- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2005

Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), the regional sports entity broadcasting games of the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, yesterday named Mel Proctor as its lead play-by-play announcer for Nationals telecasts.

Proctor, a former play-by-play man for the Washington Bullets and Baltimore Orioles, will begin with tomorrow’s season opener in Philadelphia. Proctor is currently the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers and plans to finish the season with the NBA team, causing him to miss a few early Nationals games.

Besides the Orioles, Proctor’s major league baseball background includes two seasons with the Texas Rangers and five with the San Diego Padres. Proctor also does voice-over work and guest-starred on several episodes of NBC’s 1990s police drama “Homicide: Life On the Street.”

A lead color commentator to join Proctor will be named today. Proctor was unavailable for comment yesterday, but the hire represents the latest move in a frenetic push to turn MASN from concept into reality. The Baltimore Orioles are the dominant owner of MASN and are essentially turning their Orioles Television Network into the new entity.

MASN will serve as the television producer for all Nationals games, including 76 slated to air on WDCA-TV (Channel 20). Even without carriage deals with any satellite or cable provider, MASN will staff and produce every Nationals game not scheduled for national broadcast.

Though such a move will initially result in many early games without an audience, MASN is proceeding in this fashion to compile highlight footage as well as giving itself more time to hone its game presentation.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape, but it’s really unprecedented doing what we’re doing in so little time,” said Bob Whitelaw, an MASN executive. “We all know what needs to happen, but there’s no question this is an unusual situation.”

Major League Baseball and the Orioles did not reach agreement until Thursday on a financial protection package stemming from the arrival of the Nationals, of which MASN is the central element. But Whitelaw said tentative plans were laid out ahead of time, including the booking of production trucks and arranging for the transmission of the network’s signal.

Negotiations have begun with several cable and satellite carriers to get on their systems, but Whitelaw did not offer any timetable for when local fans will be able to supplement their watching the Nationals beyond the games on WDCA. Comcast, the dominant local cable provider, in particular provides a likelihood of intense discussion because the industry powerhouse operates the rival Comcast SportsNet.

“The initial discussions we’ve had have shown a receptiveness for our product. We are going to be delivering value,” Whitelaw said. “We certainly want to be out there as soon as we can, but the process of negotiating these deals does take a certain amount of time.”

Whitelaw dismissed speculation the Nationals will be an inferior party on MASN. Terms of the Orioles-MLB agreement mandate equality in the presentation of both clubs on the network.

“The Nationals are our partners in this venture, and we’re taking their success very seriously,” Whitelaw said.

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