With Dan Shulman leaving Sunday Night Baseball for the sake of his personal life and Aaron Boone departing to manage the Yankees, ESPN’s flagship baseball program finds itself in flux. But as of Tuesday, we know one thing about Sunday Night Baseball in 2018: Jessica Mendoza will be back.
ESPN announced Tuesday that Mendoza, who in 2015 became the first woman to call an MLB game for ESPN, will return to the broadcast booth for her third season (and second full season) as a Sunday Night Baseball analyst. Additionally, Buster Olney is onboard for his eighth season as field reporter on the weekly game.
ESPN says “additional commentator announcements” will arrive in the coming weeks, and we can probably infer from the plural language that the network will again use a three-person booth, as it has regularly since 2010.
Mendoza’s return is no surprise, given her experience in the position and the positive reviews she gets in baseball circles (though she does get her share of venom thrown her way from plenty on social media). Still, before Tuesday’s announcement, it seemed at least possible that ESPN would reassign her and start over with a totally new booth.
Now that we know Mendoza will be back on Sunday Night Baseball, it’s slightly easier to speculate on what the broadcast will look like next season. As our Joe Lucia wrote earlier this month, ESPN could tack Mendoza onto an existing two-person booth (such as alongside Jon Sciambi and either Rick Sutcliffe or David Ross) or try something different, maybe with Karl Ravech or Dave Flemming in the play-by-play chair.
Regardless of what ESPN decides, Mendoza will be the grizzled veteran on Sunday Night Baseball less than two years after first getting the gig. ESPN’s choice to keep her around even in a time of transition shows that the network thinks highly of her, and really, why wouldn’t it? Mendoza is enthusiastic, engaging, knowledgeable, and evidently well-prepared. She could very well be a Sunday Night Baseball staple for years to come.