Mendoza gives Mets-Royals rematch even more significance
By Mark Newman
NEW YORK -- Jessica Mendoza calls it "Game 6."
"Sunday Night, our first game, first time in baseball history that we have a rematch of the World Series -- the Mets and Royals. Are you kidding me? How perfect," the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball analyst said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America."
"To me, even without the drama and emotion with the way it ended, we have both starting pitchers from that Game 5, so really this is like a Game 6 for this game. When I think about these two teams, the emotion and how good they are, a great matchup."
Matt Harvey will start for the Mets and Edinson Volquez will start for the Royals. The 2015 World Series banner will be raised in pregame ceremonies. And Mendoza will be telling it like it is as an official member of the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team.
Mendoza, the 35-year-old former Olympic softball gold medalist, continues her series of firsts as a broadcast trailblazer, having become the first woman to broadcast an MLB postseason game on national TV last fall when she joined the booth for the Astros-Yankees American League Wild Card Game.
Mendoza was at GMA in Times Square on Friday, along with a slew of Major League Baseball mascots (#GMAMascotMadness) as well as members of the Harlem Little League from MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. Fittingly, Mendoza was interviewed by another pioneer, former ESPN anchor Robin Roberts, who told Mendoza that her family must be proud of where she will be Sunday.
"Having a Hispanic background, especially. My father -- there's so much there," Mendoza said. "But to me, it's also a lot of women that I want to be able to do anything. You're a trailblazer yourself. I just think about so many women who are out there. It's having a passion to do whatever they want to do."
This was not exactly Mendoza's life ambition, as she told a boy named Darnell during an on-camera Q&A with members of the Harlem Little League.
"I graduated from Stanford, and wanted to move to D.C. and work on educational reform," she said when asked if she wanted to transition from a softball player to an MLB analyst. "I know we had Bernie Sanders here earlier. I wanted to be a senator and get into politics. I ended up making the Olympic team and never quite made it to D.C. But obviously being an Olympic athlete, TV was always a part of what I was about, and it led to where I am now."
Mendoza was in the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball booth in a guest analyst capacity during the 2015 season, and in January, ESPN made her addition official. She's pro bat flip, she's cerebral, she is well-regarded among players and she is likely to shake some things up.
Mendoza told Roberts her favorite moment from that breakthrough season was an obvious one: Jake Arrieta's no-hitter for the Cubs last Aug. 30 at Dodger Stadium.
"My very first Sunday night game, a no-hitter -- the only no-hitter in Sunday Night Baseball," she said. "Really just being in the booth with Aaron Boone, Dan Shulman -- the voice of baseball -- and honestly, I get giddy. I mean, I'm talking baseball with these guys. As much as you want that one moment, it's every time I'm in the booth. I don't take it for granted."
Mendoza said her passion for the sport began at the age of 5 or 6.
"My dad was a college baseball coach, in the dugout, just being around the guys, and I always felt like one of them," she said. "To me, that passion began there -- just watching dad, watching the older guys and sitting back on the bench, thinking I was just one of them. For me, the passion began there. And of course, just starting to play."
When one of the girls from Harlem Little League asked why there are no women playing in the Majors, Mendoza alluded to another female ballplayer of note.
"To me, we need more opportunities for girls to play baseball and continue to get more girls playing," she said. "Because I think the more girls we get, the more Mone Davises who are out there, I have no doubt there will be a girl in Major League Baseball as long as we continue to get the girls playing. So you keep it up."
The Mets-Royals game will cap off an ESPN tripleheader on Sunday, the first day of the regular season. The schedule that day begins with Cardinals at Pirates at 1:05 p.m. ET, followed by Blue Jays at Rays at 4:05 ET. Both of those games will be streamed live on MLB.TV.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.