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.
To read the full article visit the USA Today where it was originally published