A born athlete, Kate Hart grew up in Monterey, Calif., loving baseball especially. At the time, girls weren’t allowed to play Little League. Undaunted, she tried out for and made the boys’ junior varsity baseball team as a high school sophomore—only to be told she wouldn’t be allowed to play. She settled for playing softball and other sports—until a new door opened into Little League.
As an adult, Hart coached her son’s Little League teams, volunteered for the Little League board, and stumbled into umpiring.
“I’m not a sitter; I’m a doer,” says Hart, who immersed herself in the role. “It was more fun and athletically and mentally challenging than I’d expected.”
She’s since turned umpiring into a full-blown avocation, working Little League, high school, and junior college ball games. Hart is one of very few female umpires nationwide, and in August she was the first woman since 2005 to ump at the Little League Western Region Baseball Tournament in San Bernardino—one step away from the Little League World Series.
Succeeding as an umpire, Hart says, is about teamwork and quiet confidence. “Being focused, looking for small, unexpected things to happen and knowing what to do if they happen,” she says, is a great stress relief. “[Umpiring] lets me run and be mobile and think on the fly.”
Umpiring requires different skills than those for her day job as senior brand manager for The Wine Group, a beverage company with some 60 brands, though each demand strong leadership.
“My success in both has come not from bossing people around or leveraging my position but by establishing credibility with what I do,” she says.