Rice Grad to Break the Gender Barrier?

Hey, Ria, we're over here, on the other side. You blind or something?

On Thursday, March 29, at about 2 p.m., Houston time, Rice University grad Ria Cortesio will do something that has not been done since March 1989. Ms. Cortesio will step out on a grass field somewhere in the Phoenix area, and she will take her position up the first base line. Then, with the first pitch of a Spring Training game between the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks, Ms. Cortesio will be the first woman to umpire a game between major league teams (that is, if you can count the Cubs as a major league baseball team) since Pam Postema .

Ms. Cortesio is entering her fifth season as an umpire for the Double-A Southern League. She also happens to be the next umpire in line for promotion to Triple-A. Last season she had the opportunity to umpire the Future's Game and the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.

It has not been an easy road for Ms. Cortesio. She umpired high school baseball games. She then started in the Pioneer League. Then she moved to the Midwest League and to the Class-A Florida State League before advancing to Double-A minor league baseball.

Once Ms. Cortesio makes the leap to Triple-A ball, she will be only the second woman to have reached that level of umpiring in organized baseball. The next step will be the major leagues, where she would be a pioneer as the first woman to umpire at the major league level.

The All-Star Game is not her only brush with fame. Way back when, she caught the ire of one George Steinbrenner who accused her of squeezing the strike zone of one Roger Clemens when Clemens was making a minor league rehab start.

Now, it's time for my confession. I've got more than a just disinterested curiosity in Ms. Cortesio's climb up the baseball ladder. Ria is a friend of mine. We met sometime in the mid 90s when Ria joined the Astrodome video crew. I've heard some of her stories about dislocated bones. About large bruises caused by foul balls. She's told me about the constant travel by van, and about the staying up late after games so that reports can be filed to the league office. But Ria has also told me about how much she loves this job. About how this is all that she has ever wanted to do. About how it's her dream to reach the major leagues.

I want Ria to achieve her dream. Because I figure that that would be my brush with fame. Surely, after all, the first woman to be a major league umpire has to end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame. And this way, I can say that I know a Hall of Famer. But besides that, I want Ria to make it because she's my friend.

But, Ria, I want you to remember this. You suck. You need glasses. Are you blind? Read the rulebook every now and then, you moron, so that you can learn the strike zone. You called that a balk? He missed the tag. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Thanks for reading. I promise to return with the snark later. — John Royal


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