Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the world. While it’s not as big as basketball per se, Major League Basketball (MLB) games regularly draw up to 1,600 fans during the regular season. In 2018, the games attracted more than 69 million viewers.
For those who don’t know, MLB is the biggest professional baseball league in the world. It’s also the oldest, having been found in 1876—more than 147 years ago. Not only that but it’s the second-wealthiest professional sports league, just after the NFL by revenue.
Currently, the MLB is comprised of 30 teams, 15 of which belong to the American League (AL) and 15 of which belong to the National League (NL). During the regular season, each team plays 162 games, with six advancing to the finals aka the World Series, where the winner is determined through a best-of-seven playoff.
As of 2023, the Houston Astros are the reigning champions, having beaten the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2022 World Series.
But what about the MLB umpires? Are they paid well? How high are their salaries? For those who are wondering, be sure to keep reading because that’s what we’ll be going over below!
Average Salary for an MLB Umpire in 2023 – $235,000
For the 2022 season, the average MLB umpire took home $235,000. Generally speaking, the monthly salary starts at $2,000 to $2,500 per month and gradually increases over time as they accumulate more experience.
For example, it’s not uncommon for senior umpires to earn more than $2,000 each game. For someone to reach that level, it takes many years as most of them have officiated over 4,000 games.
Not only that but it’s not uncommon for umpires to receive daily expense allowances to cover things such as transportation, food, and hotel. Their location matters as well. For instance, umpires working in the San Francisco area tend to have higher salaries than those working elsewhere in the country.
The yearly take-home figure might seem high at first, but there are several reasons for it. For starters, MLB umpires work up to 162 games during the regular season, each of which can last up to several hours. They must also pay close attention during each game and are tasked with making close calls with the average baseball being thrown at up to 95-plus mph.
Home plate umpires have an even harder task as they must call strikes for the game and with nearly 300 pitches thrown during each match, they must make many decisions under pressure. Add in curveballs and fastballs and keeping track of everything that’s happening is not easy.
Those who serve in Division 1 are also compensated at a higher rate. For one thing, they’re usually eligible to receive a compensation package that includes housing, mileage, and $400 per game. Having said that, the exact amount depends on various factors.
It’s also worth mentioning that the annual salary for MLB umpires has actually gone up over the years.
The Highest-Paid MLB Umpires
Some of the highest-earning MLB umpires include Joe West, Bruce Froemming, and Joe Brinkman.
Bruce Froemming has officiated more than 5,100 games throughout his multi-decade career. In 2007, he became the oldest umpire in MLB history after umpiring at first base in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays-Cleveland Indians game, at the age of 67.
Joe West is one of the highest-paid umpires in the MLB with an annual salary of $450,000. He also holds one of the longest tenures in the history of the sport, having worked for a total of 26 seasons. However, he is often considered as one of the most notorious officials, having received criticism from coaches, players, and media representatives.
Joe Brinkman worked as an MLB umpire from 1972 to 2006. During his career, he officiated in three All-Star games and five American League Championship Series.
How Do You Become an MLB Umpire?
Those who are interested in becoming an MLB umpire must meet a set of specific criteria. First and foremost, you must be physically fit with quick reflexes. Strong communication skills are also a must as you’ll likely need to explain your calls during the games. In addition to that, you must have 20/20 vision either with or without corrective lenses.
For those that meet the criteria, the next step is to attend an umpire training school. In the U.S., there are three main schools: the Umpire School in Florida; the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School in Michigan, and the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring in Colorado. On average, the school costs are around $2,500.
These professional umpire schools happen for two to five weeks at the beginning of the year under the guidance of current MLB umpires, who will teach the students about the sport’s mechanics, rules, signals, as well as officiating policy. Not only will they be in the classroom but they will also be doing work out in the field.
While each class is different, aspiring umpires will typically learn side-by-side with dozens of other students. However, only the top few will be able to attend an MLB umpire evaluation class. During the evaluation, MLB instructors will look for potential candidates to hire for the short-season Class A or Rookie leagues.
Generally speaking, once an individual makes it to the Triple-A level, which can take up to six years or more, the league will begin considering them for the majors. For example, an individual may be given a temporary opportunity to break into the big leagues if there are scheduling issues or injuries at the Major League level.
Keep in mind, however, that the turnover in the field is low, which means that umpires don’t get as many opportunities to be discovered. For one thing, there’s only one opening a year on average. And even when you’ve gotten to the majors, it can take anywhere from seven to ten years to advance through the ranks.
Currently, one free camp is also scheduled every month from April to August in Houston, California, Cincinnati, Norfolk, Chicago, and San Bernardino. Those who excel in the training program will be invited to the Umpire Prospect Development Camp for further training by professional staff and of course, all expenses will be paid for.
How Much Are MLB Umpires Paid For the World Series?
The World Series is the annual championship event of MLB in the U.S. and Canada. While viewership isn’t as high as it used to be, it’s still a popular event in the United States. In 2022, the playoff games drew more than 11.8 million television viewers.
The way it works, the playoff games start in early October and continue until November every year. The winning team is then awarded the Commissioner’s Trophy, which features 30 gold-plated flags, each of which represents a team.
Given how high-profile the World Series is, it’s not surprising to know that MLB umpires are paid more for working the playoff games.
As of 2023, they are paid anywhere from $17,000 to $20,000 for calling the World Series, and that’s on top of their base salary and expenses. Depending on how many games there are, that works out to be around $2,800 to $5,000 per match. Not too bad at all for a day’s work!
Keep in mind, however, that not all MLB umpires will make it to the World Series. If anything, being a World Series umpire is a prestigious honor- one that only a few will be able to experience.
For the 2022 World Series, James Hoye, Dan Iassogna, Pat Hoberg, Jordan Baker, Alan Porter, Tripp Gibson, and Alan Porter served as the game’s umpires.
Is Being an MLB Umpire a Full-Time Job?
MLB umpires are unique in that they only work six months a year. Given the amount of time they put into the games, however, it can pretty much be considered a full-time job. For example, it’s not uncommon for umpires to work 18 hours a week calling balls and strikes on the field.
As of 2023, there are 70 MLB umpires working in the league.