When Jessica Mendoza stepped in to the ESPN booth for a game between the Cardinals and the Diamondbacks last June, she made history as the first woman analyst featured on a MLB broadcast. Six days later, she was back in the booth, calling Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter against the Dodgers. And because this is America and a great deal of people still think for some reason that a woman has no place calling a professional baseball game, she received an unwarranted amount of criticism.
So what did Mendoza do about it? Much like the athletes themselves, Mendoza spent her offseason dedicating time to furthering herself as an anayst. In the Sporting News’s story by Jesse Spector, which you can read here, she talked about how she read books on Cuban and Latin culture in order to better understand where many of today’s star players are coming from. That’s quality research, but the more impressive research came through one-on-one interactions with the player’s themselves. Read the below quote from Spector‘s feature:
“Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays, we actually hit for some time together, he was showing me some stuff. He got into me about how he was struggling with the changeup two years ago. He’s like, ‘You were so wrong, that was not why I was struggling.’ That was awesome, because it wasn’t like, ‘I disagree because you’re female.’ When I hear negatives, it’s like, ‘She never played,’ or ‘She’s not a guy.’ That, to me, just gets tiring. It’s old. Let’s come up with something that’s more 2016. Meaning, ‘I disagree with the way you talked about how I hit a changeup.’ Thank you, Josh Donaldson. It was great, because we ended up in the cage for three hours where he was explaining it to me. That’s what I want.”
Mendoza has spent time hitting with Donaldson, done pilates with Cubs ace Jake Arrieta to get a better idea of how he uses his body to throw a slider and gotten inside Hunter Pence’s mind with a deep discussion of reading lists, which for Pence includes books on subjects from business to Buddhism that the Giants outfielder then applies to being a leader in the clubhouse.
How about that? You get rewarded for your knowledge of the game with a full-time position at ESPN and what do you do? Mendoza didn’t mail it in, update her LinkedIn profile and shout ‘I made it!’. No, she actively did her research, and from what I can see, she did it better than the majority of baseball reporters out there. How many times have you seen Tim Kurkjian run agility ladder drills with Billy Hamilton or the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham catch a bullpen for Koji Uehara? Zero, that’s how many. Not that either of those things are included in the job description, but with a full season ahead of her and a small yacht’s worth of naysayers waiting to criticize, she went above and beyond to provide viewers with stellar incite.
Complete side note but who would you want to take batting practice with the most? Definitely not Bryce Harper, because he’d probably yell at me for not being a chiseled human being like he is. Definitely not Pablo Sandoval because I’d rather not get hot sauce on my batting gloves. Give me a pitcher so I have a chance at out-slugging him. Where’s Jake deGrom? Yeah I’ll hit with him.