Michele Smith To Become First Female Analyst To Call Complete MLB Game
“Sunday MLB on TBS” this weekend will welcome ESPN softball analyst Michele Smith into the broadcast booth to join Ernie Johnson and John Smoltz to call the Dodgers-Braves game. Smith will be the first female analyst to be part of a full, nationally televised MLB broadcast and said, “Hopefully when the game’s over the folks that have been watching will have garnered a little bit more respect for female athletes.” The opportunity comes shortly after the 40th anniversary of Title IX, and Smith said, “We’re starting to see more women have opportunities to not just be sideline reporters but to be analysts and break down a sport to really give their knowledge back to the games.” Smith this week discussed how she plans to adjust her broadcast style for MLB and how job prospects for women in sports are progressing.
Q: What are you hoping to carry over to MLB coverage that you’ve learned from broadcasting softball?
Smith: There is a lot of the crossover between the diamond sports. The pitching, even though baseball throws overhand and we throw underhand, the mental side of it, the mentality of "how do you attack a hitter." Situational plays -- what are you looking for? Are you trying to induce a double play? Trying to pitch around one hitter to get to another? I think there’s so much overlap in the sports that I think it’s going to be really fun to explore that with Ernie Johnson and John Smoltz. I think from a hitting standpoint there’s been a lot of similarities. Twenty years ago everyone said there was a huge difference between a softball swing and a baseball swing, and today we find out that’s really not the case. You really have to stay on your backside, get good rotation, get great extension, lift your hands, keep your eye on the ball. There’s so much overlap between the sports that I think there’s going to be some really great dialogue during the game.
Q: How familiar are you with Ernie and John’s style, and how do you see yourself fitting in with them?
Smith: Obviously I respect those guys immensely. John with his career and the way he’s been able to analyze the game and see it from a professional athlete’s standpoint. And EJ is great. It doesn’t matter what he is calling, he is a true professional within the broadcast world. I’m just gonna sit by and probably have a smile on my face and add my two cents when I can. We’ll probably ask a lot of questions back and forth and I’m sure give each other a little bit of a hard time and entertain. It is show business, it’s not just about dissecting the sport, it’s about having a really good time and entertaining the folks that are going to be listening to the game.
Q: Are there any other female or MLB announcers that you look up to or might try to emulate on Sunday?
Smith: As far as female announcers, I think the two women who’ve really done a great job calling from a play-by-play standpoint would be Beth Mullins and Pam Ward. They really were true groundbreakers for ESPN. Michele Tafoya has done a lot of great things in her career. There are so many women that have been on the play-by-play side. For me as a softball athlete, there really haven’t been a whole lot of analysts before me. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be one of the leading analysts breaking in when I retired from my softball career. On the guys side, I’m always listening to major league baseball trying to understand what the guys are talking about, their style. I always try to be myself though. I don’t think you should try to be someone else, but you can definitely learn from people’s approaches, the way they view the game. Let’s face it, I was a pre-med major, I wasn’t a communications major, so I had a lot to learn when I first started broadcasting.
Q: What is the toughest part about being a female in the sports world?
Smith: I think still continuing to garner some respect in different areas. I take a lot of pride in this opportunity because I think I’m going to be representing a whole group of professional broadcasters that have made their career out of this, not just as a retired professional athlete. I think definitely continuing to fight for opportunities for women, and change the mindset of America that female broadcasters are more than just a pretty face on camera. There are some women in the industry that truly are talented and deserve to have the opportunities to call a game, break down and analyze a game and contribute. Or even behind the scenes, the non-talent part of broadcasting -- women producing games, women in corporate America, in TBS, in ESPN, women that are working their way through those great companies, we’re really working to continue to have opportunities for them to climb the ladder.