31 May 2007

Female Ump? No Problem For Cubans

Violet Palmer, meet your new role-model! It's Yanet Moreno, the first female umpire to make it to the National Series, Cuba's equivalent of the Major Leagues. In her first season, Moreno doesn't take the kind of ribbing you'd expect a female ump to get. Instead, those who want to jeer do something else. They propose.

"Beautiful," they call playfully. "I'll marry you," they say.
And during her first game? Gawking and stares? Think again.
"The crowd applauded, the players congratulated me," the 32-year-old umpire said recently. "I wasn't nervous, just excited because getting to that level was like a dream."
Maybe we can learn something from our neighbors to the south. You'd expect to hear a player speak dismissively about a female ump in the US. But in Cuba? Listen to catcher Arier Pestano:
"We have to respect her as an umpire and as a woman," he said.
There are no female umpires in the Major Leagues. The highest level female ump is Ria Cortesio, who calls balls and strikes in Double-A. The NBA broke the gender barrier a few years ago when it put two female refs into the rotation. Violet Palmer is the only one left standing, and she's taken far more than her share of criticism over the years, especially from Bill Simmons.

It looks like Moreno has mastered the key to being an umpire. "The key is to assert authority without abusing it," she says, and she's right. You'd think Dick Bavetta could take a lesson right about now.

And just for the record, Moreno is single. But don't look for her to accept an on-field proposal anytime soon.

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