New A’s announcer Jenny Cavnar ready to make play-by-play history

March 1st, 2024

MESA, Ariz. – Jenny Cavnar is going down in the record books.

Named the A’s lead play-by-play announcer by NBC Sports California on Feb. 13, Cavnar will become the first woman in Major League Baseball history to serve as a club’s primary play-by-play voice this season.

Cavnar is beyond thrilled to break down such a significant barrier. She also wants to clarify that she did not just get here alone.

This journey was paved by those who came before her like Suzyn Waldman, the first woman hired as a full-time broadcaster for a Major League Baseball team in 2005 as a radio color commentator for the Yankees. Cavnar would not be here without someone like Melanie Newman, who has been calling Orioles games since 2019 and in 2021 led the first all-women broadcast team for MLB’s Game of the Week Live on YouTube.

There were women behind the scenes who also made this possible. Alison Vigil was the producer at AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain who decided in April 2018 to put Cavnar on the air to call a game between the Rockies and Padres, which at the time made her the first woman in 25 years to call play-by-play for a National League game. Becoming the Rockies' backup play-by-play announcer caught the attention of Devon Fox, Senior Director of Live Events and Special Projects at NBC Sports Bay Area/NBC Sports California, who played a key role in hiring Cavnar last month.

“I’m so grateful for the people that put me in this position,” Cavnar said. “Those women are so empowering because you have to have decision-makers to get to this point. I’m really grateful for all of us being able to make this a reality.”

That Cavnar’s historic opportunity is coming with the A’s is also rather fitting. Growing up in Aurora, Colo., without a hometown team to root for until the Rockies arrived in 1993, her early baseball fandom was drawn to the powerhouse A’s clubs of the late 1980s, which featured stars like Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart.

“It’s so ironic that I ended up here,” Cavnar said. “We all fell in love with the Bash Brothers and that era of the A’s. I vividly remember my cousin and my brother getting Oakland A’s jerseys and hats for Christmas. When we played Wiffle ball, everyone wanted to be Mark McGwire or Jose Canseco.”

The Oakland connection runs even deeper. Her new broadcast partner in the booth, former A’s pitcher Dallas Braden, grew up with Cavnar’s husband, Steve Spurgeon, in Stockton, Calif.

“They were teammates on a travel ball team,” Cavnar said. “It’s a very close relationship. Dallas became really close to my mother-in-law after his mom passed away and created a good connection with my in-laws and I’ve known Dallas from the very beginning of my relationship with Steve. … The loyalty of Oakland A’s fans shows through their relationship with Dallas, and I’m excited to be along for the ride witnessing that.”

A first-of-its-kind endeavor such as the one Cavnar is about to embark on comes with pressure. But this is nothing she has not felt before. It is the same pressure that came with Cavnar’s previous groundbreaking moments, all of which she has been able to match with her performance.

“There’s always an idea of being a woman in sports that you have to prove yourself time and time again,” Cavnar said. “Because of that experience and now going into my 18th season of being a broadcaster of Major League Baseball, whatever the title is, I’m a little more comfortable in my own skin knowing that I’ve done the work and I just need to be myself."

“It’s a big job,” Cavnar added. “It’s a big responsibility being a voice of a team, and I don’t take that lightly at all. But a friend of mine, Kate Scott, who is the voice of the [Philadelphia] 76ers, her advice is, ‘Do the work. Be you.’ I keep going back to that, because those are things I know how to do. … I just want to work hard and do a great job.”

Without question, Cavnar is opening another door for women in sports. From growing up in Aurora, admiring the work of Melissa Stark every week on Monday Night Football, along with other local broadcasters such as Susie Wargin and Marcia Neville, Cavnar now finds herself in the shoes of those who inspired her own venture into sports broadcasting.

While Cavnar takes pride in achieving another important “first female” attribution, she also looks forward to a day when such a hire becomes less of a national headline and more of a normality.

“I just think it’s setting the stage so that this is a reality for people to be able to have the opportunity to compete for it, man or woman,” Cavnar said. “I often hear from older women that are like, ‘This is so cool. I would have loved this opportunity.’ I’m kind of living out this reflection of what a dream could have been for them, and I don’t want any more missed opportunities for the next generation. We just want this to be an equal playing ground. It might be a first moniker, but it’s not the last.”