ESPN reporters Kaylee Hartung and Jessica Mendoza will pull double-duty on the network’s NCAA Division Baseball Championship coverage. Each will work on the sidelines of a Super Regionals site this weekend before sharing the reporter role on College World Series telecasts (June 15-26).
Front Row asked Hartung — a Longhorn Network reporter — and Mendoza — who also works as an ESPN college softball analyst — about job challenges, a dream interview, playing sports and more.
What are some challenges you face as a sideline reporter?
JM: Constantly learning. The sideline reporter role is not the same for every person or every show. I feel my role changes depending on if I’m working football, college baseball or MLB. Whether it’s storylines, in-game news or my athletic instincts picking up on something I see or hear, I enjoy trying to get this quality information to the viewers.
KH: The challenges of sideline reporting are unique, regardless of the sport. I see it as a huge responsibility to be the telecast’s eyes and ears on the field. I have the best seat in the house — that’s more of a blessing than a challenge.
One team will leave Omaha a national champion. For some of these athletes it may seem like the greatest day of their lives, certainly for all of them a day they will never forget. I feel incredibly lucky to get to be a part of that experience.
You began your TV career covering politics. What similarities are there between working in politics and sports?
KH: In my mind, whether you’re covering politics or sports, it is the same craft. It’s all about storytelling and fact-finding. In sports, as in politics, there is passion, pageantry, intrigue, excitement, disappointment and sometimes a chance for redemption. Every day brings a new story to tell.
Additionally, they are both businesses of relationships. As my former boss Bob Schieffer [host of CBS’ Face The Nation] says about his days spent at the Pentagon — the best stories about the Navy came from the Air Force, the best stories about the Air Force came from the Army, and so on. The same can be applied to a sports team or a league.
Did you learn anything from your own interviews as a player [Note: Mendoza won gold and silver with the U.S. Olympic softball team] that you utilize in your career now?
JM: I feel athletes get very used to the same questions and that is when you get cliché answers. But when a reporter goes a little out of his or her way to ask something unique and different, that is when the personality and realism can be brought to light. I always gave my best answers to questions that stood out.
Thoughts on working together at the CWS?
KH: I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to work with and learn from Jessica. Nevertheless, I think the most valuable lesson I can learn from her has nothing to do with the great work she does in front of the camera. She is a wife and a mother and she has done an incredibly admirable job of finding a balance among all of her responsibilities.
JM: I actually spoke with Kaylee at length last fall during football season when I had a Texas game. She was incredibly helpful with information. We rarely are able to interact with other reporters, and when the opportunity presents itself, I truly feel I learn so much. I really look forward to working with her in Omaha.
What sports personality or athlete would you like to interview — active, retired, alive or deceased?
KH: [Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback] Roger Staubach. There’s just no one quite like him. I worked the Navy football package for CBS Sports Network for two seasons and always hoped I would have the chance to meet him. His life’s trajectory has been an absolutely fascinating journey.
JM:[Olympic champion] Babe Didrikson. She was a pioneer and a complete kick-butt athlete way ahead of her time. I would have loved to sit down and talk with her.