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May 10, 2017

Going the Distance

Jon Matsumoto
  • Allen Kee/ESPN Images

As a star outfielder for Stanford University and the U.S. Women’s National softball team, Jessica Mendoza used to relish pressure-packed moments.

Still, she experienced some jitters upon becoming ESPN’s first female Major League Baseball game analyst in 2015. While sports telecasts are replete with female sideline reporters and in-studio hosts, women are rarely offered the esteemed role of game analyst for one of the major men’s pro sports.

“I realized that there was a lot more responsibility than just me doing a baseball game,” Mendoza says of her early work with ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. “There was a much bigger picture.”

Indeed, the Camarillo, California, native wants to inspire all women trying to break through gender-based barriers, not just women in sports. Now in her second full season with Sunday Night Baseball, Mendoza also aims to help rethink role expectations within families.

She speaks admiringly of her husband, a civil engineer, who quit his job to stay home with their two young boys. This has allowed Mendoza to fully pursue her broadcasting career.

“It’s incredible — the comments he gets,” she reveals. “Like, ‘Why aren’t you working?’ I have so much pride in him. He teaches our kids so much.”

Working as a baseball analyst seems to suit Mendoza, who is also proud to represent her Mexican-American heritage. Curious and outgoing, she thrives on examining the game’s many nuances. But it hasn’t been easy winning over skeptical viewers in a sport so steeped in tradition.

“The audience for baseball tends to be the 55-and-older white guy,” she notes. “But I’ve had older white men come up to me and say, ‘I want to apologize. I finally started to pay attention to the words you are saying. I realize you really know what you’re talking about.’”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, issue No. 4, 2016

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