By Drew Zuhosky
Next Sunday, Major League Baseball will showcase three games in an Opening Day tripleheader on ESPN and ESPN2, capped off with the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets in a rematch of last year’s World Series on the 27th season premiere of “Sunday Night Baseball.”
If you tune into that game, you’ll notice that the telecast will sound different this season. Back in January, ESPN promoted Jessica Mendoza, who played softball for Stanford University and on the United States Olympic team, to take a full-time analyst role on the broadcast.
Mendoza, who worked some Women’s College World Series and College World Series games in the past for ESPN, was brought into “Sunday Night Baseball” last season after former Sunday night analyst Curt Schilling was suspended for making objectionable comments about Muslims on Twitter.
Schilling will take part in ESPN’s “Monday Night Baseball” this season.
Mendoza was on Sunday nights for the stretch run of the season last year after calling a Monday night game last August.
In October, Mendoza teamed up with colleagues Dan Shulman and John Kruk to call the American League Wild Card Playoff between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees, with Mendoza becoming the first female commentator to call a postseason baseball game on TV.
However, not everybody was pleased with Mendoza’s historic feat. Atlanta-based sports radio host Mike Bell took to his Twitter feed the night of the game, making a series of sexist remarks about Mendoza. The reaction to Bell’s comments was swift, with Bell’s station, 92.9 The Game suspending him from the air but reinstating him later.
On the day of Mendoza’s promotion, reaction to the move was positive. Fans were grateful and happy that Mendoza’s work paid off for her.
Still, though, the sexist remarks remained, but when I was looking at the “Sunday Night Baseball” keyword after the move was announced, I didn’t see too many of them.
Mendoza will replace Kruk, whereas Sunday night newcomer Aaron Boone takes Schilling’s place.
The crux of the issue is that some people are upset that ESPN hired a woman for a baseball telecast.
Their complaint? “She’s a woman. What do women know about baseball? Why couldn’t they just hire another guy?”
Baseball and softball are, at the core, pretty much the same game with a few differences. I think Mendoza will take on her new role smoothly, especially since it’s not much different than softball.
I get that it’s easy to knock ESPN for anything under the sun, ranging from “ESPN is biased toward certain teams” or “ESPN doesn’t broadcast hockey” or “ESPN doesn’t lead SportsCenter with a major story unless it involves (insert marquee team or athlete’s name here)” or just “ESPN hates my team.”
I’ve heard those complaints time and again, and I understand the frustrations of people who make such complaints. This time, ESPN got it right.
Having Mendoza on the broadcast is a way of showing young women that they, too, can follow their aspirations no matter what career path they’re taking, even if it’s not one that’s dominated by men.
It’s also a sign that more and more women are entering the sports broadcasting arena. Young girls who aspire to be sportscasters can look to Mendoza and others like her as inspiration for them.
Somewhere in America right now, there’s a young woman who wants to be a sportscaster. They want to be the next Jessica Mendoza. Her promotion on “Sunday Night Baseball” shows every young woman that they can make their way into the masculine world of sports.