Melanie Newman remembers being in college, unsure a career in play-by-play announcing would be in her future. There were few role models for her to look up to, yet she persevered. In 2020, seven years after graduating from Troy University in Alabama, Newman made history when she became the first woman in Orioles history to be a play-in-play announcer.
On Tuesday, Newman will make history yet again as part of MLB’s first-ever all-female broadcast when the Orioles face the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the “MLB Game of the Week on YouTube” at 7:10 p.m.
MLB.com reporter Sarah Langs will be alongside Newman providing analysis, while MLB Network’s Alanna Rizzo will report from the field. Heidi Watney and Lauren Gardner, also of MLB Network, will serve as co-hosts for the pre- and postgame show.
While women have been involved in game broadcasts for decades, an all-female broadcast is another milestone in the effort to diversify baseball.
“It’s great for young girls to hear women calling games,” said Orioles fan Holly McInnes, 54, of Severna Park. “It just opens up a whole field that certainly I would never have thought that I could do.”
Even though the group is honored to be a part of a historic moment, they know there’s still more work to be done in terms of women’s involvement in sports.
“The fact that it is a historic event in 2021 shows you how much work we still have left to do,” Rizzo said.
Suzyn Waldman, who became the first woman to hold a full-time position as a major league broadcaster in 2005, said it’s wonderful news and believes the crew will be taking the game into the future. However, the radio broadcaster for the New York Yankees would be happier if an all-female broadcast was a regular occurrence instead of being treated like a novelty act.
“I’m waiting for the day when nobody looks at it,” said Waldman, who in 2009 was the first woman to call a World Series game on radio. “When it becomes normal and we say ‘of course she is doing that game,’ and it’s not a big deal.”
Last year, Kate Scott, Coyne Schofield and AJ Mlescko headlined the first NHL game broadcast and produced solely by women in the United States when the St. Louis Blues played the Chicago Blackhawks.
In 2017, ESPN’s Beth Mowins did play-by-play for the Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos game, making her the first woman to call a nationally televised game and the first woman to call an NFL game since Gayle Sierens in 1987.
Doris Burke, who has been working for ESPN 1991, made history during a turbulent NBA season when she became the first woman to serve as a game analyst for the NBA Conference Finals and NBA Finals. ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza was the first woman to serve as an analyst for nationally televised MLB games in 2015.
McInnes said she grew up listening to the likes of Chuck Thompson and Jon Miller commentating Orioles games on the radio. Their voices conjure up happy memories of sitting beside her father and grandfather as they talked sports and kept score.
But hearing Newman call games for the first time last year was exciting, if a bit nerve-wracking, she said.
”I feel like we have to be so much better,” McInnes said. “I was almost nervous for her. But she’s knocked it out of the park.”
And having an all-female crew for the Rays game shows women ought to be involved at all levels of the broadcast, she added.
”There are just fields that continue to open up for girls,” McInnes said. “She doesn’t only have to sit there and watch it and cheer on. It’s becoming knowledgeable.”
Newman, whose career has seen her appear on the ACC Network, the World Axe Throwing League, College GameDay Radio and American Cornhole on ESPN, said the group wasn’t aware Tuesday’s game would be MLB’s first all-women broadcast until the news started making headlines. Their goal is to treat Tuesday’s game like any other.
“While [it’s] great, and you want to bring awareness, you want to connect with a little girl at home, who loves any sport or anything where they don’t feel like they’re represented for them to see that they can pursue these types of roles,” said Newman, who was the primary broadcaster for the High-A Salem Red Sox before joining the Orioles broadcast team. “But at the end of the day, we just want this to be a good broadcast — quality broadcast — and setting gender aside and everything else that does not determine your ability to do a job.”
Rizzo, who currently works for MLB Network after spending seven seasons as a reporter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, wants the broadcast to focus on baseball, and — at the same time — show viewers that you can achieve anything no matter your race or gender.
“We all have taken very different paths to get to where we are today,” said Rizzo, a seven-time Emmy award winner. “While we all may end up with the same result, the path to get there is all very different. I think it’s so important for young women or even young men to understand that you can achieve that.”
Langs believes an all-woman broadcast should be weekly or even a normal occurrence.
“This, of course, should’ve happened a long time ago,” Langs said. “The fact that this will be on display will help more young women who are interested and not just women, but anybody who is part of a minority group.”
Waldman said she’s been asked since 1992 when all-female broadcasts would become a norm. It’s been 29 years and Waldman is waiting still.
“It’s not just women in sports. It’s equality for everything,” she said. “I want to see a woman producer, a woman director and a woman making the decision on who’s being hired and what stories should be covered. It hasn’t happened yet in our society.”
Watney has been a regular host of MLB Network’s “Quick Pitch” since 2012. Before that, she served as a Boston Red Sox field reporter for the New England Sports Network. Gardner worked for Altitude Sports Network as a pre and postgame host for the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets before joining MLB Network in 2019.
When Gardner found out the Orioles-Rays game would be called entirely by women, she described it as a “pinch me” moment.
“For so long we’ve been working to get to this point, and to see my name next to some superstars in the industry is surreal,” she said. “It’s important for young girls and young boys to know it’s normal for women to not only be in the broadcast booth, but in the studio, down on the sidelines, and they can speak to the sports with confidence and intelligence.”
Newman will be appearing in her second “MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube” broadcast. She made her YouTube debut when she provided play-by-play commentary for the Texas Rangers-Oakland Athletics game June 22.
“MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube” has averaged more than 1.1 million views through 12 broadcasts on the free social media platform so far in 2021. YouTube, which has been exclusively broadcasting some MLB games since 2019, will feature 21 MLB games this season.
Newman believes the YouTube broadcasts allow baseball to reach a greater audience.
“I think with the fact that we are creating all these new platforms, that’s the easiest and the most direct way to reach these younger audiences,” Newman said. “Everybody is leaning towards the digitizing and the social media aspects.”
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As the crew prepares for the groundbreaking moment, they hope this will not be the last.
“We can’t wait until there are no more firsts,” Rizzo said. “The biggest compliment I can receive is somebody saying, ‘You’re my favorite broadcaster,’ not ‘You’re my favorite female broadcaster.’”
Baltimore Sun reporter Christine Condon contributed to this article.
Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.
TV: YouTube.com/MLB; Radio: 105.7 FM