ST. PETERSBURG — MLB Network’s Alanna Rizzo is tired of hearing about “female firsts” in sports.
But she’s heard about them a lot over the past few days, because she’ll be a part of one herself this week. The Rays-Orioles game Tuesday night at Tropicana Field will feature Major League Baseball’s first all-female broadcasting crew.
Joining Rizzo, who will handle on-field reporting, are play-by-play announcer Melanie Newman (Orioles broadcasting crew), analyst Sarah Langs (mlb.com reporter) and pregame and postgame hosts Heidi Watney and Lauren Gardner (MLB Network). The game will be shown exclusively on YouTube.
“It’s important for us to celebrate the moment and recognize the moment,” Rizzo said, “but also realize that, once the first ball or strike is called, it’s a baseball game. And all of us have very extensive resumes, and we’ve been covering baseball for a very long time.”
Women are making important inroads all over the sports world. Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play and score in a Power 5 conference football game last year, while Bucs assistants Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar became the first women to coach in and win a Super Bowl. In December, Becky Hammon became the first woman to coach an NBA game when she filled in for San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
But like Hammon, Rizzo isn’t keen on breaking barriers or blazing trails.
“While I’m excited to be a part of this, this is not anything new for us,” Rizzo said. “We’re just happy to be able to do it together for the first time and hopefully open some eyes to some viewers out there that may not realize that they have an opportunity to do what we do.”
Rizzo has worked in broadcasting for nearly two decades. She was with SportsNet LA for seven seasons (2014-2020) on Dodgers broadcasts and worked two seasons (2012, 2013) with MLB Network before that. Throughout her career, she’s aimed to document history, not make it.
She is grateful for the women who paved her way, such as Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman, Thursday Night Football’s Andrea Kremer and Fox Sports’ Pam Oliver. But nowadays, Rizzo said, women in sports are more commonplace.
“I think it’s important to recognize that I don’t feel that I have had any doors open for me because of my gender, but I certainly don’t feel that I have had any barriers because of my gender, either,” Rizzo said. “I think all we want is to have a level playing field, and I don’t want to be (given) preferential treatment. And I know these other four women doing this game don’t want preferential treatment, either.”
Rizzo sometimes gets messages from parents saying their daughters want to be her when they grow up. Some send photos of their little girls dressed up as Rizzo for Halloween. While she doesn’t devote any time to being a role model, she does admit to appreciating those kinds of moments.
“You know you’re doing something right if somebody thinks that what you’re doing is something that they want to spend their life doing,” she said. ”I don’t set out to change the world, but if I can do it just by doing a good job at what I love, then so be it.”
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