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Alanna Rizzo, right, speaks with Baltimore Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini during an interview. Rizzo joined four other women on July 20 for MLB’s first ever all-women broadcast. 

Alanna Rizzo’s road to Major League Baseball began in the Southeast side of Colorado Springs. 

Rizzo currently stars on High Heat for the MLB Network, but she made history recently with her broadcast of a major league baseball game.

In the midst of her achievements, she is still nostalgic over her time at Sierra High School. She recalls those glorious days of attending games with friends, pricy snacks for a teenager, at home games. And, sorry Harrison Panther fans, she still cherishes watching the Stallions thump their rival in sports. 

“It was a huge deal going to the football games on Friday and Saturday nights,” Rizzo said. “When I was in ninth grade, I was in the marching band and loved going to football games. I have always been very passionate about sports. Of course, we hated Harrison. That was a rite of passage. 

“I love (Sierra) and wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was an early building block in my life. I have nothing but fond memories of being a Stallion.”

There’s one moment in 1993 that set Rizzo on a unique path from her classmates — one that would lead her to an historical moment in Major League Baseball. 

She had an opportunity to cover the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who in 2020 ended their 32-year championship drought with a World Series title.

But on July 20, Rizzo along with four other women would make history in the MLB without taking a single at-bat. 

FINDING HER PASSION

Would Alanna Rizzo dare to say her baseball broadcasting career came out of left field? 

During her years at Sierra, Rizzo competed in cross-country, track and field and was in band — all a far cry from the baseball diamond. 

Her mother, Maria Medina-Castillo, said she was shocked about her daughter’s venture into baseball.

“I don’t even think she knows how she got involved in baseball,” Medina-Castillo said with a laugh. “Ultimately, she did and she loves it. It amazes me how much she knows about baseball. I know a little about it, but having Alanna, she helps me understand it.” 

But Rizzo vividly recalls how her passion for baseball blossomed. During Rizzo’s senior year in 1993, the Colorado Rockies officially joined the National League in the MLB.

During the Rockies’ first game, a series against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in New York, Rizzo’s accounting teacher wheeled a television into the classroom. 

Instead of accounting work, his class would watch the Rockies’ opener.  

“That was historic, seeing the first ever Rockies game at Mile High Stadium,” Rizzo said. “I didn’t know a whole lot about baseball growing up because we didn’t have Major League Baseball until 1993. That was my first foray into sports television in a major market.”

The Rockies got blasted in the two-game series. They lost 3-0 in the opener to New York and Dante Bichette scored the team’s lone run in the series. 

But none of that mattered. Rizzo enjoyed the game and the seeds were planted. 

STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM

Rizzo didn’t sprint out the gates as far as baseball coverage. She did not even earn her journalism degree until she was 28 years old. Until then, she worked to find a place where she fit.

After high school, Rizzo attended University of Colorado Boulder where she earned an international business degree in 1997.

From ’97 through 2001, Rizzo worked sales and marketing, but that didn’t satisfy her career desires. She returned to Boulder and obtained a master’s degree in journalism in 2003. 

“It’s never too late to follow your passion and it’s never too late to open doors,” Rizzo said. “You have the ability to do it.” 

That sparked a television career that began in Wichita Falls, Texas. Shortly after, Rizzo went to Madison, Wisconsin, to cover football before she landed in Denver to cover baseball. 

Rizzo worked for ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain for five seasons as an in-game reporter and host for the Rockies and she lent her talents to colleges in Denver. 

She just missed the start of “Rocktober” when the Rockies pulled off a miracle to clinch a World Series berth in 2007 after they won 21 of 22 games to close the regular season.

Her five years with the Rockies honed the reporting skills that she flexed in her first stint with the MLB Network from 2012-2013. She also added a bevy of tools to her bag during her stay at the MLB Network, which prepped Rizzo for her gig with the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Rizzo served as the in-game reporter for the Dodgers for seven years and earned a bevy of Emmy awards, seven in total.

She endured the grind of the 162-game season just lik the players did. She also witnessed the rollercoaster of emotions on the team. 

When Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ ace pitcher, allowed back-to-back homers to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto in the eighth inning of Game 5 against the Washington Nationals in the National League Divisional Series in 2019, Rizzo felt the pain. 

As Kershaw sat alone in the dugout, contemplating the aftermath, she felt that pain as well. 

But as Dodger’s pitcher Julio Urias struck out Tampa Bay’s Willy Adames for the final out to end the Dodgers’ 32-year World Series drought in 2020, Rizzo soaked in that jubilation with the squad.

Medina-Castillo said it brings her and her family joy to watch Rizzo flourish in her career. 

“My dad passed away before Alanna got involved with baseball, but if my dad could see this child, he’d be so proud,” Medina-Castillo said. “Coming from a country (Cuba) where baseball is the No. 1 sport, that would’ve been great for him to see his first granddaughter involved in the sport. Whatever she puts her head on to do she’ll do to the best of her abilities.”

Rizzo left the Dodgers in January, but the team gave her a joyful sendoff. The organization commemorated Rizzo’s exit, first with a host of players serenading Rizzo a tribute video on Twitter. 

The video also included photos of Rizzo with players and fellow broadcasters over her seven-plus years with the team. 

Then, the Dodgers gave Rizzo a World Series ring; an 11-carat white and gold ring encrusted with diamonds and sapphires.

The video ended with a message from Rizzo.

“I am so incredibly grateful to be the humble benefactor of your hard work and your greatest accomplishment,” Rizzo said. “To say it was a privilege and an honor to cover the 2020 champion would be an understatement. … It’s been an honor to be a part of your organization for the last seven seasons.” 

Somehow, getting a World Series ring from the Dodgers would not be Rizzo’s biggest moment this year. 

SHOWTIME

On July 15, The New York Times broke the news that an all-women on-air crew would cover a contest between the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays. 

It’d be the first time such a broadcast occurred in MLB history. 

The team of Rizzo, Sarah Langs, Melanie Newman, Heidi Watney and Lauren Gardner, who is also a Colorado-native and attended CU-Boulder, would work the contest broadcast on YouTube. 

“It’s not foreign anymore to have women calling sports,” Rizzo said days before the game. “Once the game starts and Melanie calls the first ball or strike, it’s not going to be a big deal. We’re all excited about doing this, but it’s not like we just got here. There have been many things along the way and many years of putting in work to get to this point.”  

That confidence exuded from all the women throughout the game and even the stream cooperated without a hiccup.

At its peak, the stream reached more than 70,000 viewers. In total, 317,000 viewers watched on July 20 and, as of July 27, the game has more than 634,000 views on YouTube. 

“If we can show people this is possible and achievable regardless of gender or socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation or race or gender or creed, then we know it was impactful and that’s what we hope to show,” Rizzo said. “We worked hard for this and earned this. No one is giving us anything. We earned this.”

Rizzo served as the on-field reporter and chimed in at the top of each inning with stories about players or game updates. In the top of the fifth inning, Rizzo flexed her muscles as a bilingual reporter.

Rizzo, who is Cuban-American, said she conducted an interview pre-game with Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco, who is Dominican. 

Rather than have Franco speak English or communicate through a translator, Rizzo said they both spoke Spanish. 

The league, which is 8.9 percent Hispanic, provides translators to those who require assistance, but Rizzo wants players to feel comfortable speaking their language. 

“It is imperative that the broadcast team reflects and represents the fan base and the people on the field,” Rizzo said. “Baseball is an international game. Speaking Spanish is a big asset with so many Latin American players.” 

The Rays defeated the Orioles 9-3 in the contest, but that was a footnote. Prior to the contest, managers and players praised the women for the historical moment. 

Some players even discussed the historical broadcast during the contest. Teammates Anthony Santander and Kelvin Gutierrez spoke in Spanish about the significance of the day.

“This is the first time that the entire broadcast team is all women,” Gutierrez said. 

“Today?” Santander asked.

“Yeah, I saw it on MLB Network,” Gutierrez said.

“That’s very important. Women have to continue to carve out their place. They are already smarter than (men) are anyway,” Santander joked with a smile. 

Rizzo said each of the women was grateful for the positive feedback and recognition of the moment. Even the comments and live chat on YouTube remained positive – a stark contrast from the usual internet trolls. 

Each member of the broadcast also gave a shoutout to the numerous women who paved the way for their opportunity and helped them in the business. 

Now, they’re ready for broadcasts like the one on July 20 to be the norm.  

Rizzo, along with Langs, Newman, Watney and Gardner don’t expect a hiatus before the next all-women broadcast. 

“It is a team effort for humankind to make moments like this not only happen,” Newman said during the postgame show, “but to make them normal going forward. We look forward to so many more of those moments as we move along, not only throughout this season, but in the baseball history books. We know this is certainly not the last time this will happen and we can’t wait to see the rest of the talent coming up along the way.”