The Northwoods League, in addition to being a developmental league for players and coaches, is also a developmental league for umpires. The concentrated game schedule, travel, and Minor League-like game conditions give NWL umpires a pre-professional seasoning unparalleled in all of baseball. Since the League’s inaugural season in 1994, over 100 former umpires have furthered their careers in affiliated professional baseball, with typically about 1 in 5 Minor League umpires being Northwoods League alumni during any given season. NWL alumni are also well represented in the MLB Umpire Development (Tyler Funneman ’02, Mark Lollo ’01, Brian Sinclair ’04) and the Wendelstedt School (Malachi Moore ’11) instructor staffs.
The League recruits umpires from the two accredited umpire schools, with most having graduated from the Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires. The umpires ultimately contracted are among the top school graduates and receive further training at the Oceanside Umpire Training Seminar (O.U.T.S) prior to officiating their first game in the Northwoods League.
The NWL has ten three-man crews during the regular season, a six-man crew during the mid-season All-Star game, and four to six-man crews for playoff games.
For an umpire, climbing the ranks from the low levels of Minor League Baseball to becoming a Major League Baseball umpire is a long and difficult journey. To date, four former Northwoods League umpires, Delfin Colon (2000), Mark Lollo (2001), Tyler Funneman (2002) and Toby Basner (2004), have worked regular season MLB games, with several others having worked MLB Spring Training games. Check out the list of former Northwoods League umpires that have worked in professional baseball here: Northwoods League Umpires in the Pros.