Can Jen Royle win over Birdland?

(Valerie Paulsgrove, special…)
April 07, 2011|By Simon Habtemariam | Special to b

It’s opening day in Baltimore and Camden Yards is rocking. 

Buck Showalter’s revamped club has just dispatched with the Detroit Tigers, and a boisterous crowd of more than 40,000 empties out into the greater downtown area.

In the center of this mayhem, a reporter is nose deep in her iPhone while on commercial break during a local radio broadcast. The watering hole she sits in is filled beyond capacity and she tries to capture this image in 140 characters or fewer for her thousands of followers.

“Holy crap Pickles Pub. Words cannot describe this scene,” she tweets. 

This is Jen Royle in her element. A self-proclaimed “twittering fool” and co-host of “Baltimore Baseball Tonight” on 105.7 The Fan, Royle has broken out in the Baltimore sports scene since coming here last year after covering the New York Yankees for seven years.

But it hasn’t been an easy year. 

She’s sometimes been mocked by fans, derided on message boards, and the pestering from a competing station, WNST, got so bad, Royle says, she recently sued for defamation. 

“I am an emotional person and I’m not afraid to tell people how I feel,” she says of responding to criticism. 

Though she’s faced adversity, Royle isn’t thinking about that in this moment. Here, talking about the Orioles, she’s living out her dreams. 

“I get to go to a baseball or a football field every day for work. To me, that’s an ideal office,” Royle says. “I don’t even forget for one split second how lucky I am to have my job and I try to enjoy every moment at work.”

Royle, a Boston native who made her name in New York, is now on her third stop in the AL East. But the welcome wasn’t always warm. 

“The way Baltimore fans are, if you come into this town with Boston or New York attached to you, it’s hard from the start. Jen has both,” says former Oriole Ken Singleton, who like Royle made a transition to Baltimore from New York. “She’s inquisitive, she’s always trying to learn and she’s not afraid to ask for help. I know she had to learn football when she first got there and now she’s doing a fine job on both.”

A new challenge
Royle first came to Baltimore as a reporter with Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, but the 36-year-old recently left that company to work full-time as an Orioles reporter for The Fan. Alongside longtime broadcaster Bob Haynie, the duo is broadcasting before Orioles games from Pickles Pub.

“I love talking to fans and I really enjoy doing the pregame show for both the Orioles and the Ravens outside of their respective stadiums because we get to feed off their energy,” she says. “There is nothing better than a football tailgate and it’s nice to be able to be a part of the pregame festivities (to some extent) before the game starts.”

Royle's focus had previously been baseball. But in Baltimore she was asked to cover football and the transition didn’t exactly go smoothly. 

“Last July I was told I was being pulled off baseball and I had to go to Ravens mini-camp,” Royle says. “I had never stepped foot on a football field and I had limited knowledge of the sport. ... With that being said, I’ll be the first to tell you I made a lot of mistakes. Unfortunately, I made them on the air. I was completely overwhelmed and for a hot minute didn’t think I was going to survive the Ravens season.”

Jim Duquette, former Mets general manager and former vice president of baseball operations for the Orioles, says Royle was already “respected” in Major League Baseball circles, but further proved herself by quickly getting better at talking football.

“I was impressed with how quickly she embraced and adjusted to the football side of her duties, since she had very little experience in that sport,” he says. “And the overall reviews were positive among those that she worked with and covered.”  

Baltimoreans had mixed reviews about Royle when she debuted. Some criticized her lack of knowledge of Baltimore teams, while others were not pleased by her refusal to cheer for home teams. On message boards, she was mocked for allegedly misstating the size of Ravens stadium, told she will never “be accepted” and that she “sucks."

Royle publicly expressed that she did not “drink the orange Kool-Aid." After a year, she’s become more familiar with her new town’s fan base.

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