Three women umpires works game together at VI WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup

Three women umpires works game together at VI WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup
The WBSC talked to Minseo Kim, Kana Wada and Kyoko Matsumoto, the three women who umped the Chinese Taipei-Italy game together at the U-12 Baseball World Cup.

TAINAN, Taiwan -- Three female umpires worked a game at VI WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup at the Asia-Pacific Baseball Training Complex.

During the Chinese Taipei-Italy game on Tuesday, 2 August, Minseo Kim from Korea was the home plate umpire. Kana Wada and Kyoko Matsumoto (Japan) worked at first and second base.

While the three of them were equipped with similar umpire attires, they took different approaches to get out on the diamond.

“[The umpire was] the first person I noticed on the field when I went to my first baseball game was the umpire. I immediately became interested in umpiring,” said Kim.

She then took countless weekend training courses and became an umpire for amateur baseball in Korea to start her career. Kim is entering her 12th season as an umpire.

Unlike Kim, both Wada and Matsumoto have playing experiences. Matsumoto was following her father's lead.

She started playing baseball in elementary school, then she switched to softball in junior and senior high school.

“A senior umpire approached me and asked if I was interested in becoming an umpire,” Matsumoto recalled.

That day changed her life: “I didn’t know how to say no to him, and I hesitated to decline his suggestion. But here I am today.”

Matsumoto has been an umpire for 13 years.

Wada also played baseball in elementary school but then joined the coaching staff of the junior high school team.

“The chief umpire of Tochigi, my hometown in Japan, encouraged me to become an umpire.”

Wada is in her 7th season as an umpire.

Baseball is still a sport dominated by male umpires, but Kim, Wada and Matsumoto still don't recall discriminatIon.

"We have been treated with respect in Japan and wherever we have been," commented Wada and Matsumoto.

Kim echoed: “I think before we made our minds to become umpires, we understood it was going to be a tough job, it’s a male-dominated sport, and players and coaches will not give you special treatment just because you are women, and of course, that is not something we are expecting from others. I ensure I put in extra effort to do the job right.”

Like any other umpire, Kim, Wada and Matsumoto have been through tough situations.

Kim recalled the confrontation with coaches on an infield play during a high school tournament.

“I was fortunate to have my peers [other umpires] support me. It made me feel like we were a big family. After the game, I would sit down and tell myself that since I never really played baseball, I need to work harder to understand all the details from the playing side.”

Matsumoto also admitted that she had a tough outing in this year’s tournament,
“I was disappointed at the moment, but I sincerely appreciate the help from other umpires on the field. And just like what Kim has said, we are a family, and we support each other.”

"Through the challenges," she added, "we have gathered more experiences, which are very valuable to us."

“I had a tough year in 2021,” said Kim, who officiated more than 200 games as a consequence of the many due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“I clearly remember that one of the managers took a screenshot of my game and made an unofficial complaint to the [umpire] association. Honestly, it really hurt my self-esteem and put huge pressure upon me. The only way to solve it is to face it and to make sure that I work harder and be a better umpire.”

The right mind-set is the key, agree Kim, Wada and Matsumoto

“It’s a high-pressure job, and you must have a very tough and strong mind,” said Matsumoto.

“Endurance and persistence are important for an umpire,” added Wada.

“Staying focused is important, yet it is also complicated, especially when talking about those 9-inning games,” said Kim. “The consistency in calling the strike zone is something we work very hard on daily.”

“Another thing I would like to point out is that we must not let the mistakes made in previous plays hinder our performance. We must move on immediately and keep our umpiring level all the time.”

International games are special to them.

Matsumoto started working in international tournaments at the Women’s Baseball World Cup in 2014 (Miyazaki, Japan). Kim received her first international assignment in 2016 when the Women’s Baseball World Cup was held in Busan, Korea. Wada’s first assignment came with the Women’s Baseball Asia Cup, played in 2019 in China.

“At international tournaments, we have learned a lot, and we learned quickly. We have peers from all over the world, and it is a great experience for all of us,” said Kim.

“We made many friends in the tournament, and it makes us look forward to the next assignment so we can reunite with our old friends and make new friends,” added Matsumoto.

“This is a big family for us,” commented Wada.

With more and more female umpires in the sport, both Matsumoto and Wada provided their words of wisdom to the young girls who are interested umpiring.

“It’s a tough job," they said on a final note, "but if you have the resolve and determination to make it, you will have a big family to give you all the supports you need.”