Baltimore Orioles

Orioles formalize reduced broadcast crew on MASN, radio: ‘We’re asking fans to embrace a lot of changes’

While the neighboring Washington Nationals expressed frustration over the impact the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network’s personnel changes could have on their fans, the Orioles publicly expressed an outlook they have held since their rebuild began in earnest 2½ years ago.

“We’re asking fans to embrace a lot of changes that we’re making,” said Jennifer Grondahl, the Orioles’ executive vice president of community relations and communications.


The Orioles on Monday officially announced their 2021 broadcast crew, a group half the size of 2020′s planned lineup and lacking many familiar names from previous years. Veteran play-by-play broadcasters Gary Thorne and Jim Hunter had already confirmed the organization elected not to renew their contracts, but six other members won’t return either, five of them being former players in the organization.

The Nationals, meanwhile, criticized the network’s decision to part ways with broadcasters Dan Kolko, Bo Porter and Alex Chappell. They also contradicted a statement from John McGuinness, MASN’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and General Sales Manager, that said the network would continue to present half-hour pregame and postgame shows for both teams, with the Nationals saying their shows will be reduced to 15 minutes. Grondahl said that O’s Xtra, Baltimore’s pre- and postgame show, would continue to be 30 minutes.


“To say that we are incredibly disappointed and upset by MASN’s decisions would a gross understatement,” the Nationals said in a statement. “To be clear — these decisions were made by MASN and against our wishes. As we have expressed to both MASN and Major League Baseball, we are very concerned about the negative impact these decisions could have on our fans, especially now when content shared via broadcast and digital channels is vital for them to stay connected with our team.”

The teams have been embroiled in a dispute since 2012, when the Orioles and Nationals could not agree on television rights fees, which MASN — which is about 80% owned by the Orioles and 20% by the Nationals — pays equally to both clubs. The Orioles in October lost their appeal of a decision ordering MASN to pay the Nationals about $100 million more in broadcast rights fees. The Orioles said through an attorney that they intend to appeal to New York’s highest court.

In 2019, MASN placed about $100 million into a private escrow account pending its appeals in the case.

In addition to Thorne and Hunter, former Orioles players Rick Dempsey, Brian Roberts, Mike Bordick, Gregg Olson and Dave Johnson, as well as Tom Davis, will no longer be part of Orioles broadcasts, though Dempsey and Roberts will continue to serve as community ambassadors for the Orioles. Grondahl declined to detail what went into individual personnel decisions.

“We are in the middle of a rebuild, and we are making a lot of deep improvements in the minor league system that are enabling us to create a winning team on the field,” Grondahl said. “We’re making multiple investments in the organization and realize that our fans are connected to certain pieces of what we do, but overall ... we’re making multiple investments in the organization that demonstrate our commitment to the long-term product that we’re putting on the field and that MASN is putting on their broadcast.”

The Orioles’ eight-person crew that remains is half of what they announced in advance of the 2020 campaign before it was delayed and shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic. Former Orioles pitchers Jim Palmer and Ben McDonald will return as analysts on MASN broadcasts, alongside play-by-play callers Kevin Brown and Scott Garceau. Brown, in his third year broadcasting Orioles games, will also continue to call games on the Orioles Radio Network, where Geoff Arnold, Melanie Newman and Brett Hollander — all in their second year as part of Baltimore’s broadcasting lineup — will continue in their roles, with each making select appearances on MASN. Rob Long will appear on MASN and 105.7 The Fan programming, as well.

“I think that we are assembling a group of talented individuals that connect with fans, and just like any organization, we make changes,” Grondahl said. “We like to introduce new voices to our fans, and just like with the introduction that MASN made today of in-market streaming, just something else that we’re bringing to fans that we think is important, something that they’ve asked for, I think it speaks for itself.

“I think also, we’re operating in a very unusual environment, so I think we’re also looking at what our season’s going to look like and the various platforms we have and how all these members of the talent team engage across those platforms.”


The official announcement of the staffing changes on both sides of MASN coincided with the network saying it will launch an app allowing fans throughout the region to stream games across multiple platforms, though a television or cable subscription that includes MASN will be required.

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Grondahl pointed to that announcement, the Orioles’ recent dive into the international signing market, and forthcoming announcements about “substantial investments that also play into our desire to improve our baseball operations department’s ability to produce a winning baseball team” as signs of the organization investing in areas it hasn’t previously.

The MASN app is expected to be available via desktop, mobile and Roku by Opening Day, but to authenticate the app, fans must have a subscription to a paid television or video service, a spokesperson for MASN confirmed. The app will also feature player statistics, scoring updates, analysis and video.

“The network’s investment in live streaming expands our ability to deliver premium content and provide deeper engagement opportunities for fans and marketers alike,” McGuinness said in a statement.

“It’s another platform where fans can connect to MASN and watch live games,” Grondahl said. “It’s a very innovative digital experience, and any person who has MASN in the seven-state broadcast territory, they’re going to be able to live stream the games. That’s a great opportunity for us so that people are not just tied to watching it on their televisions.”

Furloughs indefinitely extended

In addition to laying off 11 employees in October, the Orioles furloughed 35 others, hoping to bring them back by Feb. 1 to begin ramping up for spring training. That won’t be the case.


Grondahl said the staffers’ furloughs have been extended to an undetermined date as the organization awaits more concrete news about the start of the 2021 season as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Orioles pitchers and catchers and scheduled to report to Sarasota, Florida, for spring training Feb. 16. The Cactus League and the leaders of several Arizonan cities that host spring training recently wrote to Major League Baseball asking to delay the start of spring training.

In a statement, the Major League Baseball Players Association said the league “has repeatedly assured us that it has instructed its teams to be prepared for an on time start to Spring Training and the Regular Season and we continue to devote all our efforts to making sure that that takes place as safely as possible.”