When Alanna Rizzo began her professional broadcasting career it was in a small town in Texas that ranks near the bottom in terms of television-market size. Now, she’s entering a fifth season of covering the Los Angeles Dodgers for Spectrum SportsNet LA.
Gone are the days where Rizzo did her own filming, editing and script writing. Now she’s supported by an Emmy Award-winning production crew. But that’s not to suggest Rizzo doesn’t realize the value of experience gained in Wichita Falls, Texas.
“The thing I picked up was to have an appreciation for all the different jobs everybody around you does. Because in those small markets you have to do everything,” Rizzo told DodgerBlue.com. “But I think it’s important to go to those small markets and pay your dues.
“I think there’s a lot of value in being able to pay your dues and do all the jobs around you. Everybody sees the final product and looks at it as such a glamorous job and glamorous life. But there’s very few people that can really visualize the steps of everything it takes to get to that end job.”
Envisioning a position in Major League Baseball, much less with the Dodgers, was not something Rizzo could have foreseen. She began her professional career in the marketing field. “This is my second career, if you will,” she said.
Denver didn’t have the same storied roots in baseball that Boston, Los Angeles and New York, among others, can lay claim to. “We’re a very big Denver Broncos family,” Rizzo said. “I remember distinctly Sundays was ‘Broncos Day.’ I’ve just always been involved in sports and enjoyed it.”
Rizzo’s interest in baseball first began with watching the Colorado Rockies’ inaugural game, but there was still room to grow. “I didn’t really know a ton about baseball, actually, because I didn’t grow up with it,” she acknowledged. “I didn’t come to love it and appreciate it until I started covering it.”
As fate would have it, Rizzo landed with the Rockies early into her broadcasting career. Her first season coincided with the Rockies’ run to the World Series in 2007. She called the experience “trial by fire and on-the-job training.”
It was also there that Rizzo overcame a perceived stigma. “What I learned the most was don’t be afraid to ask questions. I think as a woman in this industry, you want to be taken seriously, but you’re almost afraid to ask a question because at the time I felt it was a vulnerability,” she explained.
“I was afraid if I asked a question, people were going to assume the stereotype was true — that women don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to sports. I quickly got over that, realizing the resources around me were invaluable.
“Being with people that have played the game, obviously they’re going to know more than I do. I think you can say that about a man that’s never played the game either.”
After five seasons with the Rockies, it was on to MLB Network, where Rizzo further perfected her craft and diversified her skill set. “When I had the opportunity to go to MLB Network, the most valuable piece that I learned from there was the ability to ad-lib and not have a crutch as far as scripts are concerned,” she said.
“Very little at MLB Network is scripted. There’s a lot of things you have to do off the cuff, and you really have to know what you’re talking about and know the sport, because you will get exposed immediately. Being a Rockies reporter strengthened my reporting muscles. And I think being an MLB Network anchor and host, exercised those types of muscles.”
She’s put experiences with the Rockies and MLB Network together on SportsNet LA, wearing the hats of a reporter, interview and host. Rizzo’s day begins in the Dodgers clubhouse, where she collects interviews prior to first pitch for use on SportsNet LA’s pregame programming.
Considering the number of interviews she conducts throughout the course of a season, Rizzo sincerely appreciates any player or coach who will grant her the time. And when those interviews come after a loss or difficult moment, it’s about understanding the scope of the situation.
“The biggest thing is sticking to the game and making sure you’ve done your homework,” she said. “In the tough losses, you pinpoint perhaps that pivotal moment that won or lost the game. For me, the biggest thing is being prepared and asking questions that are relatable to the game.”
And when it comes to dealing with the various personalities in the Dodgers clubhouse who enjoy interrupting interviews, Rizzo is all about embracing such instances. “I think the biggest thing is to include them in the interview,” she said.
“We’re a visual medium, and people can see Kenley (Jansen) throwing sunflower seeds into Justin’s (Turner) beard. I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s happening around you but also don’t let it faze you.”
On Thursday, Rizzo joins the Dodgers in embarking on another long journey of a 162-game season. It’ll be with a backdrop that she believes is second to none. “There’s no setting like Dodger Stadium,” Rizzo said.