MLB's second all-women broadcast represents 'huge progress'

March 12th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Spring Training comes to an end later this month and the regular season begins, records will be erased and slates will be wiped clean, but there’s one game that will have made a lasting imprint on the 2023 Major League Baseball landscape.

On Saturday afternoon, as the Mariners topped the Rockies, 4-2, in Cactus League play at Salt River Fields, ROOT Sports Northwest and AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain jointly put on the second all-women broadcast in MLB history.

Jenny Cavnar (Rockies), Angie Mentink (Mariners), Jen Mueller (Mariners) and Julia Morales (Astros) were the on-air voices, acting as play-by-play announcer, analyst and sideline reporters, respectively. Game producer Alison Vigil and game director Erica Ferrero joined them behind the scenes.

The first all-women broadcast took place on July 20, 2021, during an MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube between the Rays and Orioles, with Heidi Watney, Lauren Gardner, Melanie Newman, Alanna Rizzo and Sarah Langs composing that history-making crew.

The women of Saturday’s broadcast were eager to be the next link in the chain, fulfilling the promise that as important as it is to be the first, it’s just as important not to be the last. Together, they have more than a half-century’s worth of experience working in a male-dominated industry, carving a lane for themselves and, in turn, for each other.

“We’re not just going to be doing an all-women’s broadcast. We’re going to be highlighting a lot of women in baseball right now,” Cavnar said in a phone interview. “It’s a very special list of people and pioneers in their own rights, but women that are paving the way to find a path in the game in uniform, to find a path in the game playing or coaching, or being a manager or being a general manager.

“I think just walking around a baseball clubhouse or walking around fields at Spring Training and being able to see several women in several different areas -- it is so refreshing, and it just goes to show you the hard work that a lot of us have put in for decades is spreading.”

Baseball circles weren’t as inviting to the presence of Saturday's broadcast crew when many of their careers began, even if their contributions proved that they belonged. One of the more common refrains centered on the notion that their knowledge of the sport would somehow be limited by the fact that they didn’t play it.

Even Mentink, who in the mid-1990s played for the Colorado Silver Bullets -- the first women’s professional baseball team since 1954 -- wasn’t exempt from those accusations.

“Just because you don’t play Major League Baseball doesn’t mean that you don’t know this game. It doesn’t mean that you can’t teach the game,” Mentink said via phone. “And that’s also why I’m really the most excited about where the growth will be with female coaches. It’s just so prevalent, men coaching women, and I really just kind of click my heels together every single time I hear about a woman coaching men. There’s no reason why they can’t.”

The other inescapable refrain was the idea that the sound of a woman’s voice wasn’t as desirable as that of a man, an especially challenging assumption to deal with as a broadcaster.

“That was a legit conversation 20 to 25 years ago: women would never do sports because their voice just wasn’t right,” Mueller said via phone. “The only voices you’re going to hear on this broadcast are women, just by virtue of [us] being there. We don’t have to do anything special; we don't have to do a big production about it. But that is huge progress.”

The same struggles have applied to Vigil and Ferrero on the television production side, something Cavnar has seen firsthand during their time together with AT&T SportsNet.

“I am so proud of [them],” Cavnar said. “They also step into a man’s world in the TV truck every single time we are home or on the road. And oftentimes on the road, they’re asked, ‘Where’s the producer?’ or ‘Where’s the director?’ They’re right in front of you. People are assuming it isn’t going to be a female. So they’re breaking barriers in their own right.”

That particular aspect excited Morales, who joined the broadcast as a guest from the Astros due to a scheduling conflict for Rockies sideline reporter Kelsey Wingert. AT&T SportsNet Southwest -- which handles Houston’s broadcasts -- is a sister channel to Rocky Mountain (as well as Pittsburgh); the trio of channels fall under the Warner Bros. Discovery umbrella, which shares ownership of ROOT Sports Northwest with the Mariners.

But equally significant to her, along with everyone else, is that Saturday’s broadcast coincided with Women’s History Month. That wasn’t a planned occurrence -- the Mariners and Rockies do a joint broadcast with various talent from their regional families when the two teams face off each Spring Training -- but according to Cavnar, it was Vigil who begged the question: “Why can’t we do this together?”

“I’m looking forward to the voice in my ear being a woman’s voice. That’s something I don’t get to have very much,” Morales said via phone. “So as our producer, when Alison tells me what’s coming up, what camera to look at, what’s my next storyline, the conversation is going to be with a woman. And I find that extremely inspiring at a time like this when there’s a little bit more attention and a little bit more eyes, just a little more talk about women as we all celebrate each other.”

At the heart of it, that’s what Saturday was about. All four of the on-air voices have built both a professional and a personal relationship through their many years in the business that only helped them as they called a game together for the first time. As Mueller put it: “We all really love and support each other.”

“A lot of times you have the good ol’ boy network in baseball, and there’s a growing good ol’ gals network,” Mentink said. “Every single time we’re going in to play Houston, Julia is the person that I know. She’s just so knowledgeable about everything with the Houston Astros, and really across MLB as well. And then Jenny is just, man, she’s talented. I mean, she’s really talented. And I think you just can’t help yourself but like her. … And of course, I work with Jen all the time. Nobody works harder than Jen Mueller. She’s just got her hands in everything.”

Ultimately, though, everyone involved in Saturday’s broadcast knew what people are tuning in for. And they intended to give it to them.

“You’re going to see us all at the beginning of the broadcast so that you see our faces. You might see our faces a little bit more than a normal broadcast,” Mueller said. “But at the end of the day, it’s not really about us; it’s about the baseball game. And I think every single one of us would tell you that. We are so thrilled to be able to work together, but we don’t want to get in the way of the story of the game. And when [we do] interviews, it’ll be just like a normal Spring Training game. The questions won’t be any different.

“It’ll just be female voices that are leading those conversations. And I think that’s an important thing, because we all have different points of view. But also, it shows people that it’s possible and that it’s normal.”

And the more often it happens, the more normal it will appear to be.