24 October 2015: Exactly Why ESPN Does Need a Softball Player in the BoothPosted: October 24, 2015
Earlier this year, a particular headline caught my attention. It reported that Jessica Mendoza was becoming the first female MLB commentator and making her debut on Monday Night Baseball. I chose to watch the game (it was a Cardinals game, after all) and while it was clear that Mendoza was still learning to navigate her new position in the press box, the game ended and I had not once experienced the urge to mute the television — a common problem I encounter with new commentators. In fact, I appreciated the insight Mendoza offered throughout the game and looked forward to her future coverage with ESPN.
When Mendoza was announced as the latest addition to the MLB crew, I joked around that she had taken my dream job. Every time I sit down to watch a game, I find myself not only commenting on the plays on the field, but also on the often-ridiculous remarks that are said in the press box (this is how Sez You was born, after all). I have watched baseball since I was a kid, back when my brother was swinging a Mark McGwire-brand plastic wiffle ball bat, and I played softball competitively for seven years. I have been a dedicated Cardinals fan for 10 years, staying up past my bedtime to watch every playoff game I could. I study the headlines during the season, analyze trades in the off-season, and count down the days until Opening Day. And I believe, that if given the opportunity, I could hold my own in a press box offering semi-snarky, yet valuable insight into the game of baseball. And yet, I’ve never technically played baseball.
As the weather cools down (for most places outside of Tennessee), post-season baseball heats up, and often, there is no shortage of emotion. Still, social media continues to teach us an important lesson about emotion and its consequences: sometimes it’s productive, sometimes it’s not. Earlier this month, Atlanta-based radio host Mike Bell took issue with Mendoza’s commentary for one reason: she has never played baseball. Yet, after reading his line of terribly offensive tweets regarding the matter, it is clear that lack of baseball experience (which does not, by the way, take into account her vast experience as a professional softball player or Olympic gold medal) was not the issue. Plenty of announcers in the ESPN crew are not former baseball players. Further, Mendoza was able to move to Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts because of the suspension of, former player — Curt Schilling — for offensive comments made on the Internet (Bell and
Schilling may get along in that department). Talent on the field does not equate to a good fit in the booth (I for one have listened to plenty of former players who are infuriating with a mic). Which leaves one conclusion: Bell’s problem did not lie with Mendoza being a softball player – or not being a baseball player. Instead, it was with the fact that she is a woman, in a job that historically belonged to men.
Well Mr. Bell, your comments were offensive to me as a woman, but also as a fan of baseball. Implying that men are inherently better suited for a job in sports is a dangerous slope to tread on – dangerous, not to mention misguided. My passion for baseball has grown over the years, in part, because those around have encouraged me and embraced my opinion. And as a female who periodically corrects her male peers when it comes to the game of baseball, I can say, with certainty, that y’all are not intrinsically more knowledgeable about our nation’s pastime.
Katie Thompson is one half of the Sez You Crew: baseball lover, coffee drinker, picture taker. Ashley Judd lookalike. Take your pick.