Jessica Mendoza became the first female in-game analyst on an ESPN broadcast last night


ESPN is a weird place. On the one hand they employ people who think some of the worst ideas are the best to share with the world. On the other hand, they have allowed no shortage of people to blaze trails and do cool things. Let’s focus less on the bad idea parts of that empire right now and focus on a good part, shall we?

Jessica Mendoza made history last night as she became the first female in-game analyst for an MLB game on ESPN.  She did so as she joined ESPN’s Dave O’Brien and Dallas Braden for ESPN2’s broadcast of the Cardinals-D-backs game. I didn’t see the game — didn’t even realize it was going down until this morning — but if anyone did and has some thoughts about it, I’d love to hear them. The opinion on Twitter that I saw was positive. A moment of “oh, a woman” followed by “she did a good job.”

Which is exactly how it should be in that case, and with later cases involving that minus the “oh a woman” part. Which will happen if ESPN makes this a regular thing and not just a gimmick for a late game on their secondary network. Indeed, the most encouraging thing about this was not her mere appearance on a baseball broadcast but that, for once, a major network approached expanding its diversity in a way other than making a special show “just for women” or some such nonsense. Those sorts of initiatives tend to ghettoize unconventional programming or unconventional staffing. The real way to diversify is to simply put people with unconventional backgrounds or demographic profiles in the slots normally held by the conventional. This goes for women and minorities and for non-conventional approaches to the job such as SABR-oriented broadcasts and the like. Mainstream that stuff, folks. You’ll improve your broadcasts thanks to new voices and approaches AND you’ll make the weirdness of it all disappear more quickly.

Back to Mendoza. She has worked the booth before, of course, covering the College World Series and softball in the past. Her background bonafides are without question as well, as she was a member of the 2004 and 2008 Olympic softball team. She has done several turns on Baseball Tonight as well, so it’s not like someone green was thrown in. She’s qualified and, based on what others tell me, was good.

So, any reason, then, why ESPN insists on putting often-distracted buffoons on their flagship baseball broadcast? Or is that some super complicated subject that only true broadcast professionals can understand?

Anthony Volpe, 21, wins Yankees’ starting shortstop job

Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sp

TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Volpe grew up watching Derek Jeter star at shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Now, the 21-year-old is getting the chance to be the Yankees’ Opening Day shortstop against the San Francisco Giants.

The team announced after a 6-2 win over Toronto in spring training that Volpe had won the spot. New York manager Aaron Boone called the kid into his office to deliver the news.

“My heart was beating pretty hard,” said Volpe, rated one of baseball’s best prospects. “Incredible. I’m just so excited. It’s hard for me to even put into words.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, hitting coach Dillon Lawson and bench coach Carlos Mendoza were also present.

Volpe was able to share the news with his parents and other family members near the Yankees’ dugout and said it is something he will never forget.

“It was pretty emotional,” Volpe said. “It was just an unbelievable moment to share with them.”

Volpe, who grew up a Yankees fan, lived in Manhattan as a child before moving to New Jersey. Jeter was his favorite player.

“It’s very surreal,” Volpe said. “I’ve only ever been to games at Yankee Stadium and for the most part only watched him play there.”

Volpe is hitting .314 with three homers, five RBIs and a .417 on-base percentage in 17 Grapefruit League games. He has just 22 games of experience at Triple-A.

Spring training started with Volpe, Oswald Peraza and holdover Isiah Kiner-Falefa competing for the everyday shortstop job. Kiner-Falefa was shifted into a utility role midway through camp, and Peraza was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“While certainly the performance was there, he killed it between the lines,” Boone said of Volpe. “All the other things that we’ve been hearing about showed up. There’s an energy he plays the game with, and an instinct that he has that is evident. He really checked every box that we could have had for him. Absolutely kicked the door in and earned his opportunity.”

Volpe arrived in Florida in December to work out at the Yankees’ minor league complex.

“He’s earned the right to take that spot, and we’re excited for him and excited for us,” Cashman said. “He just dominated all sides of the ball during February and March, and that bodes well obviously for him as we move forward.”

Volpe was selected out of high school with the 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft from Delbarton School in New Jersey. He passed up a college commitment to Vanderbilt to sign with the Yankees.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get into the organization,” Volpe said. “This day, this feeling, this moment was kind of what I’ve worked my whole life for when I made that big decision.”

“Right now it’s crazy,” he added. “I don’t even know what lies ahead but Thursday I just want to go out and play, and have fun.”