Gearin debuts as D-backs' first female broadcaster

Single-A voice gets big league exposure as club splits doubleheader

September 21st, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- When hit a first-pitch homer to lead off the third inning of the D-backs’ 6-5 loss on Tuesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, history was being made -- not on the field, but in the broadcast booth.

On the D-backs’ radio play-by-play call for the blast was Jill Gearin, who had just become the first female broadcaster in the club’s history.

A home run for your first Major League call? Not a bad way to get started.

“I think, a little bit, I was thrown into the fire, but I was able to get words out properly, which was important,” said Gearin, who serves as director of broadcasting and media relations manager while calling play-by-play for the Visalia Rawhide, the D-backs’ Single-A affiliate.

While working in the Arizona Fall League last year, Gearin connected with Scott Geyer, the D-backs’ vice president of broadcasting, who said he wanted to get her to call some innings at the Major League level in 2022. Tuesday’s doubleheader -- which the D-backs split with the Dodgers, winning the nightcap, 4-2, thanks to a strong start by Drey Jameson --  offered a natural opportunity for Gearin to step in and give Chris Garagiola a breather from innings 3-5 in Game 1.

Despite her admitted nerves, Gearin, 26, came across very naturally on air, with D-backs radio analyst Tom Candiotti helping her to keep the atmosphere light. As someone who first got to know many current D-backs players in the early days of their development, Gearin was able to color the broadcast with some unique insight.

“Being able to tell a story about Alek Thomas giving us the game-winning hit for the championship in 2019,” said Gearin, “that's what makes the broadcast special, and being able to really have those natural stories just made me feel more calm.”

A native of Hermosa Beach, Calif., Gearin spent Monday night in her childhood bed before making the drive north to Dodger Stadium. There was definitely something special for Gearin in accomplishing a major personal achievement so close to home, and the familiar setting helped her settle in -- as did the appearance of one of her mentors, Dodgers radio play-by-play broadcaster Tim Neverett.

“I interned for him in 2018 [at WEEI in Boston],” said Gearin. “He came here on his off-day to be here -- and obviously to take in the game -- but I know he was here to help my nerves calm down a little bit, too.”

Also helpful was that the D-backs provided her with plenty of action to call. Varsho added an RBI single in the fourth, and Arizona tacked on a pair in the fifth on Christian Walker’s solo shot and another run that scored thanks to a Miguel Vargas throwing error.

“It's cool,” said Walker, who now has 35 home runs this season. “Happy for her, happy for the game. Any time you’re taking a step forward like that, it's a good thing. It’s cool to be involved, but either way, regardless of the homer or not, take me out of the equation, it's still a great thing.”

Recent years have seen women making great strides at all levels of baseball, from roles in front offices and coaching staffs to broadcasting and media. Gearin has made some significant strides herself as the first female broadcaster in Visalia’s 73-year history. At the time of her hiring in 2019, she was just the third female broadcaster in the history of Minor League Baseball; there are now six. In May 2021, Gearin became the first woman to call a Triple-A game when she filled in on a Reno Aces television broadcast.

“I think it just shows that baseball is realizing that women can help improve the sport,” Gearin said of growing female involvement in the game. “There are a lot of people who think that we detract things from the sport, and that's just not the case. The female perspective is so special for so many different reasons.”

The game ultimately got away from the D-backs in a messy bottom of the eighth, but that couldn’t dull the excitement of Gearin’s milestone moment. Could D-backs fans get another chance to hear her behind the mic for the big club again in the future?

“No idea about anything set in stone, but of course I would love for it to happen,” said Gearin.