Jessica Mendoza Talks Broadcasting, Baseball And Women In Sports At ESPNW Summit
Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Speaking in front of a select group of industry executives and up-and-coming stars of the business and media side of sports, Mendoza told her story of how she became the first woman analyst for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and the challenges she has faced in that role. A daughter of a baseball coach, Mendoza, got an early start in the baseball world and quickly made a name for herself as a star softball outfielder. Mendoza became a four-time First Team All-American at Stanford University and was a member of Team USA from 2004 to 2010. As a member of the USA Olympic team, Mendoza captured a Gold Medal in 2004 in Athens and a Silver Medal in 2010 in Beijing.
Soon after retiring from Softball in 2014, Mendoza transitioned to the media side of the industry. Jessica got her start as a sideline reporter for college football and calling softball games for ESPN. The executives at ESPN soon recognized Mendoza’s talent as a broadcaster and ability to explain the game in a way that resonated. As a result, the network added her to the show Baseball Tonight.
In 2015 ESPN gave Mendoza an opportunity as an in-booth analyst for Sunday Night Baseball, and she has been in the role ever since. During the interview at the ESPNW Summit, Sage Steele asked Jessica about the transition to the booth and becoming the first woman analyst for Sunday Night Baseball. Mendoza said the role was
“just a geographical change, that’s what’s interesting. I was doing the same thing (on the sidelines), but because I was on the field, it was more accepted. We see women on the field; we see them interviewing players, we see them coming out of the dugout. But if you put them in the booth – like, hold up, wait a second – you haven’t been there before. This is different. The same words were coming out of my mouth.”
Since moving to the booth, Major League Baseball has taken notice of Mendoza’s insights and knowledge of the game. As a result, the G.M. of the New York Mets, Brodie Van Wagenen, hired Jessica as a club advisor in 2019.
The honor of being an advisor to an MLB club doesn’t come without its challenges and controversy. While holding the dual role of analyst and advisor to a club is not unique to Mendoza, controversy soon followed when Jessica was barred from the L.A. Dodgers clubhouse. This past season, Mendoza and fellow ESPN analyst David Ross, who is an adviser to the Chicago Cubs, made headlines when the Dodgers blocked them from entering the clubhouse for a media session. The Dodgers required Ross and Mendoza to set up pre-scheduled interviews with players instead of entering the clubhouse with the other members of the media.
Steele asked Jessica about the incident during the ESPNW Summit. Mendoza responded, “it’s been complicated. There are over 25 of us that are broadcasters who also have roles with teams… the complicated part is that it’s been going on for two decades, and now this year, it’s this sort of unknown, and there’s been times where I’ve been allowed in the clubhouse, and there’s been times that I’m not, and it hasn’t been consistent.”
Jessica recalled how it felt to be escorted out of the clubhouse during the Dodgers playoff run, “just in the playoffs, I was escorted out of the clubhouse, and it’s like I’m going to jail – like I’ve done something wrong – and this hasn’t happened to me before.”
The incident makes one wonder why Ross and Mendoza were barred from the clubhouse when analysts have been advising clubs for the last two decades. Regardless of the reason behind the Dodgers decision, Mendoza has clearly developed a reputation as someone with great insights into the game. Over the last several decade’s women have pioneered the way to the broadcast booth. Mendoza, along with Cassie Campbell (NHL) and Doris Burke (NBA), have found prominent positions and have further paved the road for more women to find jobs in the broadcasting booth. Today women are more involved and visible during major sports broadcasts than ever before.
Jessica’s story was one of the most impactful at the ESPNW Women + Sports Summit and distinctly captured the spirit of the event. ESPNW created the Summit as a one-of-a-kind event that is focused on promoting global access to sports and opportunities for the advancement of women in sports. Mendoza has not only achieved a lot for herself in the baseball world but will undoubtedly pave the road for women in broadcasting and front-office positions across all sports.