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Mendoza a Hit In ESPN Booth

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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

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Lauren Shehadi: Ernie Johnson Is The Model For Studio Hosts

“To me, he’s the greatest in-studio host. What he does best is facilitate greatness.”

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In addition to her job at MLB Network being a host on MLB Central, Lauren Shehadi is hosting TBS’s Tuesday night baseball coverage each week with Jimmy Rollins, Curtis Granderson, and Pedro Martinez. The Tuesday night games are new for Turner Sports this year after doing only Sunday games during the regular season in addition to the network’s postseason coverage. 

Shehadi was a guest on The Kyle Koster Show this week and she was asked what the goal was for her with the MLB on TBS Tuesday broadcasts. She takes a lot of inspiration from what she sees on Inside The NBA on TNT.

“I always think about Ernie Johnson in the same building. To me, he’s the greatest in-studio host. What he does best is facilitate greatness. He gets the most out of Shaq and Kenny [Smith] and Charles [Barkley]. If there’s no ego involved, it’s all about how the show can be so great.

“You look at him and you think how can I be like that? You want to be authentic and be yourself, but in the sense of getting the best out of your guys and girls that you talk to every day. That was my goal going in, Be authentic.”

Shehadi said she gets to spend a lot of time with Johnson and the rest of the Turner Sports crew. Tuesday nights tend to be something of a corporate family reunion. 

“On Tuesday nights, we all sit in a room and we all watch NBA, MLB, and NHL when it’s on. We get Shaq’s reaction to Sandy Alcantara’s slider in real-time. What we see from Inside The NBA is when they do demos. When they get up and walk and they are casual and they do little bits, that’s what we try to take to our show, but we want it to feel authentic.” 

When Shehadi isn’t hosting Turner Sports’ baseball coverage, she is a part of MLB Central every weekday on MLB Network with Robert Flores and Mark DeRosa. On that show, the goal for her is how to make baseball relatable to everyone: 

“That’s the sweet spot of MLB Central. No question is silly. Nobody is smarter than the other. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh at each other. It is just a fun 4 hours, grab your coffee, let’s talk the game, let’s laugh because life is short and baseball is fun.” 

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AT&T Sportsnet’s Kelsey Wingert Shows Off Stitches After Being Drilled Line Drive

“The veteran reporter is expected to get married in June. Doctors are “hoping” the scar doesn’t effect her big day.”

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Baseball reporters at the regional level have some of the toughest jobs in all of sports. Not only do they cover each for all 162 games, but there’s always the potential for getting drilled by a foul ball.

While all MLB ball clubs have expanded their netting this season to protect fans sitting close to the field, Rockies sideline reporter Kelsey Wingert suffered a nasty injury via a foul ball earlier this week.

A scary incident took place on Monday’s outing against the Rockies and San Francisco Giants at Coors Field in Denver. In the ninth inning, Giants outfielder Austin Slater hit a foul ball off Daniel Bard, with the ball heading straight to the dugout, right where Wingert was standing while reporting for AT&T Sportsnet.

After getting attended to by the Rockies medical staff and walking it off, giving fans a “thumbs up,” Wingert ended up having to go to the hospital where she received multiple stitches to her forehead.

The 29-year-old reporter took to Twitter on Wednesday to express her gratitude towards the Rockies organization and AT&T Sportsnet general manager David Woodman, who along with his wife Paula, stayed by her side at the hospital.

“I had a CT scan to make sure there was no internal bleeding or fractures and all came back clear. Thank God,” Wingert said on Twitter Wednesday. “The stitches will have to come out in a week. I’m very lucky it wasn’t worse. It was just really scary and bummed me out given the circumstances.”

You would think this was the first time Wingert got hit by a ball but back in 2018 while working for Fox Sports and the Atlanta Braves she was struck by a foul ball while standing near a camera past the Braves dugout, resulting in a fractured eye socket. 

Wingert retweeted a photo taken of her black eye after returning home where she made light of what could’ve been an awful occurrence.

While recovering from her wound, Wingert will be taking a few games off. The veteran reporter is expected to get married in June. Doctors are “hoping” the scar doesn’t effect her big day.

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Greg Olsen To Partner With Kevin Burkhardt For Super Bowl LVII

“Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.”

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The deal isn’t done yet, but Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reports that Greg Olsen is on his way to joining Kevin Burkhardt in the top NFL booth at FOX. Although Tom Brady will take over that role after he retires and leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Olsen will spend at least this season on FOX’s A-Team.

Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.

Earlier this year, the former Panther told The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte that he was disappointed he didn’t get to call a postseason game. He will more than make up for that in 2023. As Burkhardt’s partner, Olsen is in line to be the analyst for Super Bowl LVII.

Marchand writes that we could get a taste of what is to come in February. He speculates that if the Buccaneers are not in the Super Bowl, it is possible Tom Brady could make his FOX debut, either in the booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen or as part of the network’s studio show.

Now, FOX has to make a decision about it’s number 2 NFL booth. According to Marchand, Drew Brees is a candidate to be the analyst. Adam Amin and Joe Davis have emerged as candidates for the play-by-play role.

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