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ESPN's Jessica Mendoza On Being The First Woman To Call A MLB Playoff Game

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Plenty of history could be made in the Major League Baseball playoffs. For starters, the Cubs are trying to reach the World Series, which the Cubs last won more than a century ago, when the Model T was a brand new car. Some history has already been made this October.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

ESPN broadcaster Jessica Mendoza made it on national television. Here's our colleague, David Greene.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Jessica was an Olympic gold medal-winning softball player. After her playing career, she made the transition to the broadcast booth and became the first woman to call a College World Series in June this year. And then she topped that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JESSICA MENDOZA: This is a spot that Tanaka likes to hit. But it's a beautiful spot for this lefty hitter.

GREENE: That is Jessica last week calling the wild card playoff game between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium. She became the first woman ever to call a Major League Baseball playoff game, and she joins us on the line. Jessica, welcome to the program.

MENDOZA: Thank you, David. I'm excited to be here.

GREENE: So gender aside, just tell me how it felt last week to sit in that booth in historic Yankee Stadium, getting ready to call a do-or-die playoff game and make history at the same time?

MENDOZA: My approach, like, coming into it was, like, all right, this is just like the other games, you know, no big deal. And then you get there, and just the atmosphere was on a completely different level. I mean, there was just a ton of people down on the field. If you look up, you see Billy Crystal. And there's, like, celebrities left and right. And you're like, OK, like, this is going to be a little bit different.

GREENE: Different because it's just playoff fever and maybe the most historic, you know, place in all of Major League Baseball or were you also thinking about the difference being a woman in this position and breaking a barrier here?

MENDOZA: You know, I wasn't even thinking about my gender or anything. I literally was so in tune with the game. But I felt like it was - it was different because, one, it's Yankee Stadium, and they hadn't been in the playoffs in two years. And that's huge for them in October to be having a playoff game in the wild card atmosphere.

GREENE: I think about some of the reaction that came in to your calling the Yankees-Astros playoff game, that there was a lot of support, but there were some on social media who seemed to get pretty mean. I mean, I'm looking at a few of the tweets. (Reading) You're telling me there isn't a more qualified baseball player ESPN can use than a softball player? Another tweet, don't believe when a woman is talking baseball to me in the ESPN booth. It killed it for me, sorry. Where do you think that is coming from in this day and age?

MENDOZA: Change. I mean, I think any time you get change on any front, you're going to get resistance. I was actually expecting there to be a lot more. What I was hoping for was just, if they were going to come and attack me, just have it be a little bit more substantive. Like, you know, coming after maybe a specific analysis that I had said, not so much the fact that I was female.

GREENE: Do comments like that hurt?

MENDOZA: No, I mean I've been the girl always trying to play with the boys, you know? Like, I played baseball with all boys. They didn't want to play catch with me. I mean, it's the story of everything I've done. Honestly, when I read those tweets, I actually got kind of a smile because then I know that I'm doing something right when I'm getting those remarks.

GREENE: Should it have taken this long? Should it be 2015 when we're hearing the first female voice in a Major League broadcast booth?

MENDOZA: Definitely not. I mean, I think that's probably been the biggest surprise because I figured it had happened already. It's 2015. And I just want to get to the point where we're hearing female voices as much as we're hearing men's

GREENE: ESPN's Jessica Mendoza who, this year, became the first woman to call a Major League Baseball game in the playoffs. Jessica, thanks so much.

MENDOZA: Thank you, David.

MONTAGNE: And a point of clarification, listeners this morning have rightly pointed out that other women have called Major League Baseball playoff games. Mendoza is the first to call a nationally televised playoff game. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.