Welcome to ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, one of the only true “boys clubs” left in the world of sports television. That was all true—until now.
Jessica Mendoza has broken down the walls of that “boys club” this baseball season. She has made history as the first female to join the broadcast team made up of Aaron Boone and play-by-play man Dan Shulman. Mendoza was busy making a name for herself way before she joined the Sunday night show, which has been around since 1990. She spent her college years playing softball at Stanford and earning a gold medal in the Olympics. She is also no stranger to breaking down gender barriers in the world of sports broadcasting. She made history twice in the past year. She was the first woman to call an ESPN baseball game back in August and in October she was the first woman to be on the call for an MLB playoff game.
Now, she is doing it all with her spot this on Baseball Tonight. The move from being in studio and on certain games to a permanent spot on Baseball Tonight came after ESPN decided to replace Curt Schilling after he tweeted about Muslims and Nazis being similar. Six days before her opening day debut, Mendoza joined Dave O’Brien and analyst Dallas Braden for a St. Louis Cardinals-Arizona Diamondbacks game and went on to impress some people. Phil Orlins, the network’s senior coordinating producer of ESPN’s MLB coverage, said on behalf of her call that “she had a terrific telecast on Monday Night Baseball this past week. And when an opportunity presented itself to join Sunday Night Baseball this weekend, we thought it was a good fit.” It’s no surprise to me that the network has added a female broadcaster to a sport that rakes in viewers quite like Sunday Night Baseball does. The network is no stranger to giving female reporters and broadcasters their shot at quality air time.
Doris Burke, for example, has made a name for herself on the network with her color commentary and sideline reports for top NBA and WNBA games, as well as men’s and women’s NCAA games on ESPN. And, oh yeah, when she’s not busy interviewing some of the sport’s biggest names or giving commentary, she’s got handles like Steph Curry—while wearing high heels.
Adding a female to a heavily male-driven broadcasted sport like baseball is showing how ESPN is willing to change the mentality that only men can dominate in the field of sports broadcasting. I predict that in the next few years, more major networks will add females to larger shows and broadcasts. Not only does it make the network look better, but it shows how the field is diversifying. And that will make a lot of people very happy.
It’s no easy job to be a female in this industry, but that doesn’t stop my hopes of making it a reality for myself. And I have people like Mendoza to thank for that. Olivia Mulvihill is a journalism major from Allentown, Pa. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @OliviaMulvihill.