Major League Baseball, a sport played by men, coached by men, and ran by men, has not given women many opportunities to participate with professional baseball. Whether on the baseball field, in a front office, or in the broadcast booth, women do not have the same opportunity as men to get a job in baseball.
However, in the last 35 years or so, there has been a slight increase in the amount of woman covering professional baseball in the media. By slight increase, I mean now there’s more than zero. Currently, ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza is making a huge name for herself in the baseball media industry, reaching places no women have ever been before. Yet, it is the accomplishments of the few female broadcasters that came before Mendoza that have helped her reach such a high level of status in professional baseball.
Gayle Gardner was hired by ESPN in 1983, anchoring for SportsCenter. Gardner worked for NBC from 1987 to 1993, where she commentated on numerous shows, including Major League Baseball: An Inside Look, NBC’s pregame baseball show. In 1993, Gayle Gardner became the first woman to do play-by-play on TV during a MLB game. The game was played on August 3rd, with the Cincinnati Reds winning over the Colorado Rockies.
In 1995, Suzyn Waldman became the second woman to do play-by-play on TV during a MLB game, and the first woman to broadcast a nationally televised game. At the time, Waldman covered the New York Yankees on their local TV broadcast, WPIX. For 20 years, Waldman worked for YES Network, as a commentator for the New York Yankees Pre-Game Show and Post-Game Show. Since 2005, Waldman has broadcasted Yankee games on WFAN radio with John Sterling, the long-time Yankees radio broadcaster. In an article by Newsday, it was noted that Waldman was the first woman to call a World Series game on the radio in 2009.
According to Sports Illustrated, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner once told Waldman that “he was not thrilled about women covering sports.” “That’s too bad,” Waldman responded, and asked her questions anyway. Waldman would be the boss in this situation.
Speaking of bosses, Jessica Mendoza began her career as a phenomenal softball player for the Stanford Cardinal. She was a four-time First Team All-American outfielder and a member of the United States women’s national softball team from 2004 to 2010.
After her playing career, Mendoza started working for ESPN. In June 2015, Mendoza became the first female broadcaster in the booth for ESPN’s College World Series coverage. In August 2015, Mendoza became the first female to commentate a MLB game for ESPN, which was the St. Louis Cardinals against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Her most impressive broadcasting accomplishment was when Mendoza called the 2015 American League Wild Card Game between the Yankees and Houston Astros, making her the first female to broadcast a playoff game on TV in MLB history. Mendoza joined ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast full-time in 2016. Mendoza called the entire 2017 National League Division Series on ESPN Radio.
In March 2019, it was announced that Mendoza would join the New York Mets front office as a baseball operations advisor to General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen. According to The New York Times, Mendoza will “focus on player evaluation, roster construction, and health and performance.”
According to MLB.com, Mendoza will attend offseason events like the GM Meetings and Winter Meetings, when she won’t have as busy of a TV schedule. She will keep her job at ESPN while working in the Mets front office, with Mendoza planning to check in regularly with the Mets via phone.
In an interview with Mets MLB.com writer Anthony DiComo, Mendoza said, “I am excited to work with Brodie and his team and am thrilled to be associated with the Mets and their storied history. I’ve known Brodie and Jeff Wilpon (Mets chief operating officer) for years now and I’m honored to be a small part of the organization. I would also like to thank ESPN and Disney for their understanding and confidence as I balance both tasks moving forward. Baseball is a passion of mine and I look forward to expanding on my love for the game.”
Jessica Mendoza has gone from softball star to MLB broadcaster to a job in a MLB front office. Of all the female commentators in baseball that came before her, none were hired for a front office job. Mendoza has such a high level of status in broadcasting where she has raised the bar and taken her career to the next level. It is huge that a female is involved in the roster construction of a MLB team. Mendoza is expanding the scope of what is possible for women in professional baseball, and I’m excited to see how high she can climb the MLB ladder.