SARASOTA, Fla. — In a memo sent to employees of the Orioles-owned Mid-Atlantic Sports Network on Friday, the network announced its broadcasters will initially not travel to games for the 2022 Major League Baseball season, continuing the remote broadcasts MASN has used for road games since 2020.
The Orioles are believed to be the only one of the 30 MLB teams that will have neither their radio nor television broadcasters on the road at the start of the season. The Washington Nationals, who share the network with the Orioles and are involved with the Baltimore club in a lengthy legal dispute over television rights fees, will also not travel their television broadcasters.
The Orioles and Nationals did not immediately reply to requests for comment Saturday night. In the memo, obtained by The Baltimore Sun and first reported by The Athletic, MASN human resources generalist Emily Dow cites safety concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic as the network’s reasoning.
“In an abundance of caution due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, which will hopefully be winding down and soon be behind us, and as a prudent step in the context of a changing [regional sports network] industry, MASN will begin the season operating under a hybrid model that enables MASN to conduct a production locally while leaving all the major production pieces in place in the truck on site,” Dow wrote. “In this model, MASN will be able to retain on-site production resources for road games in the home team city.”
The memo mentions that new control rooms are being built at both Camden Yards and Nationals Park for producers and directors. For broadcasters, the memo reads, “There will be no travel for these individuals at this time,” giving no indication of when or if they will be able to go on the road during the 2022 season. The memo ends with, “We appreciate your assistance in being mindful of any current health and safety protocols that still remain as we embark on this season-long journey together.”
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Of note, by not sending broadcasters and an accompanying crew on the road, the network does not have to pay for them to travel.
“MASN has provided award-winning broadcast coverage during the last two seasons, even as we have adapted to the challenges of a global pandemic,” the network said in a statement to The Sun. “MASN will continue covering the O’s and Nats throughout the 2022 baseball season.”
Little more than two years ago, the pandemic caused the cancellation of spring training and the delay of the 2020 regular season. In a shortened 60-game schedule, television and radio broadcasters called road games remotely, watching video feeds on monitors from their respective team’s home ballpark. With the pandemic ongoing, several teams continued to exclusively have remote broadcasts in 2021. The circumstances led to various issues for broadcasters, such as flyballs that were difficult to judge off the monitors or technical difficulties including the complete loss of the video feeds.
Twenty-seven of the remaining 28 major league teams have confirmed their broadcasters will attend road games, according to The Athletic; the Los Angeles Angels are still making a determination.
The Orioles are one of four teams that will have remote radio broadcasts for road games. Orioles broadcasters Geoff Arnold and Brett Hollander have been in Sarasota the past two days to call the team’s first two exhibition games of spring training. The Orioles Radio Network will carry eight of 19 spring games total, with three games broadcast on MASN. The network aired two of 28 games in 2021.
MASN confirmed earlier this week that its Orioles broadcast crew will return in full in 2022, with Kevin Brown becoming the primary play-by-play caller. It was welcome news after the network moved on from several longtime broadcasters and former Orioles in recent years, including Gary Thorne, Jim Hunter, Rick Dempsey and Mike Bordick.
In their announcement, the Orioles said every non-nationally televised game of theirs would be on MASN or MASN2. The release included no information on where the broadcasters would be calling the games from, but it’s now known that for road games, at least those early in the year, it won’t be from the ballpark.