Jessica Mendoza might be the most powerful woman in baseball. A member of the ESPN family since 2007 and Sunday Night Baseball analyst since 2016, she also has some game of her own. Ms. Mendoza is a two-time Olympic medalist with USA Softball, a Little League® mom, and has to be one of the coolest Coach Pitch coaches in the world. Ms. Mendoza has served as a major role model for women in sports throughout her illustrious career and is co-chair of the Women’s Sports Foundation Athlete Advisory Panel. In 2015, she became the first female analyst for a nationally televised MLB Postseason game. A few months prior, she became the first female ESPN MLB game analyst during the August 24, 2015 edition of Monday Night Baseball and earlier in the year became the first female analyst for a Men’s College World Series telecast. And she had the call for the first-ever MLB Little League Classic.
Here’s Little League’s Six Innings Conversation with Jessica Mendoza.
First Inning: How important is it for people to volunteer and become a coach?
A coach is like a Sharpie on your brain, it’s a permanent marker. I remember some of the things that were told to me by coaches at the youngest of ages. It’s not only the information that you’re sharing as far as the knowledge of the game, but the role model that you are. Yes, I learned a lot of skills, but it was the conversations about life that we had all along the way. The coach is the one that can be a huge influence on these kids’ lives.
Second Inning: Why is it so important for girls to get involved in sports?
For girls to be able to play sports is one of the most important things because of all of the life choices you have to make. I played a lot of sports growing up, but the important part was that it gave me the confidence to say no when I had friends telling me to do something I didn’t want to do, to find out who I was, and to know that I was a strong girl.
Third Inning: What advice would you have for a kid that might be scared to get involved in softball or baseball?
I see fear a lot of times in girls and boys playing baseball and softball. It’s not a sport you can just pick up and jump right in. There are mechanics and there are things that you have to learn, but at the end of the day it’s about having fun. I was awful when I first started playing softball. I struck out once playing Tee Ball, but I had the biggest grin on my face because to me it’s about being with your friends, enjoying the game, and not your individual accomplishments. It’s a game of failure, but it’s also a game of learning and having fun with your friends.
Fourth Inning: What impact do you want to have on the future of sport?
The biggest thing is to encourage girls to be themselves. I don’t want them to be me. I learned that I didn’t want to be someone else, but being a role model is important to be able to show strong women. I think now, more than ever, it’s important for girls to be able to see themselves in someone else. My biggest goal for any young girl is for them to figure out who they are, look themselves in the mirror and realize ‘this is who I am,’ and then look back and see someone that is strong, smart, and beautiful. A lot of times we are trained as girls and women to find all the faults, and I just want girls to be able to look at themselves and understand that they are who they are and be the best version of that every time they wake up.
Fifth Inning: What advice would you have for a softball player getting ready to take the field before a game?
Remember why you play. I’m just as guilty of that as anyone. At the end of the day, if I could go back and play one more game, I would close my eyes and have the biggest grin on my face. I would just say, “Let’s do this. Let’s get grassy, let’s get dirty, and let’s have some fun.” That’s why we play. I think a lot of the times we get caught up on how we win and how to be successful, and I get it, but that’s what practice is for. When game day comes, just let it loose and have fun.
Sixth Inning: What advice would you have for moms who aren’t sure if they should get their kids involved in Little League?
Little League isn’t just about playing baseball or softball, it’s about community. One of the biggest things I learned, and I didn’t realize it when I was playing, but now can as a parent, is how much it really brings community together. There’s something about Little League, especially when you put it across your chest and you go out there and represent your community in different Districts. There’s a pride that comes with that. It’s a fun thing to do, but the most important thing is that it gets everyone involved throughout the entire community.