Jessica Mendoza was a teenager and wondering whether it was cool to play sports when she heard an Olympic softball player speak about her love of the game.
Now she’s heading to the World Series to give updates for “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN, shortly after becoming the first female analyst to call a nationally televised MLB postseason game.
Mendoza listened to shortstop Dot Richardson, who led the U.S. to the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games, and the Olympian’s enthusiasm for the sport “allowed me at a young age to own my passion.”
The 34-year-old Mendoza called the Houston Astros’ 3-0 victory over the New York Yankees in the American League wild-card matchup with John Kruk and Dan Shulmanon Oct. 6. She and Kruk had developed a rapport from working together for two years during the NCAA Women’s College World Series.
“He has zero notes,” Mendoza said of Kruk, who batted .300 in his career with San Diego, Philadelphia and the Chicago White Sox. “Others have pages and pages, he comes in just sees the game and reacts. It’s a good balance, I can come in more with numbers or some background and play off him.”
The Stanford four-time All-American center fielder earned Olympic gold (2004 Athens) and silver (2008 Beijing) medals. Mendoza was among the best hitters, winning batting (.416 average) and home run (50) awards at Stanford and averaging .432 for Team USA.
Mendoza played professional softball and stepped into the announcer’s booth. She got her start with ESPN as a color analyst for the NCAA men’s and women’s College World Series, the Little League World Series and as a sideline reporter for ESPNU.
Mendoza was the first woman to call a MLB game for ESPN in mid-August at the Arizona-St. Louis game. She also announced for “Sunday Night Baseball” when Cubs’ pitcher Jake Arrieta tossed a no-hitter in the 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 30.
Here are more things to know about Mendoza, who has two young sons, 70,000 followers on Twitter and attended the Women’s Sports Foundation dinner on Tuesday night in Manhattan.
For her Astros-Yankees postseason debut, Mendoza attended batting practice for several days and took notes on both teams. “To me that’s priceless, when you get into a game and you’ve been able talk to these guys, get an idea where their head is at, what kind of preparation they’re doing versus the pitchers they’re facing.
“I might be at batting practice talking to Alex Rodriguez and he mentions something with a 2-0 count. Then I’ll go look at his stats for the last four years on 2-0 counts or maybe 2-0 counts against lefties if that’s who they’re facing.”
Her scorecard from that game went into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
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Peter King: ‘Tom Brady Needs To Study Cris Collinsworth’
“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is.”
Peter King dedicated a not-insignificant portion of his “Football Morning in America” column this week to advice for Tom Brady. FOX announced last week that the Buccaneers’ quarterback will become the network’s lead NFL analyst upon his retirement.
Brady’s decision and his reported salary have been the source of much speculation and prediction amongst his soon-to-be colleagues.
King is optimistic that Tom Brady will be entertaining and informative when he makes his FOX debut. He did offer the GOAT a little bit of advice about what he should be doing in the months leading up to calling it quits on his playing days and starting his new career.
“I think what I’d do if I were Brady is study Cris Collinsworth—and honest to goodness, I don’t say that because I work for NBC,” he wrote. “I say it because Collinsworth knows how to talk X’s-and-O’s conversationally, he’s an easy listen, and he can criticize when the time comes.”
Interestingly, last week, Collinsworth says he hears from most former players that are getting ready to make the jump to broadcasting. He was surprised he never heard from Tom Brady before FOX announced their deal.
King had two other suggestions. The first was that Brady watch multiple games from start to finish so that he can hear what the give-and-take between a broadcaster and analyst sounds like. The other is that he has to commit to being interesting and not censoring himself. King has faith that Brady will be able to do that.
“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is. On that LeBron James show last year, Brady said, ‘Ninety percent of what I say is not what I’m thinking. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like conflict, so in the end I always just try to play it super-flat.’ That has to end once he’s on TV if he wants to be any good.”
Nick Wright Critical Of ABC Crew As Giannis Antetokounmpo Struggles In Game 7
“He reminded his followers on Twitter that the two-time MVP has put together some amazing performances in this series.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo started hot in Game 7 on Sunday. By the time the game ended though, the Boston Celtics were on their way to Miami for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals and the defending champions were headed back to Milwaukee.
The Celtics’ defense gave the Milwaukee Bucks fits in the second half. The ABC broadcast put a special spotlight on Antetokounmpo, who got multiple drives to the basket that he could not finish.
“The best has got to show up when the best is needed, and Giannis has been disappointing,” said Mark Jackson over a package of highlights of Giannis missing shots. “As great of a player as he is, given credit to the Celtics’ defense, but he has struggled offensively time and time again.”
Nick Wright of FS1 noticed and he didn’t appreciate it. He reminded his followers on Twitter that the two-time MVP has put together some amazing performances in this series.
Mike Been, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy were not particularly hard on Giannis. The trio made the typical comments we hear when things aren’t going a great player’s way.
Wright did not harp on the issue beyond the single tweet. The outcome was not in doubt as the clock winded down. He gave credit to the Celtics rather than tweet about the Bucks or Giannis.
Stephanie McMahon: WWE Is A Better Advertising Investment Than Sports
“We can script the buzzer-beater moments, we can script the Hail Marys.”
Everyone knows that professional wrestling is scripted. The storylines, the outcomes of matches, all of it is predetermined. But in the eyes of WWE, that’s what makes their product so different, and better than traditional sports.
WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon told Deadline that when it comes to pitching advertisers, sports entertainment allows room for a range of different approaches to make something work.
“We can script the buzzer-beater moments, we can script the Hail Marys,” she said. “We have a leg up on sports. … You may object to what we do, but you’re never going to be bored.”
McMahon added that WWE has a much easier process in dealing with sponsors. Everything is handled in-house.
“We own all of the IP,” she said. “When brands deal with us, they just deal with us. We create something together.”
WWE is coming off a positive Q1 earnings report, which had the company up 27% in total revenue. Its two weekly primetime shows, Monday Night RAW and Friday Night SmackDown, continue to do well in ratings, and all special and pay-per-view events, in addition to its streaming platform WWE Network, are all housed on Peacock.