Next week, Major League Baseball fans will be able to watch a game on a broadcast for the first time in which they may not hear a man’s voice. Five women will serve as the on-air crew for the Baltimore Orioles game against the Tampa Bay Rays from St. Petersburg.
Melanie Newman, the Orioles’ play-by-play announcer since last year, will be calling the action for the game, which will be the MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube. Sarah Langs, a popular baseball analyst and writer for MLB.com, will be the analyst at the booth. Alanna Rizzo will provide on-field coverage and Heidi Watney and Lauren Gardner will anchor the pre- and post-game shows.
“It can’t feel any different,” Rizzo said in a phone interview. “I’ve always had a male play-by-play voice in my ear during every game I’ve ever played. So, to do a game where those voices are Melanie and Sarah, that’s going to be a unique feeling and perspective of the game. It’s exciting to be a part of something like this.”
Women have been broadcasting baseball games on radio and television for decades, but this is believed to be the first time an all-women team will cover the entire broadcast for a major league game.
Last year, two NHL games were screened in the United States and Canada with all female broadcast and production crews. The broadcasts were presented with female announcers, producers, directors and cameramen. Even the technicians in the production trucks were women.
But the games they showed were played on March 8, 2020, three days before the NBA’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, and much of the glow of that moment was consumed by the sport’s subsequent shutdown in the United States. next days.
Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer began broadcasting NFL games for Amazon Prime Video in 2018, and in March a team of five women hosted an NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and the Denver Nuggets. Major League Soccer broke the barrier in 2018 and now it’s baseball’s turn.
“It shows that the world is changing and it’s more accepting of different voices and different looks and perspectives of the game,” Rizzo said. “It’s not a male-only game anymore and we don’t live in a men’s world anymore.”
Rizzo was in high school in Colorado in 1993 when her accounting teacher brought a television into the classroom so they could watch the first Rockies game. Later that same year, Gayle Gardner became the first woman to televise a game between Colorado and the Cincinnati Reds.
It took nearly three more decades for the broadcasters to assemble an all-female crew.
“Having the first female tag is something that has come up in my career,” Newman said, “and it’s something that I recognize as very important. But we also want to make sure that as we do all these firsts get in, we won’t be the last either.”
Newman, who grew up in Georgia listening to Jim Fyffe on Auburn football radio broadcasts, mentioned minor league baseball games on the radio for six years, and was part of the first all-female broadcast of a minor league game alongside Suzie Cool for a Salem Red Sox game in 2019. A year later, Newman became the voice of Orioles radio broadcasts.
On June 22, Newman did the play-by-play for a national game between the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics on YouTube, which went so well that it became the basis for the plan to form an all-women broadcasting team. According to Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer, the plan is to make women-only stands a regular part of games and add diversity of backgrounds and women of color.
“That’s very important, and we have diversity in this area,” he said, referring to Rizzo, who is of Cuban descent and speaks Spanish. “We have a very diverse group of players and a diverse group of fans, and we want fans to relate to the people in the booth and our people in the booth to relate to the people on the pitch. ”
The leading pioneer for women in baseball broadcasting is Suzyn Waldman, a regular analyst for Yankees radio broadcasting since 2005. She played her first radio game in 1992 between the Mets and Houston Astros, and within two years she was able to announce matches on television.
She said she had waited years for the next wave of female broadcasters to join her, but it had taken longer than she initially expected. She’s looking forward to next week’s broadcast but can’t tune in because she has her own game to broadcast for WFAN.
“I look forward to when this is no longer a novelty event,” Waldman said. “It’s a big problem and I’m glad it’s happening, but I can’t wait for it to get back to normal. You would think that would have happened by now.”
But Waldman does see progress. She said she was in touch with half a dozen women currently broadcasting matches in the minor leagues, and that she hoped more stations and teams would be willing to take on all-female broadcast crews, and grow them into the roles. like the Yankees did to her.
Newman, Rizzo, and Langs all pointed to Waldman as a role model, noting that her success has made it easier for them and others. Langs, who has already served as an on-screen analyst for two MLB games, grew up in New York and heard Waldman on the air.
Langs knows that on Tuesdays, little girls can listen to an all-women’s team of broadcasters talking about baseball and sharing their expertise.
“If hearing and seeing us inspires another girl, still a young woman, to take up sports,” Langs said, “I feel like that mission has been accomplished.”