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NYT article examines Jessica Mendoza’s ‘auspicious’ Sunday Night Baseball debut

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Filling in for the suspended Curt Schilling, Jessica Mendoza made the most of her appearance on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball this weekend, melding fluidly with play-by-play announcer Dan Shulman and analyst John Kruk. But Mendoza’s knowledge and grasp of the game should not come as a surprise, as Kruk claims she was arguably the best hitter in the world during her prime. A former All-American softball player and Olympic gold medalist, Mendoza is emerging at a time when women seem to be breaking down the previously locked doors of all-male clubs. The San Antonio Spurs have a female assistant coach, Becky Hammon, who recently led their Summer League team to a championship. The Arizona Cardinals have employed Jen Welter as a coach for training camp and preseason.

In his article for The New York Times, Richard Sandomir examines Sunday Night Baseball’s past and where Mendoza might factor into its future.

There is still cachet to being on “Sunday Night Baseball.” It is a national showcase that has, until now, had a males-only booth membership, including Jon Miller, Joe Morgan, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine. Mendoza entered the club on an auspicious weekend at Dodger Stadium. Her debut was preceded by the announcement by Vin Scully that he would return next season, his 67th as the voice of the Dodgers. And while Scully said that 2016 might be his finale, it seems likely to be a year when Mendoza should be doing a lot more than softball commentary.

Her next assignment is the Orioles-Yankees Labor Day game, which was scheduled before Schilling was benched by ESPN for posting a meme on Twitter that compared Muslim extremists to Nazis.

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Football Writers Association of America produces informational directory

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In his column for The Fifth Down, the digital newsletter of the Football Writers Association of America, president Lee Barfknecht details the new 2015 edition of the FWAA annual directory. The directory will include contact information for sports information directors, beat writers and play-by-play announcers. It will also include a calendar complete with listings of dates for various games, awards and meetings, as well as the 75th Anniversary All-America Team. In addition to the printed format, the guide will also be accessible to members online.

The FWAA will partner with the National Football Foundation for the second straight year to produce the Super 16 poll of the top teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The first regular-season poll will be released Sept. 8 with subsequent polls released each Sunday at 11:30 a.m. (ET).

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NFL unveils Super Bowl Opening Night

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As reported in an article on NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk, the National Football League is doing away with its traditional Super Bowl Media Day on the Tuesday prior to the game in favor of a new Super Bowl Opening Night Feb. 1. The new format includes a three-hour show beginning at 5 p.m. (PT) and will feature musical performances as well as appearances from players and coaches of the two Super Bowl teams.

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ESPN looks at Packer Bart Starr’s return to Lambeau Field

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Five-time NFL champion Bart Starr is widely considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Yet if you asked him, he would bestow that honor upon fellow Green Bay Packer greats Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. In his article for ESPN, Ian O’Connor looks back at the legacy of the Ice Bowl hero and MVP of the first two Super Bowls, as he faces his latest challenge, a return to his old stomping grounds in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Their ultimate goal is to return him to Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night, when Brett Favre’s retired No. 4 will be unveiled. Favre delayed his ceremony a year to give Starr a puncher’s chance to make it, and Bart’s family and support network of friends, neighbors and employees are forever telling him he must meet that objective. 

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As NFL season approaches, media must focus on football’s main health issue

The movement is gaining supporters. Change is imminent. Within the next few years, the NFL will shorten its pre-season from four to two games, the better to prevent the season-ending injuries that have piled up during glorified scrimmages. Better to have the star wideout tear his ACL in a contest that means something than to do it in a mere tune-up.

According to the NFL’s logic, it makes perfect sense. Knocking key performers out for the year before the first meaningful collision is bad business. Better to have them go down while helping their teams try to win games that count in the standings. That way, their bodies won’t be mangled in vain.

The media is creating the most noise about the change, agitating for the creation of an 18-game regular season, so that these worthless injuries won’t occur in future seasons. College programs don’t have pre-season games or even scrimmages with other teams, and nobody complains about that. Why subject top players to potential torn ligaments, broken bones and ripped muscles in situations that don’t matter?

Let them get hurt when it means something.

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale calls for safety improvements in MLB stadiums

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In the aftermath of the tragedy at Turner Field on Saturday night, when an Atlanta Braves fan fell about 40 feet to his death from the upper deck, Major League Baseball is in quite a pickle when it comes to fan safety. The victim, 60-year-old Gregory Murrey of Alpharetta, Georgia, is the third death at Turner Field in the last seven years, and one of many catastrophes in recent history at MLB stadiums. In his article for USA Today, Bob Nightengale implores Major League Baseball to amend its current safety measures and implement new precautions to protect its fans.

Major League Baseball wisely implemented metal detectors this season, trying to ensure no handguns or weapons make it to the seats, so there’s absolutely no reason not to take fan safety to another level.

Sure, those fans shelling out $300 a ticket in the box seats may initially balk looking through a netting, but if they don’t like it, they can reserve the right to stop coming to games, too.

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U.S. Open grants ESPN exclusive rights through 2025

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As reported by The New York Times, the U.S. Open will be broadcast exclusively by ESPN’s family of networks through 2025, ending CBS’ 47-year relationship with the tournament. ESPN obtained the broadcast rights to the two-week tennis tournament, held in Flushing Meadows, New York, for $825 million. ESPN now has exclusive television rights to both the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. Richard Sandomir explains what ESPN brings to the table in his article for the New York Times.

ESPN’s vise grip on the final major of the year will mean more time with the analysts John and Patrick McEnroe and a broadcast crew that includes Chris Evert, Cliff Drysdale, Darren Cahill, Mary Joe Fernandez and Brad Gilbert. And it will bring to the U.S. Open new or enhanced use of technical toys like SpiderCam, a camera that moves above the court; RailCam, a robotic camera that will show ground-level action from Arthur Ashe Stadium; and freeD, a replay system that freezes plays and can turn to show them at various angles.

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