Sunday Night Baseball’s season started Thursday night, and while many fans watched carefully how Alex Rodriguez and Matt Vasgersian would acquit themselves in their respective ESPN debuts, Jessica Mendoza was back for her third full season as a game analyst on the series.
Mendoza, the first woman on SNB and the first ever to call an MLB playoff game, has become the stalwart of ESPN’s booth amid turmoil in the other two seats. But her trail-blazing success has not exactly emboldened networks to hire more women in non-sideline roles on baseball broadcasts. In fact, she and longtime Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman remain the only women regularly calling Major League Baseball games.
In a Washington Post profile published Thursday, Mendoza said that more women in the booth would be good not only for young women looking for role models but also for the sport as a whole.
Having a wider set of voices opens up the game to a larger audience, Mendoza said.
“Women that don’t watch sports, I think, would want to watch sports if they felt like they were being spoken to more,” she said.
Mendoza’s point represents the other side of the common “sports media doesn’t cater to women because women don’t watch sports” argument. For one thing, plenty of women do watch sports. For another, Mendoza points out, even more women would watch sports if the coverage were more often presented by people who look like them and share their perspectives.
In the Post piece, Mendoza talked about how comforting it was to hear Waldman’s voice on the radio for the first time.
“It just gave me such like relief. Any time I hear a woman’s voice, it’s just, it’s the more the better, because it allows people to get used to the fact that it’s okay” to have women calling men’s sports, Mendoza said.
Several years into her Sunday Night Baseball tenure, Mendoza has quashed pretty much all doubts about her ability to do the job. She has proven that the hitting expertise she gained in her softball career translates to baseball, shown that she is engaging and charismatic in the booth and demonstrated that MLB players are comfortable opening up to her. Will her performance inspire networks to give other women commentators a shot? We will soon see.