MASN journalist Amber Theoharis, who has been the network's on-field reporter covering the Orioles since its inception, is shifting to a new role this year.
Instead of covering the team on a day-to-day basis and providing live reports during and after games, she'll be focusing on interviews and features for the network's "Mid-Atlantic Sports Report," blogging regularly and filling in for Jim Hunter alongside Rick Dempsey on the "O's Extra" pre- and post-game shows when Hunter shifts into the booth for play-by-play.
The move was brought about by a change in Theoharis' personal life. In October, she gave birth to her daughter, Dylan Mattea, and she took a leave of absence to focus on her care. Dylan was born several months premature, which caused concern, but Theoharis is happy to report that everything is good.
"She's healthy and she's doing great now, but I can't go on 12-day road trips and travel with the team," Theoharis said. "I'll still be on the network a lot, but I just won't be in that exact role."
Theoharis said the network offered her the chance to return to her sideline reporting job, but she reluctantly declined. She thought she was going to have to look for a new job, but the network was determined to find a role for the Emmy-winning reporter.
"I was really grateful they offered me some work," Theoharis said. "They were really kind about saying, 'Hey, we want you on the network, so what can you do?' Together we kind of came up with this role that would allow me to not travel but still be doing something where people would see me fairly often on the network. I'm actually really, really excited because I thought I was going to have to choose between my career and staying home with my kid. [Orioles principal owner] Peter Angelos was really big in making this happen. He went to bat for me, and I felt really lucky."
MASN will air 160 Orioles games this season —all in high-definition — 95 on MASN and 65 on MASN2. Veteran announcer Gary Thorne is back to handle the bulk of the play-by-play duties, with Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan set to share color-commentary responsibilities.
The one major change in MASN's broadcast team will be the absence of sideline reporter Jen Royle, who worked with MASN through their partnership with 105.7 The Fan last season but returns to the radio station for 2011.
Jim Cuddihy, MASN's vice president for programming and marketing, and on-air producer Chris Glass did not return requests for comment Thursday inquiring who would be filling the sideline role or whether the network would go without an on-field reporter this season.
Additionally, WJZ-TV is scheduled to simulcast 20 games in Baltimore, beginning with the Monday's home opener against the Detroit Tigers. Two games have been selected for national television, as Fox will broadcast the Tampa Bay Rays' visit to Baltimore on May 7 and the Orioles' trip to Tropicana Field on Sept. 3.
On the radio waves, the Orioles return to WBAL-AM 1090 for all 162 games this year after four seasons with 105.7 The Fan.
WBAL director of news and programming Mark Miller said the return to WBAL will bring two significant changes to the team's radio coverage. This season, games will be broadcast in real time, allowing fans at Oriole Park to enjoy the play-by-play of Joe Angel and Fred Manfra, who return to the booth for their ninth season together.
The pair will begin WBAL's pre-game coverage a half-hour before first pitch. The pre-game show will feature the "Manager's Report," a daily interview with manager Buck Showalter conducted by Angel or MASN's Roch Kubatko. Manfra and Angel will also host the post-game show.
Royle, former team executive Jim Duquette and ex-Oriole Joe Orsulak will serve as co-hosts with anchor Bob Haynie on "Baltimore Baseball Tonight," a pre-game show weeknights on 105.7 The Fan. Steve Melewski will host a post-game show weeknights from 10 p.m. to midnight.