When I covered the Little League World Series this summer, I interviewed three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez and U.S. Olympic softball gold medalist Jessica Mendoza, retired players who are now broadcasters on ESPN. They teamed up to call the MLB Little League Classic, and they’ll call the AL wild card Game on Wednesday, October 2, at 8 p.m.
Rodriguez won a World Series with the New York Yankees and was a 14-time All-Star in 20 MLB seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, and Yankees. He started broadcasting for ESPN in 2018 and also works for Fox.
Mendoza was a four-time first-team All-America Division I softball player at Stanford as a centerfielder and also played for Team USA as a leftfielder, winning three world championships. She first joined ESPN in 2007 and in ’15 became the first female analyst for a nationally televised MLB postseason game. The following year, she became part of the Sunday Night Baseball crew.
I spoke to Rodriguez and Mendoza about their favorite moments from their careers, the friends they made along the way, and what it’s like being a broadcaster for ESPN. I talked to Mendoza first.
What are your favorite memories from playing?
Winning an Olympic gold medal was top of the list. It sounds cliché because an Olympic gold medal is pretty cool, but to represent your country, and you work so hard—we did it in Athens, Greece, which is where the original Olympic Games were held! I’m a history nerd, so to have that come full circle was really, really special.
Who were some of your closest friends on the U.S. national team?
Stacey Nuveman was in my wedding; she was a bridesmaid. I was in her wedding. She was our catcher, our rock. Jennie Finch is a really good friend and honestly I feel like the best ambassador that we have for the sport of softball. She has done such a tremendous job. Leah Amico is someone I really look up to. Laura Berg, another outfielder. There’s a lot. I love my teammates; they are like my sisters.
What do you enjoy most about broadcasting with the ESPN team?
Now working with Alex Rodriguez, Matt Vasgersian, and Buster Olney, I just honestly love how much we get to learn. Not only about the game, but then how we turn that around and teach it to the people that are listening [to] entertain them while they are listening. I feel like it’s such a cool challenge to be able to do that.
Then I interviewed Rodriguez.
What are some of your favorite memories from playing in the majors?
Well, when I first got to the major leagues, I was only 18, so I was very nervous, and when I ended my career I was 41. What I remember is all the lessons I learned through baseball, and winning the world championship was pretty special.
What were your favorite memories from winning the World Series with the Yankees?
Just a lifelong dream to make it to the major leagues, and then you dream to make it to the All-Star Game, and after you do all that, you want to be a champion. That’s really how you remember it. A championship in New York is like nothing I have ever experienced, and I will never forget it.
Who were some of your closest friends throughout your career?
Edgar Martinez was one of my early mentors; he just walked into the Hall of Fame. [Players like] Mariano Rivera, Michael Young in Texas, and Robinson Cano.