Sixteen years after umpiring his first tee-ball game as a 12-year-old, 10 years after beginning professional umpire training and 14 months after officiating his first major league game, Quinn Wolcott got the call to the big leagues.
The 28-year-old Wolcott was named a full-time major league umpire on July 4 and became the youngest of the majors' 74 umpires. He is a beneficiary of Major League Baseball expanding its umpiring corps from 68 last season to account for instant replay umpires.
“It's incredible to be here, especially to have gotten here as quickly as I did," said Wolcott, who will wear No. 81. “A big part of it in baseball is just the timing of where you're at
. . . I've just happened to be in the right situation at the right time to put myself in position for this job now. There are times when there haven't been eight jobs in 10 years before."
Wolcott replaces 28-year veteran Gary Darling, who retired in July after spending all season on the disabled list.
After graduating high school in Washington, Wolcott said the idea of following baseball around the country was more intriguing than any alternative. He completed umpiring school in 2006 and started his professional career in the Arizona League as a 19-year-old.
Wolcott moved up the ranks quickly, reaching Double-A by his third year. Umpires go through similar progressions as players, with the exception that umpires cannot skip levels. He reached Triple-A in 2011 and worked 149 major league games as a substitute umpire before getting called up full-time.
“Quinn was above the curve there with his maturity, but he had a lot of time to develop just because he started so early, which worked out in his favor, obviously," said Dusty Dillinger, executive director of the Professional Baseball Umpiring Corp., which evaluates umpires through Double-A. “But it's a tough road, and Quinn's done very well."
Wolcott spent this season in the majors as a substitute, but he had not forgotten the differences between the minors and majors.
“Huge," he said. “Even in the Pacific Coast League in Triple-A as recently as a year ago, flying coach instead of first class. In the big leagues we get so many day games where we get to travel after the games, as opposed to a 6 a.m. flight. With those 6 a.m. flights you're getting into cities before your hotel rooms are ready. The hotels are different.
“In the lower minor leagues it's the van rides. You finish a series and you and one or two other guys hop into a van and take off for eight hours. And you do that all year non-stop."