ESPN baseball and softball analyst Jessica Mendoza has been a trailblazer.
The Olympic gold medal-winning softball star made history as the first female Major League Baseball game analyst on television in 2015 and later that season was the first to do a postseason game.
Last year, she did her broadcasts from what she calls her shop — a barn behind her home in Bend, Oregon. It houses a pickleball court, a gym, a trailer and a studio.
“It was nice having a separate place while I was doing Korean Baseball Organization games in the middle of the night,” she said. When the kids come home from school, they know not to walk in, although her dog did once make a ninth-inning appearance.
With baseball season approaching, B+C business editor Jon Lafayette interviewed Mendoza. Here’s an edited transcript of their conversation.
What did you miss about not being at the ballpark last season? From an analyst point of view, the bulk of what I love to bring to the broadcast comes from standing around that batting cage. You hear someone yell to Justin Turner about his front foot, then you ask him and he says he’s working on getting his weight distributed more on his front side, and that ends up being an entire inning of a conversation.
How has covering games from home changed how you do your job? Now instead of waiting till I’m around players, I dive more into the numbers and into their personalities. I’ve checked more Instagrams from a lot of players and it’s interesting what they put out there. I’ve actually learned more about them as people by scrolling their timelines and seeing things you didn’t know they were passionate about, like social justice, especially after [last year’s killing of] George Floyd. It really blew me away because in the sport of baseball, it’s not common to say the hard thing. You see that in football, the NBA for sure, but not in baseball.
All-time favorite TV show? Sex and the City. When my sisters all get together, we’ll watch like 12 episodes.
A favorite app? Recreation.gov. It's where you go to book campsites. I probably booked 30 different campsites last month. My husband says I’m obsessed.
Destination on your bucket list? Last November, I had booked a trip to Peru to hike Machu Picchu. A friend coaches a softball team down there and I was going to stay with some of the families and get the real history of that area.
Books on your nightstand? Glennon Doyle’s Untamed, Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Recent memorable meal? My husband and I just went on a date, which is rare. Sushi’s my favorite food and we went to Bend Izakaya Ronin. It opened right after COVID and we wanted to support it. We talked with the owner and the waiters for hours. The food was amazing, too. It was so cool being back in a restaurant in person.
How has working from home changed your personal time? I’ve been on travel teams since I was 10 and I never really knew a different life. Now we spend a ton of time in the outdoors. We bought a trailer and we park in the middle of a forest. We’re 30 minutes from a lift and we’re on the mountain snowboarding with our two boys two or three days a week. I started skate-skiing. I like it because it’s very difficult. I face-planted twice the last time I went. And I’m doing mountain bike camp, learning how to go down mountains and all kinds of crazy stuff I should not be doing now that I’m 40.
When you get that call to go cover games in New York, Boston and Baltimore, how are you going to react? I’m hoping there will be some sort of hybrid lifestyle change. How much do we need to be there in person from a cost standpoint? From a life standpoint? Can we still be as productive, if not more productive? Getting to the airport, checking in through security, that takes away time. That time could be spent with my family, yes, but also in preparation.
You’ve been a trailblazer. Do you still feel it’s important to be an inspiration for girls and women? Everyone has days where work is hard and stressful, but it just takes a moment to remind you why it’s worth it. A lot of times it’s a father. His daughter kept asking why there weren’t any women on the Yankees, and then she heard my voice, and it was like, ‘Yes, women are in baseball.’ My husband reminds me all the time, it’s bigger than me. It’s about all these girls. It’s about the women. It’s about people I don’t even know.
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.