Behind the Mic: Jessica Mendoza, Aaron Boone Take Over in SNB Booth; Michelle Beadle Re-ups at ESPN

ESPN has added analysts Jessica Mendoza and Aaron Boone to join returning Dan Shulman in its Sunday Night Baseball booth. In other news Michelle Beadle is staying put at ESPN, legendary broadcaster Jim Simpson has passed away, Conan O'Brien will host the NFL Honors ceremony, and Keith Hernandez has re-uped at SNY

ESPN has added analysts Jessica Mendoza and Aaron Boone to its Sunday Night Baseball team, joining returning play-by-play voice Dan Shulman and reporter Buster Olney – both of whom entering their sixth seasons on Sunday Night Baseball. The quartet will make its regular-season debut on Sunday Night Baseball during ESPN’s Opening Night coverage on April 3 (New York Mets at World Series Champion Kansas City Royals at 8:30 p.m. ET). Mendoza and Boone replace Curt Schilling, who moves to Monday, and John Kruk, who returns to Baseball Tonight.

Jessica Mendoza will join ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball booth full-time next season.

Jessica Mendoza will join ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth full-time next season.

In addition, ESPN has named Andy Reichwald as the new Sunday Night Baseball producer. Reichwald has produced Monday Night Baseball since 2002 and has served as associate director for Monday Night Football since 2006.

Mendoza, an Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist and a Stanford University cross-category softball record-holder, made history in 2015 by becoming the first female analyst for a nationally-televised MLB postseason game (AL Wild Card Game on ESPN), and the first female ESPN MLB game analyst. Mendoza regularly appeared on Sunday Night Baseball with Shulman and Olney during the stretch run of the 2015 season and also worked a Sunday Night Baseball telecast alongside Boone. Mendoza has regularly contributed to ESPN’s softball coverage since 2007, including the Women’s College World Series. Mendoza also became the first female game analyst for a Men’s College World Series telecast in 2015.

Boone, former MLB All-Star, recently served as an analyst alongside Shulman for ESPN Radio’s coverage of the World Series, and has been a regular analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball prime-time series and for Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown – ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball pre-game show. He has provided analysis for a variety of ESPN MLB platforms since joining the company in 2010, including Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday Night Baseball; the World Series on ESPN Radio; and Baseball Tonight.

Curt Schilling, an ESPN MLB analyst since 2010, will move to Monday Night Baseball, joining newly appointed MNB analyst Eduardo Perez in the booth alongside Karl Ravech and Dave Flemming, who will split play-by-play duties throughout the season. Schilling will also continue to contribute analysis to Baseball Tonight. John Kruk, an ESPN MLB analyst since 2004, will reprise his role as a full-time Baseball Tonight studio analyst, a role in which he served from 2004 through 2012, before transitioning to game analysis…

Michelle Beadle has reached a new, multi-year agreement to remain at ESPN to co-host SportsNation alongside fellow co-hosts Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley. In addition to her SportsNation duties, Beadle will join ESPN senior writer – and SportsNation and espnW contributor – Ramona Shelburne for their new national radio show called Beadle & Shelburne. The new radio show will premiere Feb. 14, airing Noon – 2 p.m. ET from ESPNLA 710’s Los Angeles studios.

Michelle Beadle returned to ESPN in March of 2014, as host of SportsNation on ESPN2. In May 2012, Beadle joined NBC to serve as NBC Sports host and Access Hollywood correspondent. Prior to then, Beadle co-hosted SportsNation on ESPN2 with Colin Cowherd. She also co-hosted Winners Bracket with Marcellus Wiley, part of ESPN Sports Saturday on ABC and has contributed as co-host of ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning. Before joining ESPN, Beadle worked at 1050 ESPN New York as the New York SportsCenter anchor for ESPN Radio’s The Michael Kay Show. Beadle, who was also previously the pre- and postgame reporter for the New Jersey Nets, has been a studio anchor, reporter and host for the YES Network on shows such as the Emmy Award-winning Ultimate Road Trip; SportsLife NYC; and Yankees on Deck.

Beginning February 8, SportsNation will move to the 4 p.m. ET slot on ESPN, joining Highly Questionable, Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption in the network’s afternoon lineup.  In its new slot, SportsNation will evolve into a 30-minute format and will continue to be produced by senior coordinating producer Kevin Wildes and coordinating producer Richelle Markazene…

…Late night talk-show host Conan O’Brien will take the stage as host of NFL Honors on Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. The two-hour primetime awards special recognizing the NFL’s best players, performances and plays from the 2015 season will air nationally at 9 PM ET/PT on CBS. The host of “CONAN” on TBS is a Harvard graduate and two-time president of the venerable and notorious Harvard Lampoon, O’Brien has a resume that also includes writing and producing roles with “Not Necessarily the News,” “Saturday Night Live” and “The Simpsons.” He succeeded David Letterman as the host of “Late Night” on NBC in 1993.

“NFL Honors,” which debuted in Indianapolis in 2012, is an annual event hosted from the Super Bowl city the evening before the AFC and NFC champions meet. O’Brien joins Alec Baldwin and Seth Meyers on the list of award-winning celebrities to host the NFL’s awards show. The show includes the announcement of The Associated Press’ annual accolades and the newest Pro Football Hall of Fame class…

…ESPN’s first play-by-play announcer, Jim Simpson, died Wednesday morning in Scottsdale, Arizona, after a short illness, his family said. He was 88. One of sports television’s most enduring, versatile and congenial personalities, Simpson worked for all three broadcast networks, TNT and notably for ESPN at its launch over his 50+ years in the business.

He was best known for his work on AFL games for NBC when he was hired by fledgling ESPN in 1979. It was a big move, a hiring coup that brought the instant credibility of Simpson’s years of experience at the highest levels to ESPN. At ESPN, he called college football, college basketball, college baseball, the USFL and the NBA.

Besides his 15 years with NBC Sports from 1964 to 1979 and then ESPN, Simpson also worked for ABC, CBS and TNT. His television and radio credits include 16 Major League Baseball All-Star Games (1964 to ’79); 14 Olympic Games — from the 1952 Winter Games in Helsinki for CBS Radio to the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, where he covered equestrian events for NBC (including hosting the Summer Games from Tokyo for NBC in 1964); six Super Bowls and six World Series. In addition, he covered all of the Grand Slam golf and tennis events (including 14 Wimbledon championships) and all major bowl games, including 14 Orange Bowls. He also spent 15 seasons as an AFL and NFL broadcaster (1964 to 1979). Simpson received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Sports Emmy Awards in 1997 and was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame on May 1, 2000. (ESPN)…

…Keith Hernandez has a new deal that will keep him in the Mets broadcast booth at least through the 2018 season. According to the New York Post, Hernandez’s new contract includes a significant raise and may extend even longer than the previous three-year deals he had received from the network. Hernandez, 62, has been staple on the Mets’ TV broadcasts since SNY was formed in 2006. The former first baseman will continue to team with Ron Darling and Gary Cohen (both still under contract) in the booth. (NYP)…

…Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick joined NBA Countdown charged by Mountain Dew on Jan. 8, serving as a guest analyst for the full 30-minute show, alongside regular analysts Doug Collins and Jalen Rose and host Sage Steele. Redick’s appearance marks the fourth time this season that NBA Countdown has included a current or former NBA player serving as a guest analyst. Paul Pierce and Tracy McGrady made pre-game appearances and Harrison Barnes joined the NBA Countdown crew.

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