ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza Talks First Fenway Park Game, Dealing with Online Trolls

The Sunday Night Baseball broadcaster is calling her first game at the home of the Red Sox this weekend.

Jessica Mendoza

Jessica Mendoza Photo by Ben Solomon / ESPN Images

Jessica Mendoza will be making her Fenway Park debut this weekend when ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball crew comes to Boston.

The commentator and former softball star is excited to check out the home of the Red Sox for the first time and believes that the team has a shot at being the top dog in the AL East this season.

“I picked the Red Sox to win the AL East in the preseason,” Mendoza says. “I loved that Dave Dombrowski went and hit on the holes that were shown throughout last season.”

Check out what else she had to say about the team, her strategy for dealing with online trolls, and more.

How excited are you to be calling your first Fenway game?

It was a bucket list item in general, just as a fan. I’ve always wanted to see a game at Fenway. I got in Wednesday because I wanted to take in a lot of it. I’ll be out there today, I’ll be there tomorrow, obviously, everyone else will come in Sunday. I just want to be able to understand the history. I’m a history nerd as it is, let alone baseball history, so I think the siginifigance [of Fenway Park], sometimes, we take that for granted when you’re calling a ton of Boston games, even for everyone on our crew.

How do you think the Red Sox will do in the AL East this year?

I picked the Red Sox to win the AL East in the preseason. A big part of it was that I loved that Dave Dombrowski went and hit on the holes that were shown throughout last season. I think a lot of people forget with the Red Sox is how strong they looked ostensively at the very end of last season when, obviously, the games didn’t matter as much so no one was really paying attention.

Pedro Martinez recently said that he wouldn’t mind seeing women play in the MLB. Do you think we’ll ever see that happen?

The best athletes that are playing softball and baseball, most of them are choosing softball, which I did. I played baseball when I was younger, but the idea of the college scholarship enticed me to switch over to softball. I’ve played with softball players whom I felt, if they had played baseball their whole lives, they would’ve been a good option to possibly [play in] at least the minor leagues and get a run to making it into the bigs. I would never say it’s impossible, but I do think we’re a distance away because we don’t have, from the grassroots on, enough girls and best athlete girls playing baseball.

Do you think baseball needs a Ronda Rousey-type figure to lead the charge?

I feel like she’s the new feminist, just this kind of badass woman who speaks her mind and honestly, unapologetically doesn’t say the politically correct thing all the time… I think there’s that need for someone to be so honest and real. I think for baseball, I don’t think that for a woman to be successful in it that she needs to be that. I think she just needs to be whoever she is and be honest and kick butt in the game. For Ronda, it’s definitely more about her being a spokesperson, not on purpose, because she’s speaking for a generation. For a woman to play within baseball,they just need to play well. I think if they were loud and in your face, it would distract from the fact that, in my opinion, if a woman is going to crack that barrier and be the first, I want her to be the best.

Women in sports deal with so many misogynistic trolls online. What’s one step that we can take to combat the hate women face on social media?

My way of handling it is to not give them the time of day. If you’re good at what you do, it’s going to quiet the people that think you’re not good because of how you look or what sex you are. Men get it too. Everyone’s going to get the trolls. What I see more towards women is more looks-based and about your body. That’s the stuff that I don’t think men deal with as much… If it’s someone coming after me based on my looks or based on nasty things, it reminds me of being in 5th grade and you have that one kid in the class, everyone’s got that one kid that just says awful things. When you do, do you give them attention? No. To me, I always just smile and walk away. That always hurt them more than giving them the attention.

This interview has been edited and condensed.