Alumni Spotlight

Olympic champion Jessica Mendoza, MA ’03, breaks broadcasting barriers

“I have always loved a challenge. That was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go to Stanford in the first place — because I knew it wouldn't be easy. I am driven to get outside of my comfort zone and never set limits on what I can accomplish. Even when I was on the Stanford softball team I would challenge myself to take it to the next step and be only one of 15 to make the Olympic team. 

“After graduating from Stanford in 2003 with an M.A. in Social Sciences in Education, my plan was to move to Washington, D.C., and work on education reform. 

“I knew very little about working in television, but when I was approached by ESPN in 2006 to be their lead softball analyst, I realized that the biggest thing I learned from Stanford was to always be open to try something, or meet someone, or to not be afraid to veer off my current path. So I went for a career in television. 

“Pressing forward with that desire to ground-break new challenges, I started to question women’s roles in baseball. Why aren't there women in the booth? Why are the commentators always men? I knew I could add knowledge and experience to the broadcast, but my biggest obstacle was my gender. Why couldn’t I turn that obstacle into an asset? So I set my sights on exploring new opportunities with my employer, ESPN. 

“As I reflect on what I learned at Stanford, I’ve come to realize that when you are really passionate about making change, even if that change seems far-fetched, you shouldn’t be afraid to go for it. And you should not stop until you reach your goal. 

“Now that I am actually sitting in the booth for our ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast, there are moments — regularly — that I can't believe I am here.

But I’m not content to settle in. That Stanford spirit in me knows that I need to keep pushing. To not fear change but to embrace every challenge that comes my way.”

Mendoza, MA ’03, won a gold medal in women’s softball at the 2004 Olympic Games and a silver 
at the 2008 Games. She is ESPN’s first female Major League Baseball analyst. 

Watch an interview with Mendoza on #SockTalk on ESPN.