Hunter, Orioles near radio deal But CBS commitments are possible problem


The presumed leading candidate to replace Jon Miller on Orioles radio broadcasts said yesterday that he hopes to have the matter settled in the next few days.

Jim Hunter, a veteran of CBS Radio broadcasts, said his agent is speaking with the Orioles and WBAL (1090 AM) and a decision could come as early as today.

"We're exchanging parameters, and hopefully we'll get something resolved, I would hope by the middle of the week," Hunter said. "We just have to see if all the pieces of the puzzle fit for both sides."

Hunter, 38, calls a weekly package of baseball games for CBS, is host of NFL broadcasts and anchors the network's weekend sports updates.

Sources say the biggest stumbling block to Hunter's joining the Orioles' broadcast booth, which is expected to include holdovers Fred Manfra and Chuck Thompson in an expanded role, is believed to be the club's desire to have Hunter work as close to a 162-game schedule as possible.

That would mean Hunter would have to cut back or end his network baseball commitments, which was one of the complaints Orioles owner Peter Angelos had with Miller, who does Sunday night telecasts on ESPN.

Hunter declined to comment on possible CBS entanglements. WBAL station manager Jeff Beauchamp and Orioles executive director of broadcasting and marketing Michael Lehr declined to comment.

WBAL's 15-game spring training schedule begins Feb. 27, with a 12: 35 p.m. broadcast of the Orioles' game with the Minnesota Twins from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and runs through their March 30 meeting with the St. Louis Cardinals from Camden Yards.

VITALE'S VISION: Of course, nobody appointed Dick Vitale the ambassador of college basketball, but the role fits him like a well-worn pair of sneakers.

And just as any good ambassador does, Vitale is out selling college basketball's good points, which he believes are many.

In a season in which dominant players like Stephon Marbury, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Allen Iverson are in the NBA long before their graduating classes have left, Vitale says the college landscape looks bright and beautiful.

"I think college basketball is as exciting as ever," said Vitale, who was in College Park on Saturday for the Maryland-Wake Forest game. "I'm not going to sit here and cry that we lose all these kids. Obviously, it hurts, losing guys like Marbury and Shareef and [Marcus] Camby and Ray Allen and all the superstars we've lost. But the bottom line is that there's so much competition."

Among the teams Vitale is sold on, not surprisingly, is Maryland, which he calls the "biggest surprise in America."

"Right now, they've got to be seeded in the top eight," Vitale said. "They've got to be one of the top two seeds [in the NCAA tournament]. That may not hold, because of life in the ACC. Who would have thought with four kids who started last year being out of here that they would do this?

"The difference between this year's club and last year's is that this club plays as a team, and plays together. The other club was individually oriented. They had individual goals. I think these kids are giving their best. They should be applauded."

In particular, Vitale calls center Obinna Ekezie "the most improved player in America," and says he will "become a special player." He also praises do-it-all senior forward Keith Booth, deeming him one of the top 10 players in the country.

But he also sounds a cautionary note about tomorrow night's home game with North Carolina State. The contest comes in the midst of a two-game Maryland losing streak, whereas N.C. State had a breakthrough with Saturday's win over Clemson.

"If they lose that game, that is a big, big loss," Vitale said. "That is a game that Gary [Williams, Maryland's coach] has to be really concerned about, because N.C. State has challenged a lot of people. They've had teams on the ropes, and it won't be easy for them [the Wolfpack] on the road. That is a must win.

"Any team in this league could lose four or five in a row. Look how quickly it turned around for Clemson. They were rolling and they lose [three] straight. But that's great. That's college basketball."

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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