• Loading stock data...
Friday, February 23, 2024

From the Field to the Broadcast Booth: Jessica Mendoza’s Story

This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

By: Meaghan McCloskey, @Meaghan_Mc3

Jessica Mendoza, ESPN Analyst and two-time Softball Olympian. Photo courtesy of ESPN Media Zone. 

ESPN Analyst Jessica Mendoza has always liked a challenge. That’s part of why she loves baseball so much.

“In baseball, a guy hits .300 and is still considered really good, even though he’s failing a lot. What other sport has that much failure and you’re still considered good? I love that it challenges you, physically and mentally, no matter how good you are.”

Mendoza also credits her dad, who was a head baseball coach, for giving her the knowledge and understanding of baseball that she has. She was always in his back pocket, wanting to do everything he did. Even though she was involved in a variety of sports as a kid, she had an upper hand in softball because of her baseball background.

“Once the trail is blazed, it’s up to me (and other women in sports) to keep doing a good job for the next generation.”

“There are so many mechanics in baseball and softball. I was able to set myself apart with my knowledge and understanding because of my dad.”

Mendoza’s talent on the field helped lead her to Stanford, where she played for four years before joining the United States Women’s National Softball Team. She chose Stanford because, like softball, it wasn’t necessarily an ‘easy road.’

“I loved that you had to get in as a student. You’re recruited by some great schools, but I loved knowing I would graduate with a degree that represented what I did, compared to what I played. My degree was in American Studies, which had classes from all different schools, such as music, history, English and math. It gave you a lot of options so you could float around because of the variety. It was kind of all over the place, like me.”

After graduating, Mendoza had the chance to represent the United States in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. She said her passion for the sport multiplied by millions when she had ‘USA’ across her chest and heard the National Anthem while wearing it. It also made her realize how many opportunities women in America have in sports.

“You’re interacting with athletes from all over the world and the opportunities women and girls have in America, like youth sports and Title IX, don’t exist in other countries.”

“People take the National Anthem for granted, but you really realize what the song and flag mean when you’re there. I’m never taking the National Anthem for granted again,” Mendoza said.

In 2007, while playing on the national team, Mendoza was approached by ESPN about auditioning for one of their softball analyst positions.

“College softball had really grown and ESPN was looking for more analysts. I was being interviewed a lot while playing and they asked me to audition. I almost said no because of my lack of broadcasting experience, but decided ‘why not?’, auditioned, and loved it. I ended up having five years where I was broadcasting and playing.”

When asked if there was anything she did in college to prepare for broadcasting, Mendoza said she had no interest in it while in college. She wanted to move to D.C. and work in politics and education reform. Now, she says broadcasting is a dream job in so many senses.

“I get to be on field with the players, right now, at one of the most amazing times of the year- postseason baseball. It doesn’t always feel like a job and is something I would do without pay.”

In her current role at ESPN, she earned the honor of being the first female in a broadcast booth for a Sunday Night Baseball telecast. With this came a fair share of pressure and naysayers, which after years of preparation, was nothing Mendoza couldn’t handle.

“I put pressure on myself more than I felt pressure from others. I wanted it to be more of a baseball game than about gender. I didn’t want to be brought in unless it would be continual and because I was the best person for the job, not because of the headlines it would make.”

“I’m a social person and enjoy communicating with people. In college, the hardest part was the social aspect because meeting and interacting with others was just as important to me as workouts and academics.”

“The negativity about being in the booth was something I had to learn how to handle. When I first saw and heard the complaints and criticism about me not belonging in the booth because I’m a girl, I laughed. I grew up around baseball teams and in California, nobody talked like that. I guess you could say I’m blessed with a background not based on gender. I’ve had to modify my relationship with social media because sometimes the things people said would be really hurtful.”

“It took some adjusting for me, but I realized it’s okay to be me and live in the moment. I don’t think about where I could or should be.”

Mendoza is also aware of the responsibility she has to keep doors like this open for a multitude of other women saying, “Once the trail is blazed, it’s up to me (and other women in sports) to keep doing a good job for the next generation.”

While she is a trailblazer, Mendoza credited the likes of Billie Jean King and Donna de Varona for helping give her this kind of opportunity, saying how they were there for Title IX and together established the Women’s Sports Foundation, which Mendoza is also involved with.

“I love being able to educate people on a variety of different stages, whether it’s getting active or staying involved in sports. Youth sports can be expensive, so [WSF] has funding that goes towards helping athletes (and their families) pay for equipment and travel. We’ve also done a lot of work in D.C. to get legislation changed and improved upon to be able to provide opportunities for women and girls.”

When asked about her goals, Mendoza said she wants to make a change in the world by telling stories and creating more education and knowledge in disparities in countries. One example she used was Venezuelan baseball players.

“I want to educate people on the politics of the countries these players are from and bring awareness to situations in their home countries. I want people to think broader than just sports because [these players] aren’t ‘just’ Latin players.”

Mendoza said the hardest part of her job has been adjusting her family life. The mom of two boys, three and seven, she said her husband is tremendous.

“Right now, I’m missing Halloween because of the postseason. Halloween is a pretty big holiday for kids that age, and it sucks having to miss it.”

When asked about how she handles the “work-life balance”, Mendoza’s response was one that everyone should take stock in.

“I want to throw out the term ‘balance’ for working moms. The word ‘balance’ is over our heads because we’re trying to be there for our kids and work, thinking ‘everything will be in balance,’ but it’s never going to be. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to be in one place and focus only on that. It took some adjusting for me, but I realized it’s okay to be me and live in the moment. I don’t think about where I could or should be.”

Finally, Mendoza shared some advice she has for women (or anyone) who want to get into sports or sports broadcasting. She said to, “think broad” and emphasized thinking of long-term possibilities and not just, “here and now.”

“Find four or five things you want to do within television, whether it’s in front of the camera or behind the scenes. A lot of women do what they see, like the more traditional roles of anchoring or sideline reporting. There are some really cool positions out there, like producing, so find out what those are, because they can lead to other positions.”

You can follow Jessica on Twitter, Instagram or her Facebook Fan Page.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Feb 11, 2024; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium.

Tuned In: On Sunday, 123.4 Million Viewers. On Tuesday, 800 Layoffs

CBS delivered monster TV numbers. Days later, Paramount slashed hundreds of jobs.

Three Burning Questions for the NFL’s Offseason

Streaming broadcasts could continue to grow in 2024.

The NFL Is ‘Just Scratching the Surface’ with SpongeBob Super Bowl Broadcast

Sunday’s slime-filled Nickelodeon event is the first alternate Super Bowl telecast.
Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Pat McAfee (left), Lee Corso (center) and Kirk Herbstreit on the ESPN College Gameday set at the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl.

New Streaming Bundle Could Take ‘Edge’ Off the ESPN-Fox College Sports Rivalry

The marriage of rivals could create a new dynamic in college sports.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

How the Negro Leagues Are Staying in the Game


Featured Today

Sabrina-Steph Wasn’t the ‘Battle of the Sexes’—But It Was Part of the Bigger War

The competition could play a factor in increasing the WNBA’s media value.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23), in a Star Wars rebel alliance X-wing fighter pilot-inspired race suit, motions to the crowd to get louder during the driver introductions for the Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale on Nov. 5, 2023.
February 17, 2024

Celebrity Owners, International Ambitions, and $7B Media Deals: Welcome to the New NASCAR

NASCAR boldly keeps pace with the increasingly competitive sports and entertainment world.
February 16, 2024

Wilson Introduced an Airless Basketball for $2,500. We Had Questions

The black, 3D-printed ball appeared in last year’s Slam Dunk Contest.
Emily Henegar, a baker and content creator, made a batch of NFL-inspired cookies featuring Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
February 11, 2024

The ‘Life-Changing’ Economy of Taylor Swift’s NFL Outfits

Appearing in Swift’s game-day wardrobe has been “life-changing” for small businesses.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Finance Manager
New York, NY
Senior Technical Artist - Sports Technology
EA Sports
Orlando, FL
Assistant Manager, Affiliate Operations
Portland, OR
Arizona Diamondbacks

Diamondbacks Heading Into Another Season With MLB in Charge of Media Rights

The D-Backs chose the league over getting their own over-the-air partners.
A Bundesliga camera operator during a match
February 22, 2024

Fan Power in European Soccer Grows As German Football Deal Scuttled 

Weeks of increasingly strident protests lead to end of proposed private equity deal.
Chad Powers
February 22, 2024

Tuned In: Hulu Turning Glen Powell Into Eli Manning With ‘Chad Powers’ Comedy

The ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ star will play the comedic QB Manning created for ESPN+.

Live Sports Are Now High-Tech Experiences

Oracle is leading the technology revolution happening in stadiums across the world.
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi following the victory against Los Angeles FC at BMO Stadium.
February 21, 2024

Lionel Messi Phenomenon Spurs Specialized Media Attention

Messi joins Taylor Swift and Beyoncé for celebrities to have their beat writer at ‘USA Today.’
FuboTV signage
February 21, 2024

FuboTV Lawsuit Against Sports Streaming Giants Likely Faces Uphill Climb

Legal and regulatory drama heightens around the high-profile streaming alliance.
Athletes Unlimited
February 21, 2024

Athletes Unlimited Is Getting All Four of Its Women’s Pro Leagues on ESPN Platforms

The league is reducing its ESPN+ games to make room for other partners.
February 21, 2024

Tuned In: Amazon Said to Be Paying Record $120M to Stream NFL Playoff Game

Is JJ Redick aiming to become ESPN’s Charles Barkley?