Fast Break: Jessica Mendoza

Jessica Mendoza pictured above during her days as a player for Stanford.

 Jessica Mendoza’s achievements rival any top athlete. A member of the US Women’s National softball team (2001-2010), Mendoza earned a gold medal in Athens (2004) and a silver medal in Beijing (2008), is a three time World Champion (2002, 2006, 2010), a three-time World Cup Champion (2006, 2007, 2010) and a two-time Pan America Gold Medalist (2003, 2007). She was named the 2006 USA Softball Athlete of the Year and the 2008 Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year.

In college, Jessica was a four-time first team All-American, first team All-Region and All-Pac-10 player at Stanford University. She earned the 1999 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year and 2000 Pac-10 Player of the Year accolades. In 2001, she helped lead Stanford to the program’s first-ever NCAA Women’s College World Series appearances and finished her career holding several school records. She graduated from Stanford with a bachelor’s in America studies and a master’s in social sciences in education.

An ESPN softball analyst and football sideline reporter, as well as an espnW advisory board member and online contributor, Jessica was recently president of the Women’s Sports Foundation (2009-10), as well as an Athlete Ambassador for Team Darfur and Right to Play to help children in Africa.   She is a member of the Latin Sports Hall of Fame (2006)

FR: Having played in the WCWS with Stanford – what advice would you give the players competing this weekend?

JM: I would tell them not to change a thing. Emotions are bigger, stage is bigger, attention is bigger, but the game is still the same. Nerves will come, but EMBRACE this moment and play the same game that got you here.

FR: You called games for your alma mater Stanford in the Super Regional – do those types of games have more significance for you?

JM: Yes and no.  Before the game and after, definitely, because I am so close to the school, players, coaching staff and traditions. There is no better school that represents the true meaning of student-athletes than Stanford. But when the game starts, I make sure to erase what is on the front of the jerseys and just pay attention to who is in them.

FR: Which two teams do you expect to be the last two standing in the NCAA Women’s College World Series and playing for the national title?

JM: This is so tough to stay because this is such an even field. If asked today I have to go with fifth-seeded Missouri, who has the best pitching and fourth-seeded Florida, who is tops in hitting. It makes it ironic since these two teams face each other the first night of play, so one would have to fight their way through the loser’s bracket.

FR: Who are the top players left in the eight-team field in Oklahoma City?

JM: I like several players left in the tournament field but these select individuals stand out to me: Chelsea Thomas (Missouri), Mariah Gearhart (Oklahoma State), Katelyn Boyd (Arizona State), Whitney Canion (Baylor), Keilani Ricketts (Oklahoma), Michelle Moultrie & Kelsey Bruder (Florida), Jamia Reid (Cal) and Whitney Larsen (Alabama). 

FR: Give the readers an interesting tidbit about one of the players or teams that are still competing?

JM: Cal is the only seeded team of the entire postseason pool that was not able to host because their facility lacks the requirements. Their program won a national championship in 2002 and they are consistently in the top 10 every year, yet they do not have the financial backing to have a stadium that can host a postseason Regional or Super Regional. Does this phase them – no? They have been on the road for over two weeks and counting, traveling to Louisville, Ky. for regionals and then Lexington, Ky. for Super Regional. They come to Oklahoma City being the most hotel-lived in, on-the-road warriors and are ready to take it all in Oklahoma City!

FR: What is the most compelling story of the WCWS?

JM: There are almost too many stories to tell but University of Alabama tops my list. Being in Tuscaloosa last week, it is hard not to feel the emotion these student-athletes have gone through with school being cancelled until August and driving by complete devastation on their way to practice every day. The weight of a town on their shoulders, and an unbelievably elated crowd when they won – it is like nothing I have seen in college softball.

FR: What is your favorite aspect of the sport of softball?

JM: Wow – there are so many things.  I LOVE this sport – the tempo and rhythm of the game. The fact that the game changes pace and it is so unpredictable. You can have some slower innings where nothing is really happening and then without warning a homerun is hit, or a spectacular catch is made and your heart is racing. Or the situation where the bases are loaded in the bottom of the 7th and there is so much pressure in the air you can hardly breathe because you really don’t know what will happen next… Yes, I LOVE this game!

FR: How do you balance your home life with heavy travel schedule during the softball season?

JM: Balance is a funny word when you are a parent. I have learned that my life will never be perfectly balanced again. Right now, my son is with me at the Women’s College World Series, so I can spend some time in the morning and at night with him, which is the best to have both worlds (look for him roaming the crowds on ESPN!).  Otherwise, I am on the road loving my job and missing my family, but then I go home and just love spending every single minute with them. I make sure I am never away from home too long, and if it a longer trip, like this one, we make it work so the whole family is together. Two words make this all work: amazing husband.

FR: When not talking softball, or spending time with your family, what are your other hobbies?

JM: I love being in or near water. Whether I am at the beach with a paddle board or hiking around lakes and rivers – I am in heaven. During winter months, I love snowboarding and I know this is crazy, but I really love working out – pushing yourself to a limit and knowing you are stronger for it.

Learn more about ESPN’s coverage and see the full schedule.

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