Almost all sports use officials such as judges, referees or umpires, including baseball. Umpires in baseball are the on-field officials calling balls and strikes and making a myriad of other decisions to help the game run smoothly. Umpiring in professional baseball is also a paid occupation and there are numerous baseball leagues featuring umpires, including Major League Baseball or MLB. The pay of a professional umpire depends on the baseball league's class, with MLB umpires occupying the top of the pay scale.
Professional Baseball Umpires
If you want to work as an umpire in professional baseball, you must successfully graduate from an approved umpire school. According to the MLB.com website, only those finishing near the top of their umpire school classes are selected for positions in the rookie and Class-A leagues. Professional baseball umpires who prove themselves advance from Class-A to Class-AA and, finally, Class-AAA or "Triple-A" baseball leagues. MLB only considers the best umpires from the Triple-A leagues for promotion to "the show."
Major League Umpires
There are only 68 umpires in major league baseball and they bargain for salaries and benefits as part of a union, the World Umpires Association. MLB's current labor contract with its umpires ensures starting pay of $120,000 with senior umpires earning upwards of $350,000. ESPN's Jim Caple says the most senior MLB umpires earn about $400,000. MLB umpiring can be a year-round job, though, counting spring training, a 162-game schedule and then the postseason playoffs and World Series.
MLB Umpire Perks
MLB umpires receive many perks, including a $340 per diem to cover hotels and food. MLB umpires also receive four weeks of paid vacation, and the two major leagues fly them first class when on the road. By contrast, first-year minor league baseball umpires start out earning about $1,800 monthly, with Triple-A umpires earning about $3,200. Pay for minor-league baseball umpires is only by the season, usually three to five months, and minor league umpires typically work other jobs in the offseason.
Chances of Selection
The vast majority of umpires working within the various professional baseball leagues below MLB never make it to the majors. Plus, there are only 225 umpires in the minor baseball leagues affiliated directly with MLB. The turnover rate among MLB umpires is also extremely low, at only one per year, meaning just one Triple-A umpire makes the permanent jump to the big leagues every year. Some 15 to 17 Triple-A umpires, however, are selected every year as fill-ins for MLB umpires on vacation.
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