BALTIMORE -- This continues to be a difficult time for NESN play-by-play broadcaster Don Orsillo, who has told friends that his lame-duck status in the booth makes showing up at the ballpark feel “like I’m going to my own funeral.”
But Orsillo has not let his feelings interfere with his work since NESN announced he would not be returning for a 16th season -- note his enthusiastic call of David Ortiz’s 500th home run Saturday night. And while the outpouring of support from his fans -- more than 60,000 signatures have been collected on an on-line petition -- will not alter NESN’s plans, multiple sources say that Orsillo’s prospects of landing another broadcasting job look very promising.
One source in charge of broadcasting with another major-league club pointed to San Diego, where Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Enberg will be entering the last year of his deal next season, as a strong contender for Orsillo’s services. Orsillo’s agent, Brad Blank, said Monday night that he would not identify the teams and networks that have shown interest in Orsillo, but confirmed there are a number of potential landing spots.
Blank said he also has no issue with the Red Sox electing to hire Dave O’Brien, who is regarded as one of the top broadcasters in the business, working for ESPN in addition to his work on radio for the Red Sox the last nine years.
“At the end of a contract, if the terms have been satisfied and they’ve paid what they said they would pay, NESN doesn’t owe anything,’’ Blank said. “That’s how it works.
“If I thought something bad might happen to Don, I might feel differently, but I know he’s going to be fine.’’
O’Brien, like Orsillo a New England native, has been in an awkward position since NESN’s announcement that he would be succeeding Orsillo, the news leaking last month. O’Brien had spoken last summer with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but according to a broadcasting source, no offer was made. Another industry source said that the parameters of a deal were discussed, but there was no written offer.
Regardless of whether O’Brien broached an opportunity with the Dodgers in his talks with the Red Sox, NESN and team sources indicated that they already had decided they wanted to take their broadcasts in a different direction, and viewed O’Brien as an elite talent with the kind of resume that would appeal to advertisers and sponsors.
NESN’s handling of the change, however, has been widely condemned for what has been perceived as insensitivity to Orsillo and an indifference to his popularity with the team’s fan base. The Sox have encountered similar blowback in the past with Sean McDonough, whose dismissal provoked outrage. McDonough’s replacement as the Sox primary TV voice? Orsillo.
While sensitive to how personally disappointed his client is, Blank insists he bears no ill will toward NESN or the Red Sox. “I give NESN and the Red Sox credit for being helpful’’ he said.