Melanie Newman joined the Orioles’ broadcasting team this year. Last year, she called games of the Salem Red Sox, Boston’s affiliate in the Carolina League, and she’s also been part of the broadcast team for Frisco, the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
Newman works on both the Orioles’ radio network and MASN telecasts.
This interview has been edited for brevity.
Question: After your first eventful week with the Orioles, have you gotten into the rhythm of being a major league broadcaster?
Newman: “I think I have. The biggest thing about it, is I’ve been used to the minor league grind for so long, and everything that entails, to be the person who sometimes puts out fires in areas that aren’t yours by definition, but nonetheless you’re the person who’s inherited the responsibility. So, making the switch to the big league side of things, and realizing there was still going to be a lot to juggle, it was kind of in different terms. That was the learning curve at first.
“And especially going back and forth between play-and-play and sidelines and pre- and postgame hosting. Each entail a different type of preparation. It’s just the matter of fact of having to learn it. I’ve never been in the position of having all of these different obligations, but once I really got though a series of doing each of these different roles, and seeing how things operate on the big league side, seeing how the different producers react, what people expect from me, and what they want to see, it’s become a lot easier since then, just having a sense of place and self, and. ‘OK, this is what we’re going to look at coming into this series.’
“I think, too, slowing it down and only looking at it series-by-series, since I’ll have one role for the entire series; it doesn’t change on a day-by-day basis, that helps, too. Not getting ahead of myself and trying to do too much at once.”
Q: Speaking of slowing it down, players who get promoted from the minor leagues often talk about how the game speeds up in the big leagues. Is it the same for broadcasters?
A: “I’m in a weird situation this year because before the season got shut down, I was looking at our original Opening Day in March. It really did feel that way. There was a lot coming at once.
“You know how the schedule is. It’s 162 games, and it does not let up. You get a break every now and then, but you have to keep moving forward, so I feel kind of lucky in a way that we had that time away that allowed me to step back and dig into my preparation and have a little more time, doing things that I wouldn’t have gotten to do beforehand and, also, the fact that it’s only 60 games, and there aren’t fans.
“As much as I wish the fans could be here, it does to a degree pare it down, and it strips the game down to its very basics for me. Had we had a normal year, it absolutely would have felt sped up because it did before the shutdown. Right now, it’s created a weird balance with all of the things that are more quiet this year, and allowing the game to feel like it’s slowed as well.”
Q: There are a lot of unique challenges for you because as a first-year broadcaster for the Orioles, you’re not getting to know the players the same way you would in a normal year. You were in the clubhouse once or twice in spring training. How difficult is that?
A: “It honestly was a different challenge at first. You’re right, I only got to be in the clubhouse, maybe one or two times before everything came to a halt.
“That was widely due to the part that I was still balancing two jobs at that point. I hadn’t foreseen Baltimore happening, so I already had on my schedule for spring training, to work a bunch of games for the statistics side of Major League Baseball, and was balancing trying to be, in the morning at Baltimore’s spring camp and going to whatever game I was assigned to that night, and circling back and listening to the postgame stuff from the players and our manager and coaches, so it was a lot of juggling back and forth.
“I feel grateful that I knew a few of the guys coming in. It was [Rio] Ruiz, [Pat] Valaika and Richie Martin, just from our time in the minor leagues together, but apart from that, I haven’t gotten to know anybody, and I feel really fortunate we came together and decided we were going to start making content in the period that there was no baseball, and one of those happened to be the show we ran on Instagram called “The Grind.” It was a chance to sit down with the player and have a cup of coffee and talk about life, not baseball, just to really take a step back and humanize them.
“I think what a lot of fans never knew that when I was sitting down with these guys on Instagram Live, that was the first time we were meeting, we were speaking to each other, anything, and the players were so gracious and open and kind with doing that. They didn’t have to be, and it speaks to the integrity of the players that Baltimore has chosen to have in their organization. It gave me a little more of a balance moving forward and at least I know,a third or a half of the team, and we can build from there.
“It’s just been a matter of being patient with myself, and accepting I’ll get to know the guys eventually. We’ll take what we can get for right now.”
Q: This a city that’s much different from where you grew up in Georgia. You’re not getting the full taste of Baltimore. How is it adjusting to a new place during these difficult times?
A: “It definitely was a little crazy. When everything happened, I didn’t go forward with moving up here in March, and I stayed back home in Atlanta.
“We have family that lives up and down the Eastern seaboard so I’ve been to Baltimore, and I was familiar with it, but obviously only from a visiting standpoint.
“The only way I get to see [the city] right now is through my apartment windows or when I go on a run through the Harbor, but I’ve taken the chance, too, to go on social media. What are the local businesses out there offering delivery right now? Who are people who are still trying to work through from a distance standpoint during this time to keep everybody safe, but obviously encourage commerce?
“From what I’ve seen so far, there are so many different niches and corners of this city to really explore. I definitely think it’s underrated from the way that people on the outside try to perceive it.”
Q: How difficult is it calling games from another stadium when the Orioles are playing on the road?
A: “The first game I got to call since spring training was the exhibition game in Washington. The first time walking into Oriole Park as an employee of the team, I didn’t know what to expect. It was a little shocking when I realized it was just the three of us in the entire park. It was myself, [radio broadcaster Geoff Arnold] and [producer] Kevin Reid.
“For a stadium of that magnitude to have so few people in it, it was an odd situation, but honestly once you get into the game, you really kind of tunnel vision into watching the monitors. It felt pretty normal.
“You get used to, ‘I want to look at this screen during this portion of the play, and then I’m going to switch over to this one when this happens,’ and it was almost weird getting to call a game [last] week with Toronto because they were in front of us, and that was the first time this season when my radio assignment was for a home game, not a road game.
“You adjust. Being in the minor leagues, we had stuff happen all the time that we didn’t plan for, down to when the bus breaks down at 2 a.m. in the middle of an 11-hour road trip, and I think having all those years there tempered me to letting go what I can’t control and just rolling with the punches, being comfortable with the weird, being comfortable with the unexpected. It’s definitely coming back to pay off this year.”