ESPN’s Mendoza reflects on historic 2015
By: Maren Angus
The date was August 24, 2015, and the city was Phoenix, Ariz. The ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball crew sounded and looked just a little differently. Jessica Mendoza made history that night at the first woman to work as an Analyst for ESPN’s MLB coverage.
Mendoza continued to make history in the booth. The same week, she was part of the crew that covered Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter in Los Angeles.
“To be honest, Arrieta was dealing, he was ridiculous. By the eighth inning is when it was apparent that there was a chance of it being a no-hitter. It never occurred to me that it was going to be as big as it was,” said Mendoza. “It was more about the micro at the time, what is he going to pitch right now, not is this going to be a no-hitter? I didn’t realize it until we were off air and then it was like, whoa what just happened?”
She was a four-time, First-Team All-American outfielder and led the Cardinal to their first Women’s College World Series appearance. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies in 2002 and a Masters in Social Sciences in Education in 2003. After school she continued playing for the United States Women’s National Team where she won a gold in Athens and silver in Beijing. In addition to the Olympic medals, she is both a three-time World Champion (2002, 2006, 2010) and World Cup Champion (2006, 2007, 2010), in addition to being a two-time Pan American Gold Medalist (2003, 2007).
Broadcasting was not the plan Mendoza had in mind for herself until she started playing for Team U.S.A.
“When I was with the National team, ESPN covered the World Cup and some of our bigger tournaments, our PR person would always tell them to interview me,” said Mendoza, “They asked me to come audition, I sat down with Beth Mowins and it was so much more natural than I thought it would be and I loved it. They hired me on the spot.”
The idea to cover baseball came from calling softball games alongside Mowins and John Kruk. She thought if Kruk can call softball then why couldn’t she call baseball? All of her coaches growing up could transition from being baseball coaches to softball coaches so it made sense for her to give it a shot.
“Yes, the pitching is different as far as where it’s released from. The mindset doesn’t change. Do you want to throw a lefty and get in on their hands? … The whole entire strategy, everything about the game was so much more simply as far as transitioning than I ever thought.”
Mendoza finished her historic year alongside Kruk and Dan Shulman in New York on Oct. 6. She became the first woman to analyze a postseason game.
Despite all the negative feedback she got from people on social media, she doesn’t let that bother her. In fact, why even listen to them when so many others came to her defense?
“It’s funny, I felt like more people came to my defense. To me, I expected it. Trust me, when they told me I was going to be in the booth I had to put on my helmet and say, ‘Ok, here it comes,’” said Mendoza. “Anything different, anything that hasn’t been done, it’s going to come with resistance but what I expected more of was a little bit more intelligent, attacking what I said. I’ve been aware that I am a female for quite some time so if you are going to attack for being a women then where are we at right now? It’s 2015.”
During the offseason, Mendoza contributes to espnW.com and makes appearance as an Analyst on ESPN’s Sportscenter and Baseball Tonight. She currently resides in Southern California with her husband and two sons.