CSU alumna Cavnar makes baseball broadcasting history

Story by Tony Phifer. Originally published on SOURCE. 

Eighteen hours after etching her name in broadcasting history books, Jenny Cavnar was still trying to get her bearings.

A whirlwind of activity – including a doctor’s appointment with 7-month-old son Vin, a phone call from the CEO of AT&T, and fielding hundreds of messages from friends and well-wishers – had turned her Tuesday into a mad scramble.

“Just a normal baseball day for a working mom,” Cavnar said wryly.

Historic day

Monday, April 23, was anything but a normal day. That night, Cavnar joined a very exclusive club when she did the play-by-play of the Colorado Rockies-San Diego Padres game on AT&T SportsNet. In doing so, the CSU alumna (B.S., Business Administration; B.A., Communication Studies ’04) became the first female to call a Rockies TV broadcast since Gayle Gardner in 1993.

“My goal was not to be center stage – that’s for the players and the game itself – but the gravity of this moment in history was not lost on me,” she said. “I had so many people tell me that their daughters watched the game, and how proud they were.

Jenny Cavnar is a great admirer of Vin Scully, the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster. Cavnar and husband Steve Spurgeon named their son, Vin, in Scully’s honor.

“I remember watching Beth Mowins (in 2017) when she became the first woman to do play-by-play for an NFL game, and how that made me feel. Here was someone who looks like me and sounds like me doing play-by-play, and it made me really proud. Now a girl can tune in and see someone who looks like them and sounds like them calling a major league game. That’s really powerful and humbling.”

Long journey

Cavnar began preparing for her big moment at an early age. Her father, Steve (B.S., Physical Education ’76), is a longtime high school baseball coach, and Jenny has been around the game for as long as she can remember. She has been covering MLB in the Denver and San Diego markets for the past 12 years, and is a familiar part of pre- and post-game Rockies productions.

Her broadcast journey began at CSU, where she did sports for CTV and worked for KIIX radio in Fort Collins, doing sideline reporting on CSU football broadcasts with former Voice of the Rams Rich Bircumshaw and current Voice Brian Roth.

A history of making history

Two years ago, she made history when she became the first female in National League history to do radio play-by-play for a Rockies game. Adding TV play-by-play was the final piece on her baseball broadcasting bucket list.

While she had spent years preparing for her big moment, she had very little warning that Monday’s game would mark her debut. Drew Goodman, the Rockies’ longtime play-by-play specialist, was taking the day off, leaving an opening for Cavnar.

“I found out Sunday morning,” she said, laughing. “I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, but that’s probably for the best. I was still nervous and excited.”

She said Jeff Huson, who along with Ryan Spilborghs provided color commentary, helped put her feelings into perspective.

“Jeff said, ‘Now you know how a player feels when he’s making his major league debut,’” she said. “That was a cool moment.”

‘Fire up the fountains!’

The highlight of the broadcast came in the bottom of the first inning when Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado connected for a two-run home run. The fountains at Coors Field immediately sprang to life to celebrate the feat.

“Fire up the fountains! She’s gone!” Cavnar said.

Jenny Cavnar
Photo courtesy of Matt Dirksen

Her home run call was widely lauded on social media.

The game, which had been close for six innings, deteriorated quickly in the seventh inning when the Padres erupted for 9 runs en route to a 13-5 win. Cavnar said she wished she had done a better job, adding that she has even greater respect for play-by-play announcers.

“It’s such an art form that takes years to craft,” she said. “I know I’ve got a long way to go.”

Wide praise

Still, peers praised her work. And she got dozens of messages from former players and managers she had met throughout her career.

“I thought Jenny did a great job,” Goodman said. “I’m really proud of her and happy for her. She has a great personality and it comes across in her work. I’m glad she was afforded the opportunity because she works so hard. She earned this.”

By Tuesday morning Cavnar was still trying to respond to the 150-plus text messages and 100-plus emails she had received while caring for Vin who, you might have guessed, was named for Vin Scully, the broadcasting legend for the Los Angeles Dodgers. She even got a call from AT&T CEO John Donovan.

“He said that he was proud to have played a small part in helping elevate females in this business,” she said. “I can’t believe he took time out to call me; I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.”

More to come

Cavnar said she likely will do play-by-play for more Rockies broadcasts this season, and will take what she did on Monday and learn from the experience. In the meantime, she’s pleased she’s helping break down barriers for females in a male-dominated profession.

“I’m really proud to come from a university like CSU that has produced a lot of trailblazers – women breaking down barriers, like Becky Hammon and Amy Van Dyken,” she said. “I really hope the historic part of my opportunity helps move the needle a bit more for females in this business and creates more opportunities.”