In a male-dominated sport, it's not easy to be a woman — especially one charged with keeping order, upholding the rules and making split-second decisions under pressure.
But that's what Pam Mogridge does.
In fact, the 17 people who umpire slo-pitch games in Orillia are led by Mogridge, who has served as an umpire for the Orillia Slo-Pitch League for 18 years. She currently serves as the league's umpire-in-chief (UIC).
Mogridge grew up in North Bay and, after a stint in Toronto, moved to Orillia in 1984.
When she arrived, she had a goal of sorts: “I was hoping to get my life together; I was young,” she chuckled.
Mogridge, who works for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board in payroll and benefits, knew she needed a hobby outside of work.
"I played ball as a kid and then started playing in the Orillia ladies league in 1986 and played every year right through last year," she explained of her love for the sport. "I spent 30 years playing in the league.”
Mogridge no longer plays due to a shoulder injury coupled with the difficulty of juggling playing with umpiring two to three nights a week.
She started her umpiring career in 2001, taking the initiative to help keep a ladies' youth league alive.
“I was running a girls’ youth league in Barrie and, a lot of the time, the umpires wouldn’t show up, so I carded so at least the girls would have an umpire. That led to me getting involved with the ladies’ league and then, eventually, the men’s league,” she said.
Mogridge’s favourite division to umpire may be somewhat surprising.
“I prefer doing men’s games. They just have a better concept of the rules, and it’s easy to anticipate the play, so you know where to be in position,” she said.
Although the men’s league is now her preference, it used to be the most difficult for her.
“In the beginning, it was really hard for me to umpire men because I always felt intimidated,” she explained.
“Theoretically, it’s a male-dominated sport. It’s only been in the last 20 to 30 years that more females have gotten involved with the game.”
Mogridge says with more experience and training, she became less intimidated and, over time, the players gained respect for her.
“Some of the players' wives come up to me and say, 'Oh, my God, Pam. You can really tell those guys respect you.' And I thought, 'Wow, that’s really nice to know,'” she said.
Mogridge learned that earning the players' respect came easy when she respected them.
“It’s a two-way street. I don’t think I intimidate anyone and I’m approachable, so I think I make it easy for the players,” she said.
From time to time, she has to deal with a player who gets upset with one of her calls, and she has developed a strategy for those situations.
“My famous thing I say to them is, 'I’m going to give you the decision if you're staying or going.' Then, they usually realize, 'Oh, she means it.' And then they calm right down,” she laughed.
Mogridge is preparing to umpire at the provincial tournament in Niagara Falls next month, where she has served as the deputy umpire-in-chief for the past six years. She says it’s an honour for her to umpire at that level.
“The best part is meeting all the people. The people in the baseball community are awesome,” she said.
“I’ve met so many people though umpiring and it’s taken me to places like New Brunswick for nationals, and Niagara for provincials. It’s just a great experience," she said.
When Mogridge isn’t umpiring, you can still usually find her around one of the Orillia diamonds, cheering on her previous team or taking in some of the action from other teams around the league.