Former softball standout makes history – again

Mendoza (Photo courtesy ESPN Images)
Jessica Mendoza (Photo courtesy ESPN Images)

One of the best hitters ever in softball, JESSICA MENDOZA, ’02 has made history once again.

Mendoza, who was an All-America outfielder for the Stanford softball team from 1998 to 2002, is now pioneering a role for women in a largely male-dominated world of sports broadcasting.

On Aug. 24, she became the first female ESPN baseball analyst when she took the microphone for an edition of Monday Night Baseball. And then when Mendoza joined JOHN KRUK and DAN SHULMAN in calling the 2015 American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 6, she became the first female analyst in Major League Baseball (MLB) postseason history. This week, ESPN announced she would continue serving in that role through the Major League playoffs.

As a broadcaster, she has particular expertise in batting analysis. In an interview, she had some advice for young people preparing to enter the work world:

“Own your differences and don’t always try to fit in. The more unique you are, the more you stand out. If you truly want to be great, don’t get caught up in what has been done before or who has done it,” she said.

Mendoza said when she sometimes felt overwhelmed at ESPN, she recalled her freshman year at Stanford when she admittedly didn’t feel like she was “smart enough to be there.” Mendoza said, “I judged myself in comparison to others around me. I soon learned I not only deserved to be there, but what made me different allowed me to bring something special to each discussion or assignment. I have used that same mentality now to give me the confidence to take on anything big or small within the sports industry.”

Mendoza graduated from Stanford in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in American studies, and earned a master’s degree in social sciences and education in 2003.

The spotlight is nothing new for Mendoza, who holds Cardinal records in batting average (.475), hits (94), stolen bases (31), runs (70) and career home runs (50).

The native of Camarillo, California, helped lead Stanford to their first ever Women’s College World Series appearance (2001) and played on the U.S. Women’s National team from 2004 to 2010. The latter squad took home the Olympic gold medal in Athens, Greece (2004), and the silver medal in Beijing, China (2008). She was also a three-time World Champion (2002, 2006, 2010) and World Cup Champion (2006, 2007, 2010), a two-time Pan American Gold Medalist (2003, 2007), and the USA Softball Athlete of the Year in 2006.

Mendoza joined ESPN in 2007, serving as an analyst for the College World Series and the NCAA Women’s College World Series while also doing sideline reporting for college football. In 2014, she also appeared on Baseball Tonight and in select ESPN MLB game telecasts.

But she’ll always remember her Stanford days.

“Stanford opened up a whole different perspective for me. I learned how to take my own passions and apply them to so many different topics, to open up the way I saw things and own the things that made me unique,” she said.

In particular, Stanford triggered a thirst for knowledge in Mendoza that drives her to this day.

“I found that I can never know enough, and that many times the best form of education is through communication,” said the ESPN broadcaster.