All-female Rays-Orioles broadcast crew makes history, looks optimistically to future

A new door opened for women in sports media Tuesday and will stay that way, play-by-play announcer Melanie Newman said.
Alanna Rizzo does a sound check before the Rays' game against the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday at Tropicana Field. The game was the first in MLB history to feature an all-female broadcast crew.
Alanna Rizzo does a sound check before the Rays' game against the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday at Tropicana Field. The game was the first in MLB history to feature an all-female broadcast crew. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published July 21, 2021

People love sports because they give people a sense of belonging. Athletes are part of a team. Spectators are part of a fanbase. And Tuesday night, the Rays-Orioles broadcast crew showed a global YouTube audience that anyone who wants to do so can be part of the sports media industry.

“In case you didn’t put that together,” said MLB Game of the Week pregame show co-host Heidi Watney after naming the other four women working the broadcast, “that is five women calling this game for the first time in MLB history. I’m excited about it, but for me, it’s just another day of work.”

Her co-anchor, Lauren Gardner, responded in kind. In fact, that’s been the message from the team as a whole since the broadcast was first announced. Watney, Gardner, on-field reporter Alanna Rizzo, analyst Sarah Langs and play-by-play announcer Melanie Newman largely approached the game as just that, another game.

These are jobs they do all the time. Langs methodically delivering relevant stats. Newman updating listeners on the action with her rhythmic radio cadence. Tuesday was just the first time all five women did their jobs together.

Related: Alanna Rizzo on Rays-Orioles all-female broadcast crew: ‘It’s not anything new for us’

After Watney’s opening remarks, Gardner alluded to her colleague’s extensive resumes and said she was honored to be a part of the crew, her voice quavering.

“Don’t make me cry,” she said with a light laugh.

The broadcast came nearly 82 years after the first-ever televised professional baseball game (August 26, 1939 between Cincinnati and Brooklyn). None of the women working Tuesday realized its gravity when they first glanced at their schedules. Not until a PR representative from MLB network reached out for comment.

At the top of the second inning, Newman rattled off several names of trailblazing women in sports media, including Gayle Gardner, Robin Roberts, Suzyn Waldman, Andrea Kremer and Jessica Mendoza. Newman said she’d be remiss to not acknowledge those who came before her on such a big night. But as she and the others have stressed over the last several days, the focus should be on the future for women in sports media rather than the past.

“The important thing today is that door opens,” Newman said during the pregame show. “While we celebrate that excitement of the first, the door is staying open. ... This is where we get to take those non-qualifiers out from the place they have been trying to be qualifiers for so long and just have an open industry.”

After the game, Rizzo acknowledged that typically, the goal for a journalist is to chase the story, not be the story. But if making history alongside her coworkers is what it takes to help women in their field move forward, so be it.

“Anybody can do this,” she said. “And I think we have a long way to go, but I think we’ve come a long way, too.”

So, how does the industry hold the door these women opened Tuesday night? By continuing to lift each other up, Rizzo said.

“It’s one thing for women to support women,” she said. “It’s another thing entirely to have our male colleagues and our male counterparts support us, too. And to see the reaction from the men in our industry, that they were so excited for us and they realized the value and the importance of doing this, and they speak up on our behalf, is important, too.

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“So, if we can continue to do that, if we can continue to have women supporting one another, but also men supporting us, I think we’ll make greater strides.”

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