The only way to watch the Orioles this year will be on television broadcasts, and those broadcasts are going to be without some mainstay personalities.
Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer, who primarily filled the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) lead play-by-play and analyst roles for over a decade together, are among several longtime broadcast voices who won’t be part of the reduced in-person group of broadcasters for the shortened 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns, according to team sources who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Both home and away game broadcasts will be called from Camden Yards, along with pre- and post-game shows, with the broadcast for road games fed back to the booth at Camden Yards for commentary.
In a statement from the team, the decision is described as MASN utilizing “several broadcasters from remote locations” because of “an abundance of caution and consistent with club policy to minimize the volume of personnel accessing Oriole Park at Camden Yards and to eliminate unnecessary commercial air travel.”
Palmer and Rick Dempsey could be on the broadcasts via Zoom. Same goes for Brian Roberts and Gregg Olsen, all of whom aren’t based in Baltimore and would have to fly to get to the ballpark for in-person assignments. It’s unclear whether Thorne will participate in those Zoom segments.
For the past 13 seasons, Thorne has been the lead play-by-play announcer for Orioles broadcasts. His partnership with Palmer, the Hall of Fame pitcher who has been an analyst for Orioles games for 28 years, has been a charming and entertaining part of the team’s television presentation as the club’s fortunes have turned on the field.
Palmer missed the end of 2019 with complications from the shingles virus and had back surgery in spring training that kept him away from the club’s spring training games in Sarasota, Florida.
This season was already meant to be one of transition for the Orioles’ television and radio broadcasts. Longtime television and radio play-by-plan man Jim Hunter was moved out of the booth into a new role as on-air contributor, as was Tom Davis, who hosted the pre- and post-game shows.
New faces include radio voice Geoff Arnold, returning television play-by-play announcer and longtime television fixture Scott Garceau, and Melanie Newman. Brett Hollander also joined the broadcast team to be part of television and radio teams as well.
Last year’s newcomer, Kevin Brown, will be back on radio and television, with Rob Long, Mike Bordick, Ben McDonald, Dave Johnson, and all part of the broadcast team announced in the spring.
Now, at least on the television side, those new faces won’t be integrated around the well-liked and established duo of Thorne and Palmer, but challenged with fully replacing them for the 60-game season.
Both the television and radio broadcasts will emanate from Camden Yards at home, with the two broadcasters for the Orioles Radio Network sitting in separate booths to maintain physical distance. So, too, will the broadcasts of road games, as the broadcasts teams won’t be traveling. As of now, they’ll be calling games off monitors at Camden Yards.
The team and MASN on Friday reversed their initial decision not to broadcast the team’s three exhibition games by adding broadcasts of Monday and Tuesday’s exhibitions against the Washington Nationals, with the Orioles crew calling the home game Monday.
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The Athletic first reported the broadcast changes.