Female umpire from Sugar Land makes history at Little League World Series

Needville team to play in U.S. Championship on Saturday

Williamsport, PA – As Needville Little League makes history at the World Series as the first team from the small Fort Bend County town to play on Little League’s biggest field, Traci Duez of Sugar Land is doing the same.

“I love to walk up to a field and like for the first time...and hear them say, ‘Oh, we have a girl umpire’,” Duez said.

She became an umpire 20 years ago, shortly after moving to Sugar Land. It happened by accident, she said, because of a conversation with a colleague who was using the copy machine at work to print Little League materials.

Duez was recognized on the field at Lamade Stadium on Thursday afternoon alongside all the male umpires at the Little League World Series.

She is the only woman calling balls and strikes this year in Williamsport, and she’s the first woman from the Southwest Region to be an umpire at the Little League World Series.

“I love baseball. I love umpiring. I love what it’s done to me,” Duez said.

She said Little League officials told her she’s only the eighth woman in history to be an umpire at the World Series.

“We’re trying to incorporate more females into the sport, into Little League, from the players to the coaches to the managers and now to the umpires,” Southwest Region Director Blaine Whitmire said. “She’s earned a lot of respect amongst the other umpires that are here. It doesn’t really matter to them what her gender is because she’s so good at her craft.”

Duez, who has a degree in chemistry and used to work in IT, now runs a leadership development company.

She has dreamed of being an umpire in Williamsport for more than a decade.

“It helps me become better, a better leader, a better person. You get to learn things like courage and practice resiliency and decisiveness,” she said. “This is beyond what I ever imagined, the experience of actually being here...umpiring in front of 20,000 people. It’s quite incredible.”

The pressure doesn’t really phase her, she said, because it’s all about baseball. She hopes that she can inspire other women to take a swing.

It’s not clear yet if Duez will be an umpire for Needville’s game in the U.S. Championship on Saturday.

The team had the day off Thursday. After a quick practice, they got to spend time with their families at a hotel in a neighboring town, where hotel staff and local businesses coordinated a celebration of the team’s nail-biting win over Seattle on Wednesday night.

Original plans were rained out, which is when the local community put the party together quickly and at the last minute. Families enjoyed dinner, dessert, games, and more baseball on the big screen.

About the Author:

Bryce Newberry joined KPRC 2 in July 2022. He loves the thrill of breaking news and digging deep on a story that gets people talking.