On Tuesday, as the Rays and Orioles took the field in St. Petersburg, Major League Baseball's first all-women broadcast team had the call for MLB’s Game of the Week Live on YouTube.
“It can’t come soon enough,” Lauren Gardner said about all-women crews being the norm. But there had to be a first time for everything.
Heidi Watney and Gardner served as co-hosts for the pre- and post-game shows, with Sarah Langs (analyst), Melanie Newman (play-by-play) and Alanna Rizzo (reporter) handling game broadcast duties.
“I saw my name on the schedule and I thought, ‘Great,’” joked Gardner. “Then I saw who else was on the schedule and I'm like, ‘Oh, yeah, Newman, she does a tremendous job, big fan of hers. Rizzo, we go way back … she's someone I greatly respect and admire. I work with Watney and we're close friends. I think she's tremendous at her job. And then, of course, Langs. She's so talented, so smart and she's a gem of a human being.”
The history-making news was a surprise to most of the women, who just checked their schedules and went about their days. It wasn’t until a PR representative for MLB Network asked for a comment before they realized what it meant to be a part of this group.
“I [thought], ‘This is awesome,’” said Gardner. “Then someone said, ‘You know, these are all women.’ It took a minute for that to sink in, that we were going to be a part of history.”
The moment hasn’t been lost on these women, with each stating how honored she felt to be part of such a historic occasion for baseball. Though, as Rizzo pointed out, this opportunity wasn’t given to them as “clickbait.”
“This is not something [like], 'Let's get these five girls together so we can show [off] the shiny new toy,'” Rizzo said with a laugh. “I mean, we've been doing this for decades. It's nice to show that we've earned this right, that this is what we've done for a long time. This is our job, and it's good that people are receiving it so positively.”
The first-of-its-kind broadcast streamed live on YouTube, making the game accessible to all fans. Young girls and boys were able to watch history, all while taking in a baseball game.
That’s what drew everyone in, as Watney pointed out -- each of the five women featured in the broadcast and every fan watching was there because they love baseball.
“That's important for not just little girls to see, but little boys to see that it's normal, it doesn't matter your gender,” said Watney. “It matters that you're passionate and [have] love for the sport, and your knowledge and your understanding of the sport. It's important, but for me, it's going to be another day at work. It's prepping for the Rays and O’s.”
As many “firsts” for women continue to increase across sports, being part of one was a major moment for Langs -- who joked that she couldn’t rate this moment, not because it wasn’t among the top of her career, but because she is bad at ranking things.
“We've talked a lot about how firsts are important, but mostly because they lead to the second and onward,” said Langs. “And they're not the last. There's no question that representation really matters. Seeing it helps you realize you can do it. I just look forward to the way-down-the-line types of impact that this could have. That certainly makes me a little bit emotional and just is really, really great to know.”
Newman is no stranger to first-time moments, including her YouTube play-by-play debut on June 22. Most of her career has had the “first female to do it” type of attribution. While the Orioles broadcaster is grateful for these opportunities, she is looking forward -- like each woman on the broadcast -- to when a normal day at the office isn’t a headline.
“I can't even put it into words,” said Newman. “It's been really stressful. I'm going to be fully transparent. … You get used to it, in a way of hearing that tag. You focus on the big picture and hoping that this is opening people's minds, past looking at genders in terms of qualifications for jobs … that it's not a novelty act.
“That will just be my encouragement to anybody who wanted to come in and say, ‘Oh, they only got the job for the flashy title or because they're women.’ I mean, read the resumes, because you're going to be sitting there for a while.”