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Mendoza a Hit In ESPN Booth

Jason Barrett

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Jessica Mendoza is one of the best hitters of the 21st century, but as she sat in the TV booth at Dodger Stadium Aug. 30 for a “Sunday Night Baseball” game between the Cubs and Dodgers, she assumed the worst.

She knew full well the social media fate that usually befalls an unfamiliar female voice on any sports-related program, let alone one as visible as ESPN’s exclusive national showcase.

“I was just ready, going in with my battle armor,” she said.

That proved unnecessary.

Mendoza’s Sunday night debut — the second game of her life as an analyst at a Major League Baseball game — was an immediate, almost universal hit among fans and professional critics alike.

“It did make me feel good that [the reaction] wasn’t as bad as I thought,” she said.

Within days what was supposed to be a one-game fill-in for Curt Schilling turned into a rest-of-the-season assignment. She since has done two more Sunday games and this weekend will be at Citi Field when the Mets host the Yankees in the Subway Series finale.

Mendoza was not surprised she could do the job, but the speed with which all this has unfolded has come as a bit of a shock.

“I feel like there’s been so much support of it, which also helped give me more confidence as well,” she said. “I don’t know if ‘surprised’ is the right word, but it definitely has been not as expected how this entire thing has come about.”

Mendoza, 34, has proved to be a natural communicator, but another key to acceptance is her athletic credentials. She was a softball star at Stanford, won an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and a silver in 2008 and also played professionally before retiring early last year.

She said her ESPN partner, John Kruk, got a text during that Aug. 30 game from recently inducted Hall of Famer John Smoltz asking him who the female voice belonged to.

“He was like, ‘Google her,’ ” Mendoza said. “Five minutes later he got back to him and said like, ‘Wow, OK.’ ”

Hitting softballs and baseballs is not exactly the same thing, of course, but Mendoza said it is less different than one might expect. Her ability to talk baseball was further enhanced by her days playing baseball as a youngster and taking batting practice with the baseball players her father, Gil, coached at a community college near their Southern California home.

“I never changed my swing, so nothing was ever different,” she said. “There are definitely differences with the two games, but the hitting aspect, it really doesn’t change . . . I would see pitches more up in the zone than a baseball hitter would, kind of like I look up versus down, but swing-wise they’re identical.”

Mendoza said she still would be playing and preparing for Rio in 2016 had the IOC not booted softball (and baseball) out of the Olympic Games effective in 2012.

“As much as the worst thing that ever happened was those sports being eliminated from the Olympics, it was a blessing in disguise for me in the sense that I don’t think these [TV] opportunities would have happened later, after my career post-Olympics,” she said.

“As soon as I retired I needed something that was really going to challenge me and I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to take a lot of work to fill that void I’ve been doing for 25 years on the field.”

So far, so good.

To read the rest of the article visit Newsday where it was originally published

Sports TV News

Chris Fallica Leaving ESPN for FOX

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Jordan Bondurant

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A prominent sports betting voice featured on ESPN’s College GameDay will be heading to rival FOX and their Big Noon Kickoff show starting in 2023. According to Awful Announcing, Chris Fallica, affectionately known as “The Bear”, will make his last appearance on GameDay will be this weekend.

Fallica has been with ESPN since 1995. Since 2013, Fallica had been featured on GameDay making betting picks with his patented “Bear’s Board”.

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Fallica joins Tom Rinaldi as the second former GameDay voice to jump over to FOX and be featured on Big Noon Kickoff.

Both shows have experienced incredible viewership growth this season. For GameDay, there have been several weeks this season that have seen some of the largest audiences in the show’s history.

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Sports TV News

Tim Brando Believes Executives Look For Familiarity, Not Great Voices For Announcers

“Executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio. As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Tim Brando has seen the broadcasting industry has evolved in a lot of ways through the years, but one thing that’s remained constant is how infrequently some of the announcing gigs with major networks open up to younger voices.

That’s mainly because you have veteran talent already occupying those positions with no plans for the immediate future to step aside.

On a recent edition of The Sports Talkers Podcast, FOX Sports broadcaster and host Tim Brando spoke to Stephen Strom about the reality that many broadcasters face.

“Yeah there are a lot more jobs, but there are fewer great jobs,” Brando said. “A lot of guys are getting jobs, but it’s like a dead end.”

But in terms of hiring younger talent for network jobs, he thinks it’s become more about adding faces to broadcast booths rather than voices.

“There’s a tendency I think now in our business to hire more visible and perhaps more popular talent because they’ve been in the studio,” he said. “But they’re not ready to be in the booth. Not everybody can do both well.”

Tim added that there’s a nuance to calling play-by-play versus working studio coverage. Brando said that perhaps it has a lot more to do with young broadcasters bypassing getting their start in radio and going right into TV.

“It seems to me that in some circles anyway in our business, executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio,” he said. “As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Brando did mention some of the younger voices at FOX who have risen to the bigger opportunities in the booth, and how they ultimately worked their way up. He said he’s had the chance to offer advice to a few of them and act as a mentor in a way, because that’s how it was for him breaking into the industry.

“I believe in pouring into the young broadcasters out there, I really do,” he said. “Because Curt Gowdy poured into me. I think there’s a responsibility and a level of accountability for the generation before to help those that are coming up that you really respect.”

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Sports TV News

MLB Network Airing 38 Hours of Winter Meetings Coverage

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jordan Bondurant

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The annual winter meetings for MLB are set to take place in-person for the first time since 2019 next week, and MLB Network is ready to bring viewers all the coverage possible from San Diego.

The network is devoting 38 hours of live programming on-site, with shows like MLB Tonight, Hot Stove, High Heat, MLB Now and Intentional Talk emanating from the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fans tuning in to MLB Network can expect to see Greg Amsinger, Fran Charles, Brian Kenny, Stephen Nelson, Alanna Rizzo, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Lauren Shehadi and Matt Vasgersian hosting their respective shows throughout the week. Sean Casey, Mark DeRosa, Al Leiter, Cameron Maybin, Kevin Millar, Dan O’Dowd, Steve Phillips and Harold Reynolds will contribute coverage as analysts.

MLB Network will also carry coverage of the inaugural draft lottery from the winter meetings on Tuesday, December 6 at 8:30 p.m.

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