Two days before Mother’s Day, Mendoza’s husband, Adam, and two sons, Caleb and Caden, made salmon, her favorite dinner. Then she kissed them goodbye and flew on a red-eye to New York, to be at Yankee Stadium when the clubhouses opened at 10 a.m. Saturday. When I met her there, the ballpark was still quiet. Pigeons hopped absentmindedly between second and third base, as if the field were not about to transform into the site of that treasured baseball rivalry: Yankees versus Red Sox.
Mendoza waded into the Red Sox clubhouse. Men wearing gray and red glided past; players tossed sweaty shirts into laundry carts; someone changed his pants, his Under Armour–briefed behind protruding as he paused to check Instagram. Mendoza found the third baseman, Travis Shaw—a lefty batter, like her—and he leaned forward to talk, his foot propped up on a folding chair. The guys watched clips from the week’s games, which played on overhead TV screens. The pitcher Clay Buchholz appeared in a doorway, narrating a swing-and-a-miss: “I got it! Ooh—no I don’t!”
Mendoza wandered toward the manager’s office. Peter Pascarelli, a longtime radio guy for ESPN, bopped her on the head with a rolled-up stat sheet. “How ya doin’, kid?” She smiled. He pretended to look around for Aaron Boone. TV baseball analysts all have their own modes of preparation; Mendoza maintains spreadsheets for every team and makes Saturday a study session, arriving four hours before game time. Boone’s strategy is looser. “I never go into a game with a bunch of notes in front of me or thoughts I had,” he told me later.
Each locker contained a neon-pink bat, delivered in advance of Mother’s Day. Soon after Mendoza arrived, Hanley Ramírez, the first baseman, presented one to her as a gift. She leaned on it during interviews, tapped it against her feet, and, in the Sox batting cage, used it to take a few hits.
When the field opened, she dashed out and ran into her producer, Andy Reichwald. “Jess is an expert,” Reichwald told me. “She’s definitely not a mom—she’s an equal.” He paused. “I’d say more little sister than mom.” Mendoza nodded. “Even though I am a mom, when I’m around those guys, my maturity level isn’t always there.” Mendoza and Reichwald headed to ESPN’s trailers, outside the stadium. As she went from one truck to the other, she grabbed her purse and the pink bat. “I’ve got to figure out what to do with this thing,” she said. One of the production guys called out, “It’s the Bronx. You need that!”
The next evening, Mother’s Day and the end of the Yankees–Sox series, the stadium was colored pink. There were pink numbers on uniforms, pink cleats, and the pink bats. (Ramírez had one; presumably he’d found a loaner.) The shot of color seemed to give the team from Boston an early boost—Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run homer. Suddenly, at the top of the third, ESPN cut away to another scene: Mendoza’s kids at home, delivering a squeaky “Happy Mother’s Day!”
Mendoza, stunned, grinned gamely.
“She’s speechless!,” Shulman said.
Mendoza started to speak—“That was an awesome surprise. It shocked me, though”—but was suddenly distracted by a large vase of pink flowers being passed down the booth. Placed in front of her, it hid much of her face from the camera.