O's staying on WBAL in '05 season

One-year extension agreed on by both sides

February 03, 2005|By Ed Waldman | Ed Waldman,SUN STAFF

The Orioles will be heard on Baltimore's most powerful radio station for the 18th season in a row this year after the club agreed to a one-year extension of its contract with WBAL.

Neither side would disclose the exact value of the deal, which was announced yesterday. But Orioles chief operating officer Joe Foss said the terms are not "precisely the same, but generally the same as they were in the past."

The original deal began in the 2000 season and at the time was reported to be costing WBAL about $4 million a year. The Orioles exercised a two-year option on the contract beginning with the 2003 season.

WBAL station manager and vice president Jeff Beauchamp and Foss said that, given the uncertainty over how much the newly relocated Washington Nationals will affect the Orioles' business, a one-year extension made sense for both sides.

"It was mutually agreed upon," Beauchamp said. "It was getting late, and we decided it would be in everybody's best interest if we did a one-year deal, then we have the time without spring training and the season as a deadline to get this done and spend more time on a multi-year deal."

Said Foss: "We both thought it would be best to assess during the course of this year what [the Nationals] ultimately mean to our radio business over a long-term period of time."

Since September, owner Peter Angelos and Foss have been negotiating with Major League Baseball over how the Orioles will be financially protected from the effects of sharing the Baltimore-Washington market for the first time in 34 years.

Foss said there was serious competition for the radio rights. "But we've got a long history with WBAL," he said. "And they've got an experienced sales staff already in place. So there's a comfort with the familiarity and certainty of dealing with a long-standing partner. That certainly entered into the decision."

WBAL, which broadcasts at 50,000 watts during the day, has been the Orioles' radio home for all but 10 of the 50 years the team has been in Baltimore.

Beauchamp said that as of yesterday there was no Washington outlet to broadcast the games, but that "we have someone who is interested. A lot depends on what happens with the Nationals. We hope and we'll make every effort to, and feel encouraged that we'll have a D.C. outlet."

The Orioles' broadcast team will stay the same, with Joe Angel as the lead announcer. Fred Manfra and Jim Hunter will join Angel in the radio booth when they are not doing television.

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