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2021 MLB Broadcaster of the Year: Melanie Newman

Three years after we profiled her among four women excelling as MiLB broadcasters, Melanie Newman is the 2021 Ballpark Digest Award winner for MLB Broadcaster of the Year, honoring her work delivering the call of Baltimore Orioles games on MASN and 105.7 The Fan.

“This just absolutely blows me away,” said Newman. “I just continue to be surprised at the reaction and also chain reaction since joining not just the Orioles but professional baseball. It’s absolutely humbling in an industry packed with highly skilled peers to take moments like this and further an even bigger message.”

A native of Woodstock, Georgia, Melanie Newman’s road to the Charm City has been more dogged than charmed. She was a print journalist and photographer in high school, a path she initially pursued at Troy University before SID Ricky Hazel encouraged her to switch to a broadcast journalism major.

“I never thought I’d be a broadcaster,” she recalled. “They said, well, we think you’re better off here [in broadcast journalism], and so I trusted that, got involved in a lot of our Division I sports, whether that was play-calling or putting together packages and tapes for our news station, and walked out into the wide world after that with no sense of direction on how to pursue live sports broadcasting.”

Newman’s first broadcast position post Troy was with the Texas Collegiate League. “[I] quit in the middle of the night in the middle of the season,” Newman said. “It was not a suitable working environment by any means. And I called everybody and I just said, look, even if it’s flipping hot dogs, if you have a place for me to finish the season, I’ll go. A good friend of mine, Justin Baker, said, look, we just fired our on-field host and we’d love to have you in Mobile with the BayBears and so I packed up everything in Kilgore, Texas, and drove home for about a week and then went south to Mobile and ended up spending a good season and a half with them.

“I owe [Justin] a lot. He was the one who said, ‘You’re going to be more than a host,’ he put me in the booth, he fought for me to stay in the booth, I paid out of pocket to travel on the road with the team and to be able to learn more of the broadcasting ropes that way.”

Her path stayed mobile away from Mobile, bringing her to throughout college conference action during the baseball offseason, including work for ESPN3 and the ACC Network, and her new connection with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization, with Mobile as Double-A affiliate, led to work with the Arizona Fall League beginning in 2015, where she ascended to Media Communications Coordinator for the league. In 2018, she rejoined the Double-A level, hired to serve as Frisco RoughRiders No. 2 radio broadcaster and Fox Sports sideline reporter for all televised home games.

In 2019, after being informed two weeks into spring training that her position was being eliminated in Frisco because of budget cuts, she landed as the new No. 1 broadcaster with the Salem Red Sox. “I all but beat down the door through my phone to let them know that I would be there, I would do whatever it took to have that job and contribute to them. It was such a serendipitous fit,” Newman said. “That was really the first organization that I felt not only did I belong in, but I was treated as an actual equal, not with kid gloves, not put on a pedestal.” An occasional on-air teaming in Salem with fellow Red Sox employee Suzie Cool gave Minor League Baseball its first all-women broadcast team.

(Check out our original 2018 story on the up-and-coming broadcasters here.)

“I had actually settled into the position with the idea that, I get it, people are Minor League lifers, and I think that I would be really happy making a life in the Roanoke Valley,” said Newman. “And that’s when Baltimore called.”

“From the moment Melanie plopped herself down next to me in the television truck in 2019 to take in the controlled chaos of a major league broadcast, I knew she was going to be a force to be reckoned with,” said MASN producer Dawn D’Agostino. “Composed, confident and unfazed by hard work and dedication it takes to become a great broadcaster. Her passion and ability to tell a great story, a fantastic set of pipes and big, beautiful heart will always make her a triple threat in this business. I wouldn’t bet against Mel in anything.”

“Melanie is a tremendous broadcaster and an even better person. I am thrilled she is being recognized for her incredible talent,” said 105.7 The Fan Brand Manager and Director of Sports Programming Chuck Sapienza. “The sky is the limit for Mel, and we are blessed to have her a part of the Orioles Radio Network.”

In the summer of 2020, after waiting out the delayed start to the season to the COVID-19 pandemic, Melanie Newman became the first woman to broadcast an Orioles game in franchise history as well as Baltimore’s first full-time female broadcaster in team history.

“I thought 2020 was the big year because that was my debut,” Newman said. “I had no idea that 2021 could even one-up that, and it still has.” On July 20, she joined Sarah Langs, Lauren Gardner, Alanna Rizzo and Heidi Watney on the YouTube call of the Orioles’ game at the Tampa Bay Rays, the first ever MLB broadcast with solely women comprising the broadcast crew. On August 27, she called the Chicago Cubs’ contest with the White Sox on MLB Network alongside Elise Menaker and Alanna Rizzo. On September 22, she partnered with Doug Glanville to deliver the ESPN call of a San Francisco Giants/San Diego Padres tilt.

And on September 29, she teamed with Jessica Mendoza for ESPN’s first Major League Baseball broadcast with an all-female broadcast team, broadcasting a dramatic Los Angeles Dodgers victory over the San Diego Padres.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Newman said. “I’d never done anything for the ESPN before. You know, I’d been on The Three and The Plus. Axe-throwing is really where people recognize me on ESPN. ‘Oh, you’re in Halifax!’ ”

We sat down with Newman in this week’s Ballpark Digest podcast. Here’s the video version: scroll down for information about subscribing to the audio version.

From Woodstock to Baltimore, and the Arizona Fall League to The Show, Melanie Newman has continued to work her way toward a widening, brightening spotlight. But as her national television spotlight continues to grow, Newman is quick to speak out on the importance of radio in the baseball broadcast. “I think especially on the Major League end, if you go fully digital streaming, you do lose a lot of your audience,” she said. “It surprises me to this day how many people say, ‘Oh, I had you on in the car,’ or ‘I turned on my little radio while I was mowing the lawn.’ It does make me think of my dad because he lives by his Walkman radio headset unit, and it’s the greatest thing ever. I think radio still matters… More than anything, we have to have access, we have to have travel, we have to have that full gamut of broadcast access again. Because if not, and you’re giving all of these avenues of access, and you’re giving fans all of these other ways to connect, especially now that they can connect to the players on their own social media, if we can’t take that a step forward and give them something they can’t already get themselves, that would be where we would start to lose.”

Newman’s overall outlook is toward that future, for herself and for her present and future peers at every broadcast level. “When you’re willing to understand that you have to grow, that you’re not perfect; when you’re willing to put in the hours, this is not the gold and glittering job; and you’re also willing to be a peer and a friend to everybody else who’s also around you, that’s how this keeps going, that’s how you stay in it the next day,” she said. “ ’Cause we know it’s so easy to quit. To find a job that has better hours and health care and actually makes you feel like you have a life. But at the end of the day, we’re called to do this. And if we can take advantage of all of those little things that tie together, that’s when you really start cruising. That’s when you really start finding your why, and perfecting it, and making it bigger and growing that to where fans can enjoy it, too.”

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Past Ballpark Digest Broadcaster of the Year winners:
2021 (MiLB): Sam Levitt, Amarillo Sod Poodles

2019 (MLB): Marty Brennaman, Cincinnati Reds
2019 (MiLB): Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, Lansing Lugnuts
2018 (MLB): Pat Hughes, Chicago Cubs
2018 (MiLB): Tim Heiman, Binghamton Rumble Ponies
2017: Mick Gillispie, Tennessee Smokies; Howard Kellman, Indianapolis Indians
2016: Sean Aronson, St. Paul Saints
2015: Josh Whetzel, Rochester Red Wings
2014: Steve Klauke, Salt Lake Bees
2013: John Sadak, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
2012: Donny Baarns, Visalia Rawhide
2011: Jay Burnham, Trenton Thunder
2010: No award
2009: Mike Capps, Round Rock Express
2008: Paul Edmonds, Winnipeg Goldeyes (now voice of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets)

2021 Ballpark Digest Award Winners
2021 MiLB Broadcaster of the Year: Sam Levitt, Amarillo Sod Poodles
2021 Editor’s Choice Award: Jesse Cole and the Savannah Bananas
2021 Promotion of the Year: The Wonders reunite at Erie SeaWolves game

RELATED STORIES: 2021 MiLB Broadcaster of the Year: Sam Levitt, Amarillo Sod Poodles; 2021 Editor’s Choice Award: Jesse Cole and the Savannah Bananas; Ballpark Digest Podcast Season 3 premiere posted