ESPN Sunday Night Baseball analyst and Olympic softball gold medalist Jessica Mendoza will be calling her first Little League World Series game tonight at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN between Oregon and Tennessee.
Mendoza’s connections to baseball and softball extend beyond her own career as a player and analyst at the highest levels. Her seven-year-old son Caleb currently plays for Moorpark Little League in California.
Front Row caught up with Mendoza to see what she is most looking forward to in her first trip to Williamsport, Pa.
What does it mean for you to be calling your first Little League World Series game?
I’m so excited. This is an event I’ve watched since I was a young player, but even more recently now that I have two boys. What I’m really looking forward to being a part of is the emotional side of Little League that is so associated with the game of baseball. You find that more on television than anywhere else.
How does having a son who plays Little League change the way you see and experience the game?
I can feel the emotion of being the player. I can feel the emotions of all the parents and coaches, but mostly just how raw it is to play baseball at a young age. They don’t care about letting go. Whether they’re really excited or they’re devastated from a strikeout. They’re just who they are. I think somewhere along the way in the next few years you lose that. There’s something so pure about this age and you think about how great the game of baseball is and this event is two amazing things merging together.
With softball returning to the Olympics in 2020, what impact will that have on the game at the Little League level?
The participation. I think it’s great anytime you can get more attention and notoriety for the highest level. Right now, we see a lot of college softball and we’re starting to see more National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) on TV. There’s nothing like the attention the Olympic Games bring especially here in our country. So now you think about the little five-year-old girl who sees it as an Olympic sport and says, ‘Dad, mom, can you sign me up? I want to play.’ That to me is more important that anything. Getting more girls to be active and secondly to play the sport of softball which will help them so much more in life.
What are you most looking forward to in your first trip to Williamsport?
Hanging out at the games I’m not covering. Once you get in the booth, it’s a little bit more about honing in on the at-bats and all of that. You’re going to have a hard time taking me away. I want to hang out in the stands and on the hill. I want to get some food, talk to the parents and just be with the kids. Run around and pretend like we’re X-Men or re-enact my Star Wars impersonations. Just be a kid.