Jenny Cavnar Q&A: Get to know new A's play-by-play announcer

Jenny Cavnar Q&A: Get to know new A's play-by-play announcer originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Jenny Cavnar made history Tuesday when she was announced as NBC Sports California's primary play-by-play announcer for its live-game coverage of the Oakland Athletics -- the first woman ever in MLB to hold such a title.

The 20-year media veteran has baseball roots that run deep, and she spoke with NBC Sports California about her love for the game, expectations for the A's in 2024 and being a trailblazer in the sports broadcasting industry.

Keep reading to learn more about Cavnar, the newest voice of the A's.

NBCSCA: When did you first fall in love with baseball, and where has it taken you in your career so far?

Cavnar: "I grew up in Colorado, and my dad is a longtime high school baseball coach; he’s in the high school Hall of Fame here in Colorado. So I would say from a very early age, I wouldn’t say I ever fell in love with baseball – I think it was just always part of our lives and the love grew over time. That was really my first introduction to the game and being around it, and as I grew up and realized I wanted to be a sports broadcaster, it wasn’t always in the path of baseball. I don’t think I saw any female broadcasters on regional sports television when I was in high school, and, really regional sports television was kind of a newer thing in that arena. So for me, it was like, “I want to be a college football sideline reporter,” because that was every female I saw on television. …

"I did end up becoming a college football sideline reporter and doing a lot of things with football, but it was this lucky intersection of going down to San Diego for an interview in 2007 and meeting with the general manager, the executive producer of the station there that was hiring for the Padres. We just talked baseball, and he asked me if I knew how to keep score. I laughed in the back of my head, like, “Doesn’t everyone know how to keep score for a baseball game?” not realizing my upbringing had really provided this unique sector of my love and passion and growing up, and then the broadcasting world. So when I got the job with the Padres in ‘07, I began my journey being a Major League Baseball broadcaster, and I eventually got a job back in Colorado in 2012 as a sideline reporter for the Rockies, worked into a pre/post host role for the Rockies, and then in 2018 got my first opportunity to do play-by-play for a major league game with Colorado.

"That kind of opened up this whole new world that I had never had my sights set out for up until that moment, and I started dreaming a new dream of what this could look like and having new career goals. … I’m really excited that it led to this opportunity."

NBCSCA: You have a friendship with Dallas Braden, who you'll be calling games with in the booth. Can you tell fans how you know each other?

Cavnar: "My husband Steve Spurgeon and Dallas grew up together in Stockton, and they played on Little League teams together, competed against each other in high school when they went to different high schools. My in-laws are very close with Dallas as well. To me, it’s really like family, and to have that opportunity to spend time with someone that you consider family in the booth, I hope that A’s fans will catch on to that really quickly. I’m excited to bring that aspect into the booth and be able to bring out more of Dallas’ shining personality every night."

NBCSCA: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the world of sports broadcasting?

Cavnar: "To me, it’s such a privilege to be a woman in broadcasting. I had so many great male role models in my life growing up, starting with my dad, who always encouraged me to participate, always encouraged me to play sports, to know sports, to be around it, and for me, getting to sports broadcasting, I never felt alone. I was maybe the only woman at times, but I felt like the language of sports always connected me to other people, be it male or female.

"Early on, it was a lot of males, and I think as time has passed, it’s so special to look around and see so many women in baseball broadcasting, and not just baseball broadcasting – I think in the game of baseball, right, getting to see Alyssa Nakken in a uniform for the San Francisco Giants, getting to watch different women in front-office roles, PR roles. Melanie Newman, a good friend of mine, does play-by-play for Orioles radio. Getting to become friends with Suzyn Waldman, who does the Yankees broadcast as an analyst. It’s really cool to see how far the game has grown, and how it really is for everyone.

"I’m just so honored to be a small part of that representation and look forward to seeing how it continues to grow for decades to come."

NBCSCA: As the A's look to rebound from a historically bad 2023 campaign, what do you hope to see from the team this season?

Cavnar: "I come from a background of having covered the Colorado Rockies for the past decade, who went through very similar growing pains. I think just being able to spotlight the youth and the exciting players and their stories coming up is something I really enjoy about this game. To become a Major League Baseball player, it truly is the dream of a lifetime, so to make your major league debut and to work hard every single day to try and find a way to stick on a team, to make your name known, to make an impact on a team, those are the stories that I love to follow, and the A’s have plenty of those.

"Coming off their worst season, you hope it doesn’t get any worse and that there’s a way to go up. I think for Mark Kotsay, that’s the message to these players is you can’t worry what’s going on around you – all you control is what you can control, and what happens between the lines and playing the game of baseball. To me, I think that’s our job and that’s what we’re there for. There are a lot of distractions, there’s a lot of disappointment and heartache in the city, but at the end of the day, baseball and our love of baseball come across every night, and I really hope we can share some of those stories of the players as well."

NBCSCA: What advice do you have for women who want to break into the sports broadcasting field?

Cavnar: "The advice I give to anyone who wants to be in sports broadcasting, male or female, is that you have to have a deep passion for what you do. You have to really enjoy it each and every day. It’s long hours, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of nights and weekends, but it’s awesome, it’s sports and it’s exciting. It’s about entertaining, it’s about bringing people and their stories together with the sport they play.

"To me, it’s the greatest thing you could do and call it work for a living. I think for women specifically, there've been so many wonderful pioneers in our game who have really blazed a trail of knocking down doors and making a lot of jobs accessible, not just one or two jobs, but we’re seeing women in uniform now, women in positions in the front office of a baseball team … Women who I admire so much, who took a leap of faith into a career path not a lot of women were doing.

"They’ve opened so many doors, and I hope we continue to do the same so this next generation of girls can see how many opportunities there are laid out to them."

NBCSCA: What do you want A's fans to know about you?

"Growing up in Colorado, we didn’t have Major League Baseball here, so often, when we were playing home run derby, we would pick a player and it was a fight for Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. I have these vivid A’s memories of growing up with my cousins, and everyone was really trying to emulate those teams in the 80s. And obviously I’ll never forget the 1989 World Series, so I think from a history perspective, even though I didn’t grow up there, my in-laws do live in Stockton, and my husband’s grandmother was a huge A’s fan. I think there’s a lot of really fun ties to the organization I’m excited to explore, and hopefully have the fanbase know more about me."