ESPN has hired former Olympic softball player Jessica Mendoza as a full-time Sunday Night Baseball analyst for the upcoming MLB season.
Last summer, Mendoza, 35, became the first woman in the booth during the network’s MLB broadcast. In September, she became a Sunday Night Baseball regular, serving as analyst Curt Schilling’s replacement when he was suspended after tweeting a meme that compared Muslims to Nazis.
Mendoza earned a return invitation, and in October, reached another milestone as the first woman to call a nationally televised playoff game.
At the time, she spoke to NPR’s David Greene about being in the booth during the wild card playoff game between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium.
“My approach coming into it was, like, all right, this is just like the other games, you know, no big deal,” Mendoza said. “And then you get there, and just the atmosphere was on a completely different level. I mean, there was just a ton of people down on the field. If you look up, you see Billy Crystal. And there’s celebrities left and right. And you’re like, OK, this is going to be a little bit different.”
As for being a woman, Mendoza said it wasn’t on her mind.
“I wasn’t even thinking about my gender or anything. I literally was so in tune with the game.”
Mendoza faced some backlash and sexist comments on social media but, she said, not as much as she expected. Mendoza chalked those reactions up to resistance to change and didn’t let it bother her.
“I mean I’ve been the girl always trying to play with the boys, you know? I played baseball with all boys,” she said. “It’s the story of everything I’ve done. Honestly, when I read those tweets, I actually got kind of a smile because then I know that I’m doing something right when I’m getting those remarks.”
Mendoza will be joined in the booth by analyst and former MLB player Aaron Boone, reporter Buster Olney and play-by-play announcer Dan Shulman.