CLEARWATER — Tiffany Greene is part of a watershed moment for college softball.
The Hillsborough High graduate has taken turns calling games at this weekend’s St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational, the first ESPN owned and operated event in women’s sports.
Greene is working as a play-by-play announcer along with an all-women crew that includes Beth Mowins, Holly Rowe, Amanda Scarborough and Michele Smith, names all recognizable from televised games on the network.
Greene, though, might be the biggest trailblazer of all.
In the fall, Greene became the first African-American woman to call college football games, doing it as a play-by-play announcer for HBCU games on ESPN.
“You never forget being a first,” Greene said. “No one should ever take that away from you. Still, I always try to remind myself that’s it great that I am that, but it’s also sad at the same time. I hope it only opens the door for other African-American women and women in general.”
The Tampa Bay area has a history of women breaking barriers in broadcasting. Former WFLA-TV anchor Gayle Sierens was the first female sportscaster in the area. In 1987, she became the first woman to do play-by-play for an NFL game.
The biggest role models for Greene were Robin Roberts and Pam Oliver.
“I just didn’t see many black women in television or in sports doing what I did,” Greene said. “The examples that I had were Robin Roberts. I mean who doesn’t know her and love her. And Pam Oliver working the sidelines. Those were really the only ones that looked like me, and they provided the opportunity that I needed with how exceptional they were with what they did.”
Greene has been as much of a star in the booth as the others working for ESPN in Clearwater. On Saturday, she joined Scarborough, a former standout at Texas A&M, for an autograph session at one of the Eddie C. Moore sites hosting games.
Before calling strikes, Greene threw them.
Not as a pitcher.
As a bowler.
That was Greene’s favorite sport growing up. She bowled in leagues at Pin Chasers on North Armenia Avenue. Greene even bowled when she went to Tallahassee to attend enrichment programs at Florida A&M.
The owner of the bowling alley in Tallahassee also was the Rattlers’ coach.
The sport just became sanctioned by the NCAA. The coach was trying to fill out his roster when he asked Greene to bowl a game as a freshman at the school. Afterward, he offered her a scholarship.
Greene bowled for two years before concentrating full-time on her true passion: sports broadcasting.
“I even said in my kindergarten yearbook that’s what I wanted to be when I grow up,” Greene said.
Greene did everything, from working on the newspaper at Florida A&M to volunteering for all sorts of jobs in television.
“I’ve probably done everything in a broadcast newsroom except direct,” she said.
In 2004, Greene started her career in Savannah, Ga., before joining Bright House Sports Network as a reporter and play-by-play announcer. The first softball games she called were the state championship contests for BHSN (now Spectrum Sports).
“It’s nice because you get to watch some of the athletes in this state grow up,” Greene said. “Danielle Romanello is playing softball at Florida. I remember doing a story on her committing to the Gators as an eighth-grader at Canterbury. Watching her come in to her own has made everything come full circle.”
Greene has done postseason college softball games, but she has yet to work the World Series.
“I hope in some capacity to get there,” Greene said. “As with everything, you’re always looking to improve and get better. I’m not taking Beth Mowins’ spot. I know that. Just working as a reporter or doing something on the digital side at an event like that would be another big step.”