Looking Back: First NWL Umpire Works a Major League Baseball Game
The Northwoods League is full of players hoping to make it to the Major Leagues one day, but they aren’t the only ones on the field with aspirations of reaching the highest level of professional baseball. While the players hone their skills, the umpires are also getting evaluated and receiving feedback on their technique in hopes of advancing to the next level. Delfin Colon was the first Northwoods League umpire to advance to the highest level and work a Major League Baseball game.
Colon made his debut on July 28, 2008 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, eight years after umpiring his last Northwoods League game. Colon was the second base umpire and worked alongside Eric Cooper (HP), Derryl Cousins (1B), and Angel Hernandez (3B). Two days later he worked the plate for the first time.
With only 68 umpires at the Major League level, the journey is long and the odds are tough. Umpires aspiring to the big leagues must be prepared to work their way through Minor League Baseball, where, unlike players who can jump classifications to speed up their ascent, umpires must put in their time at each level of the game before advancing. They are also at the mercy of a very low turnover rate, where in many years as few as one opening for a full-time MLB umpire may exist.
A total of four former Northwoods League umpires have worked Major League games (Colon, Toby Basner, Mark Lollo and Tyler Funneman) and there are currently former NWL umpires in every classification of Minor League Baseball.
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