New set, returning cast for 'O's Xtra' as season begins in HD

The Baltimore Sun

Presenting the week's sports media notes in this portable platform known as a newspaper:

* All of your MASN favorites are back for the Orioles' opener with the New York Yankees on Monday (4 p.m., simulcast on Channel 13). Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer call the game, with Amber Theoharis out and about.

An hourlong O's Xtra pre-game show starts at 3, hosted by Jim Hunter (in his Opening Day tuxedo?), joined by Rick Dempsey and Theoharis. MASN will be unveiling its new O's Xtra set at Camden Yards, located in the picnic grove area beyond the bullpen in left-center field.

On Saturday, MASN televises a one-hour FanFest show at 1 p.m., with Hunter, Palmer, Theoharis, Tom Davis and Buck Martinez. For the Orioles-Washington Nationals exhibition Saturday at 6 p.m., MASN is using the Nats announcers, Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble.

* MASN, which is carrying 105 Orioles and 105 Nats games in high definition, launched its HD channel this week. It's Channel 247 for most Comcast customers, 640 on DirecTV and 577 on Verizon. No MASN HD yet for Dish Network subscribers. No MASN HD or any other HD in the Frager household, just in case you were still wondering.

* The Orioles have again denied a media credential to WNST (1570) owner/talk host Nestor Aparicio. The club would not say why, but spokesman Greg Bader pointed out that others at the station have been credentialed. "WNST will continue to receive access to the ballclub," Bader said Wednesday. "They are receiving more than their share of credentials for a station not ranked in the top 30" in Baltimore radio.

As I said when this came up last year, I would issue Aparicio a credential if it were my decision because he does serve in a media role.

On the other hand, it's easy for me to say that; he didn't lead a walkout during a game at my ballpark.

The Orioles have extended credentials to those harshly critical of them in the past. To cite one example, former Sun columnist Ken Rosenthal was unrelenting, particularly when it came to owner Peter Angelos, and Rosenthal wasn't barred from Camden Yards. Then again, Rosenthal never distributed "Free the Birds" T-shirts.

Meanwhile, another season begins with Aparicio calling his show Limited Access, holding himself up as the Baltimore media's only truth-teller about the Orioles and even referencing Jim Valvano's "don't ever give up" speech in a blog entry about the credential situation.

Hey, Orioles, give him a press pass. At least then we don't have to hear about it anymore.

* CBS' coverage of the Final Four begins at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, with a half-hour program, Outside the Games, looking at economic factors affecting college sports. The network that pumps billions into the NCAA will also consider commercialization of college athletics.

The two-hour pre-game show follows, with features on the 30-year anniversary of the Bird-Magic championship game, North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, Connecticut's A.J. Price and Villanova's Scottie Reynolds.

The championship telecast Monday (9 p.m.) will open with a sample of Green Day's "Know Your Enemy," a single from a new album being released next month. Of course, Green Day has a long connection to college basketball, going back to honoring the Cameron Crazies with its 1994 album Dookie.

* On Monday, ESPN will debut a new SportsCenter look to go along with the launching of its Los Angeles-based late-night edition. The graphics have been altered, but the most noticeable change will be in the "rundown," the list of stories. The list will appear on the left side of the screen instead of the right, with the current story at the bottom of the stack instead of the top.

I assume some consultant got paid a ton of money to come up with that change.

* ESPN has added Dave Winfield to its Baseball Tonight analyst team. The Hall of Famer will mainly appear Sundays and Mondays.

* In television's continuing effort to make sure some of us feel old while watching sports, a drug company is sponsoring a spot that will air between games of the NCAA semifinals Saturday starring John McEnroe, Rick Mahorn and Kelly Tripucka - because they're now 50-year-olds - to promote prostate health. You might have to be in need of a prostate check to recall seeing Mahorn and Tripucka play in the NBA, certainly to remember the latter's fabulous perm (now gone).

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