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Alumni in Action: Jenny Cavnar

Alumni in Action logoJenny CavnarSmoky Hill High School graduate Jenny Cavnar is about to make history – again.

When the Oakland Athletics open their 2024 season on March 28 at the Oakland Coliseum, Cavnar will become the first female primary play-by-play announcer in Major League Baseball history.

“I’m looking forward to the career challenge. I’m looking forward to the growth I’ll experience and the hard work I’ll put in this summer,” said Cavnar, a dedicated baseball broadcaster who is entering her 18th season in Major League Baseball.

Those previous seasons were filled with other notable firsts. In 2015, Cavnar became the first woman to do color commentary for a National League game during the KOA radio broadcast of a Colorado Rockies-Arizona Diamondbacks game in Phoenix. Three years later, she became the first woman since 1993 to do play-by-play on television during a Rockies-Padres game at Coors field. Then in 2021, Cavnar was named Colorado Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association, the first female to earn that honor.

Her career in MLB broadcasting began with a chance interview in 2007 that led to a position as a pre- and post-game reporter for the San Diego Padres.

“I remember being on the field for my first game and looking around and thinking ‘Oh, I was made to do this,’” Cavnar recalled. “I love baseball so much and know so much about it.”

Jenny Cavnar and parents at her graduation from SHHS in 2000That’s partly because Cavnar is the daughter of Colorado High School Baseball Hall of Fame Coach Steve Cavnar, who coached baseball for 36 years and won two state titles, including one at Smoky Hill in 2001. She spent springs and summers at the ballpark, watching her dad coach, and asking him questions after every game.

Cavnar grew up in a family with an older brother and lots of boy cousins, in a sports-friendly Aurora neighborhood where there were more boys than girls, something that never bothered her.

“That’s where I fell in love with sports,” she said.

Jenny Cavnar as SHHS student athleteShe attended Trails West Elementary and Laredo Middle School before moving on to Smoky Hill High School, where she was an athlete in her own right. She played and lettered in softball, basketball, and lacrosse. She was also involved in FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) where she served as president and was named Colorado DECA Student of the Year her senior year.

 “Through DECA, I learned a lot about real-world business scenarios. I learned how to compete, how to fail, and how to grow from failure,” Cavnar said. “Through sports, I learned about competition, how to fight for something, how to work hard, how to reach a goal.”

Those lessons served her well later in life. Cavnar attended Colorado State University where she double-majored in business and communications, earning degrees in marketing and media studies. After graduating in 2004, she spent a few seasons covering San Diego State University athletics, another five covering the Padres, then returned to Colorado where she was a member of the Rockies TV broadcast team for more than a decade. Throughout those years, she earned the respect of team owners, managers, and players. Though she works in an industry that is still male-dominated, she has never felt alone.

“I feel very lucky in Colorado that my opportunities to grow in broadcasting, and even get the chance to do play-by-play, were because I had a female producer and a female director and a female pregame producer,” she explained. “I was surrounded by women and that was very empowering because we were all doing it together. I know that’s not everyone’s case on different baseball teams and different broadcast teams, but that was my case.”

Jenny Cavnar and Rockies broadcast teamShe’s now a veteran member of what she calls MLB’s “girl gang,” and she’s looking forward to the challenges of joining a new team that is going through its own transitions. The A’s ownership is planning to move the team to Las Vegas in 2028 when a proposed new stadium is scheduled to be finished. They will play home games at the Oakland Coliseum this season, but the next three years are up in the air.

Jenny Cavnar and familyThat doesn’t phase Cavnar any more than the fact that she is a married mother with two young children. Her husband, Steve Spurgeon, is a Denver firefighter, which is also a difficult position to get. The couple has a six-and-a-half year old son named Vincent and an almost-three-year-old daughter named Emmery, so their home base will remain in Colorado, with help now and then from grandparents here and in California.

Cavnar will call 95 games this season - mostly road games - which is something she’s looking forward to.

“There’s nothing like walking into a stadium for the first game of a series and taking in the scenery of what a Major League ballpark has to offer,” Cavnar said. “Watching it come alive during batting practice, and then fans filling up the stands. That’s our backdrop for three hours of live TV.”

When asked what advice she has for students considering a career in broadcasting, or any other field, she offers this:

“First and foremost, you have to have a passion for whatever you want to do for your career. Making money is great, having a job that will support your family and your long-term goals is great, but if you can intersect all of that with something you’re passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work.”

Cavnar head shot courtesy NBC Sports California.

Posted 3/26/2024.