It’s sizzling inside Oriole Park. The heat smacks you as soon as you enter the press box, but Adrienne Roberson, the team’s public address announcer, isn’t fazed.
As she sits between two glass barriers, preparing to work the Orioles’ game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Father’s Day, Roberson knows she’s a trailblazer in these parts of town. Roberson is the first woman to be a permanent public address announcer in Orioles history, and she is one of four in Major League Baseball.
Roberson spent years announcing Bowie Baysox games and Georgetown athletics, and made occasional guest appearances at Oriole Park. Despite being an outlier, Roberson never viewed herself as someone trying to break a barrier. “I’ve done it based on I love what I do,” she said. “And that alone, I’m thrilled to be here.”
Roberson has been the permanent public address announcer for the Orioles since April after the team let go of former announcer Ryan Wagner. Roberson said it still doesn’t feel real whenever her voice echoes throughout the ballpark. When Roberson got the position, she recalls screaming out loud and dancing in a parking lot outside the stadium. She and her father, Ed Williams, are still floating on cloud nine.
“I’ve worked really hard for this,” Roberson said. “But just because you work hard doesn’t mean it always happens. I have trouble believing it’s happening.”
Roberson has been a part of the Orioles organization since she and her family drove past the Baysox Stadium in 2004. She was the Baysox’s camera operator on the first base side, following the players and the movement of the ball. When the public address announcer position opened up at Bowie, Roberson tried out. For the past 17 years, she was the voice of the Baysox.
While working for Bowie, Roberson also did public address announcing for Georgetown baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse. “The Baysox on field [master of ceremonies] was a sports information director for Georgetown, and he asked if I [could] help at a couple of baseball games,” Roberson said. “Then it was, ‘Can you help out with softball?’ ‘Can you help with soccer?’ I ended up doing every sport except men’s basketball.”
In 2012, Roberson got a taste of the big show when the Orioles asked her to be an announcer during their Mother’s Day game. Roberson was nervous leading up to the game. By the third inning, she was in the zone.
Roberson loves public speaking. When she was little, her father made her read articles from Newsweek out loud. As her two children were growing up, she would read books to them before they went to bed. Roberson took broadcast classes and worked for the college radio station while attending the University of Tennessee. She enjoyed listening to the voices of John Ward, Tennessee’s former play-by-play announcer, and former MLB broadcasters Harry Kalas and Harry Caray.
“I love watching and bringing the passion to games,” Roberson said. “This is my niche.”
According to Roberson, the key to discovering a unique voice is don’t be annoying, distracting or squeaky. It’s important to have an alto voice that avoids putting fans to sleep. Ultimately, “what makes it unique is bringing your own style to it,” Roberson said. “Not trying to be anybody else.”
Roberson is a student of the game. Whenever a new team comes into town, she studies the pronunciation guide given to her by the team and the ones she would find on the internet. She checks to see what transactions the opponent has made, then goes on YouTube to watch videos of someone saying a player’s name.
“When you get stuck on a particular name, you’ll sometimes go to bed thinking of that name,” Roberson said. “You wake up thinking about it. Sometimes certain names will drive you crazy, and you try to get them correct.”
An hour and 30 minutes before first pitch, Roberson is locked in. She is studying her game notes, researching what happened the night before, sitting in director’s meetings and just getting a feeling for the environment.
“There’s a lot of people that do a job, get paid and leave. Adrienne is not that person,” said Adam Pohl, the Baysox’s lead radio broadcaster. “Adrienne has a love for public address announcing that is genuine. She is hungry and her spirit shines through.”
Pohl, who has been broadcasting Baysox games since 2014, understands the time and effort Roberson has put in to get to the position she’s at today. He’s elated whenever he watches Orioles games and hears his friend’s voice in the background.
“When you are in the minor leagues and doing it nightly, it’s a cool job, but you don’t get that much recognition,” Pohl said. “It’s been so heartwarming to see the reaction that hasn’t just been local.”
Roberson announcing the Orioles’ game June 20 against the Blue Jays felt poetic. Toronto’s Double-A affiliate, the Knoxville Smokies, was her introduction into public address announcing. A college student at the time, she was serving beer in the lower section of the stadium when she was asked to fill in as the announcer.
Roberson immediately dropped her crate of beer on a seat and dashed off. She climbed up a broken-down fire escape staircase, fearing she would fall. Then she climbed to the roof, where she had a perfect angle of the game.
“Literally, I came to work in whatever stupid shorts and polo shirt we had to wear,” Roberson recalls. “I never auditioned or done anything.”
Sports is in Roberson’s blood. Growing up in Philadelphia, Roberson remembers going to Phillies games with her family and bleeding Eagles green. At Tennessee, she would wake up on Saturday mornings around 8 a.m. to tailgate before Volunteers football games.
Baseball, however, is where Roberson’s joy is always present. She can talk your ear off about the Baysox winning the Eastern League Championship in 2015 and watching helicopters soar over Oriole Park while interviewing Cal Ripken Jr. at home plate two years ago. She enjoys being outside and the warmth baseball provides. She loves watching players celebrate achievements and the magical feeling when a player hits a home run.
“If somebody says the word ‘baseball,’ I light up,” Roberson said. “It changes my whole atmosphere.”
For the ones who think baseball is boring, Roberson will tell you it’s not true. Each game provides a different moment, and nothing is guaranteed no matter the team’s record. Whether it’s rain, shine, win or lose, Roberson is still smiling because she’s living a dream.
“I’m doing what I always wanted to do,” Roberson said.