and I don’t want other women to feel that way.”
On why clinics supporting women umpires are so important
- Barber: “Those clinics are really setting a new template for how to draw women to the diamond, because umpire school is expensive. Back when I went in the 1980s, it was $600 for the month, and that included the hotel, but now it’s several thousand dollars, plus the time you have to invest. And that’s what deters a lot of women from doing that … because women lead very busy lives in ways men often don’t. So that kind of support is very, very important; the financial support as well as emotional support.”
On recruiting more women to umpire in baseball
- Langhenry: “If you can see it, you can be it. If I had seen a woman in an umpire uniform when I was 20, I would’ve gone to umpire school when I was 20, and not when I was 35. And it might have turned out differently for me. So what I am trying to do now with Level Ump is get those pictures out, get those stories out, and be a place that people can come to share their story with me, ask me questions about the rules, ask me what it is like to work (as an umpire).”
- Liu: “At the beginning, I didn’t have any role models, but I’m very lucky that in 2006 there was a Women’s World Cup in Taipei. And Lisa (Turbitt) was the umpire, so you could see that women can do that. So when I argue with other umpires, I will ask them why there are American women umpires. ‘How come in Taiwan, they are not allowed?'”
On her initial experiences as an umpire
- Liu: “I started to become an umpire in 2006, and I really had a very, very tough time. … In Asia, women’s rights are not as equal as men. So when I tried to become an umpire, I realized some taboos in our baseball culture. For example, there was an old saying that ‘girls are not allowed’ …”
- Barber: “From what I’ve read, girls weren’t – even though you umpired – girls were not permitted to work the plate when you first started. Is that true?”
- Liu: “Yeah, at the beginning because I was not allowed to touch the ball … so it was spooky.”
On her mission with her nonprofit Level Ump
- Langhenry: “Our mission is to support women and other underrepresented groups in baseball. Throughout history, umpires have looked a certain way, and certainly that’s fine. I am not here to say anything bad about that, but I don’t see any reason why women, people of color, or people from the LGBTQ+ community couldn’t be umpires. There’s nothing inherently masculine about the job or anything else. So our goal is to help support women and underrepresented groups if they want to become umpires because it can become lonely when you are the only one.”
Transcription assistance by Jacob Baugher.
For more coverage of the 2023 SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference, visit SABR.org/women-in-baseball-conference/2023.
Originally published: October 8, 2023. Last Updated: October 8, 2023.