Chicago's Julie Cowell earns spot in NAGAAA World Series Hall of Fame

Wed. December 1, 2021 12:12 PM by Ross Forman

julie cowell

photo credit // provided

‘I’m proud to achieve this honor for the hard work I enjoy to this day,’ says Julie Colwell

Julie Colwell, who started her career as a softball umpire in 1978, has officiated at the White House – yes, that White House, in Washington, D.C. – to the fields on Chicago’s northside, home to the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA). She has made decades of split-second decisions, safe and out.

Colwell also has officiated volleyball and basketball for 42 and 31 years, respectively.

“I enjoy officiating sports I’ve played, making it fun for players and coaches,” said Colwell, now 61 and living in suburban Lincolnwood.

Colwell has umpired the Gay Softball World Series, run by the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA), 14 times, including the 2021 tournament. And she’s been on the field for the all-women’s ASANA Softball World Series five times.

At this year’s NAGAAA World Series, Colwell was inducted into the NAGAAA World Series Hall of Fame.

“I’m proud to achieve this honor for the hard work I enjoy to this day,” Colwell said. “It’s nice to represent CMSA and the City of Chicago. It’s an honor to be inducted with players and umpires, many of whom I’ve known for decades.

Colwell, a retired teacher from Evanston Township High School, joined CMSA 30 years ago. She’s officiated multiple CMSA sports over the years and also has officiated for the Illinois High School Association (IHSA).

“The best part of officiating has changed for me,” said Colwell, who also has officiated field hockey in the past. “I’ve worked really hard and studied (the rules).”

To that, she’s officiated nine IHSA State Finals and numerous NAGAAA and ASANA championship games.

“My favorite memory of officiating … after all these years, that’s a tough question; there are so many,” she said. “One for sure would be umpiring a 16-inch softball game on the south lawn of the White House, a game between the White House staff and the Secret Service, which the Secret Service won in 8 innings.

“I’m fairly sure the Obama’s were watching from the executive residence balcony.

For the past three NAGAAA World Series, Colwell has been the Assistant Umpire-in-Chief. She also was part of a 4-person, all-women umpiring crew for a top-tiered A-Division game, played under-the-lights.

“I absolutely love umpiring the NAGAAA World Series,” Colwell said. “There’s a vibe (at the event) that you can’t describe. You have to feel it and experience it. The joy I get seeing old friends and making new friends (at the NAGAAA World Series) makes an impact on your life and heart.”