Monday , May 20 2024

First woman hired as full-time MLB play-by-play gig

For the first time in MLB history, a woman will serve as the leading play-by-play announcer for a major league team. NBC Sports California announced Tuesday that Jenny Cavnar will serve as the primary play-by-play announcer for the Oakland Athletics.

The industry veteran of nearly two decades spent the last 12 years serving as a backup play-by-play announcer, pregame and postgame host, and reporter for the Colorado Rockies regional television broadcaster. She also previously covered the San Diego Padres as an anchor and reporter.

“Jenny is a very talented announcer with significant experience covering baseball,” said Matt Murphy, President and General Manager of NBC Sports California and NBC Sports Bay Area. “She’s been a groundbreaking professional who’s earned the admiration of fans and her peers throughout her career. We’re very excited for her to join our excellent team and lead our A’s coverage starting this season.”

In 2015, she became the first woman to broadcast a National League game live on radio. Three years later, Cavnar became the first woman since Gayle Gardner in 1993 to call play-by-play for an MLB game. The five-time Emmy winner became the first woman to be named Colorado Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association in 2021.

“It is a dream come true to join the broadcast team for the Oakland A’s and their rich baseball history,” Cavnar said to NBC Sports California. “Growing up the daughter of a baseball coach, I have loved the game from a young age, along with the stories, history and relationships the game provides. I’m excited to start my 18th season as a major league broadcaster with my good friend, Dallas Braden, and share our experiences with the loyal fans of the Athletics as we go on this ride together.”

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Women continue to grow their presence in sports media coverage. Baseball has had some female representation in its history. Suzyn Waldman has provided color commentary for New York Yankees radio broadcasts since 2005, while Jessica Mendoza broke barriers as the first woman to serve as an analyst for a national MLB game in 2015 and the first female analyst for a World Series in 2020. In other sports, A.J. Mleczko and Leah Hextall are two of ESPN’s top color commentators for the NHL, while Doris Burke, Candace Parker, Stephanie White, Monica McNutt serve as some of the top color commentators for the NBA.

Cavnar’s appointment to a play-by-play position is a unique milestone, though. While women have been able to earn color commentary jobs in recent years, serving as the lead voice on a televised broadcast is a relatively new frontier. Gardner was the only woman to call a baseball game for 25 years before Cavnar’s appearance in 2018.

Like the MLB before Cavnar, the NBA and NHL have no women in play-by-play roles on any regional coverage desk. The only other female play-by-play announcer in the big four professional sports at the moment is Beth Mowins, calling games for ESPN. Few women have been able to break through to NFL play-by-play. Mowins and Gayle Sierens were the only two women to call play-by-play for an NFL regular-season game before Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm became the first all-female broadcast team for a 2018 Thursday night game.

It is unknown what would happen to Cavnar’s historic appointment if the Athletics are able to complete . The team currently has a contract with NBC Sports Bay Area that pays out about $70 million next year. However, according to a report from ESPN, if the Athletics are not in Oakland, the regional sports network is not contractually bound to pay the rights fee. If the Athletics have no regional broadcaster, the league could take over its game coverage. The MLB took over broadcasting rights for the San Diego Padres when Bally Sports began dropping coverage for teams due to bankruptcy.

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