Cavnar, Morales make history calling A's-Astros

May 14th, 2024

HOUSTON -- Given that Julia Morales has spent the better part of the past decade-plus in front of the camera as the Astros’ in-game reporter, the assumption is that at this point, there’s not much that could rattle her while she works.

But on Monday, Morales’ nerves were jangling just a tad, as she prepared to do something she had never tried before -- doing the play-by-play in the television booth.

“Oh, I’m so nervous,” Morales said before the game, chuckling quietly.

In an exercise dubbed “Trading Spaces,” Morales switched roles with primary TV play-by-play announcer Todd Kalas: She would call the game, and he’d take over her spot next to the Astros’ dugout to serve as the in-game reporter, providing anecdotes and updates throughout the telecast.

The idea was concocted by the Astros' TV broadcast crew, a tight-knit group that wanted to do something fun and unique. But there was also another twist to this Astros-A’s game Monday night that made it not only different, but historic: It was the first time two women did the play-by-play on television in the same game.

Jenny Cavnar took over as the A’s play-by-play TV announcer this season, becoming the first woman to hold that role in a full-time capacity for an MLB team. She’s accustomed to addressing where she fits in historically in an ever-evolving baseball industry, but this time, as she talked about calling the A’s game in Houston, something just felt different.

Cavnar was ecstatic to be part of this moment -- not so much because two women calling the same game was another “first” for the sport, but because she was sharing this experience with Morales, her friend of more than a decade and a close confidant off the field.

“I just know that as a friend, it’s really cool that we get to be doing this game at the same time together,” Cavnar said. “I know her so well. I know her work ethic. I know her baseball knowledge. I know how well she knows this team. I can’t wait to see her in a role where she can shine. To be here on the night she’s doing it is so special for me.”

Morales, who has been a part of the Astros' telecasts since 2013, has had some exposure to this side of broadcasting, albeit infrequently. Twice in 2023, she took over for analyst Geoff Blum when the Astros were playing the Rangers and A’s. In 2020, Morales was preparing for a couple of reps in the radio booth before the COVID-19 pandemic ended Spring Training -- the day before she was to debut.

Four years later, she traded spaces with Kalas, who is familiar with the role of in-game reporter as he served in that capacity with the Rays before he was hired by the Astros prior to the 2017 season. They could have picked any night to do this, but doing it when the A’s were in town, with Cavnar in the next booth over, made it significantly more special for all involved.

“The part I’m most excited about is this is all happening with [Cavnar],” Morales said. “What people don’t know about this is how close we are and what good friends we have been and how much we’ve leaned on each other.

“It’s really hard to understand our job, it’s just really unique. There’s not many of us. We’ve definitely created a bond. There’s a bunch of us that are really, really close within this business and this industry, and she’s definitely one of them.”

Morales also was quick to point out that she considers Cavnar in a special class, along with the other pioneering women who have been hired as either play-by-play announcers or full-time analysts. Morales has reverence for all of these women -- a very short list that includes Orioles play-by-play announcer Melanie Newman and Yankees radio analyst Suzyn Waldman -- and said her stint in the booth should be taken in stride, simply as an opportunity to do something unique.

When Morales agreed to switch places with Kalas for Monday’s broadcast, “I didn’t want it to be a schtick,” she said. “Anytime we brought it up, or talked about it, I wanted to be serious, I wanted to take it seriously and I wanted to do a good job at the end of the day.”

Julia Morales (left) and Jenny Cavnar (right) had their three-year-old daughters on hand as they became the first two women to call TV play-by-play for the same game. Credit: Houston Astros

Morales and Cavnar, moms to three-year-old daughters Valerie and Emmery, respectively, gathered in the booth before the game to pose for a group photo. Then it was time to work, and perhaps those jangling nerves Morales felt earlier in the day disappeared when the lights went on.

“Oh, it’s so good to be home and to settle in for a long homestand …” Morales began, flashing a smile. Soon, she was back in her comfort zone, bantering with Kalas and Blum and diving into the action on the field.

Different space, same place -- and she sounded right at home.