Although I’ve never met Don Orsillo, he feels like an old friend, and one I’ll miss after he does his final game Sunday on NESN-TV as the play-by-play man for Boston Red Sox games.
Since he started doing Red Sox games for NESN in 2001, Orsillo has mastered the delicate balance of featuring the hometown team while still providing an objective call of the game.
He takes a good common-sense approach to many of his broadcasts, does his homework and doesn’t overdramatize parts of the game. Instead, he lets the game determine the highs and lows of his often vivid and concise descriptions.
Beyond those characteristics, however, it has been Orsillo’s ability to make viewers feel like they are at the ballpark and his rapport with broadcast partner Jerry Remy that have endeared him to his TV audience.
It’s always obvious that Orsillo enjoys his job and enjoys doing it with Remy. That’s something many fans have relished, including my mother, one of their most devoted fans. She appreciates how that friendship has permeated the broadcasts over these past seasons despite the adversity Remy has encountered with his health and son.
That, apparently, was something NESN didn’t understand and may be why many fans were upset when the network announced in August that it wasn’t renewing Orsillo’s contract.
For NESN to not be able to comprehend the value of Orsillo’s connection to the Red Sox TV audience seems more than a bit surprising and was only explained by a Boston Globe report at the time that speculated that Orsillo was never a favorite of Joseph Maar, NESN’s vice president of programming and production/executive producer, as well as the opportunity to sign Red Sox radio voice Dave O’Brien as Orsillo’s replacement.
Orsillo will get another chance to build viewership loyalty next season with the San Diego Padres, who announced his hiring Wednesday as their new play-by-play man.
O’Brien, who also works for ESPN, is also a fine broadcaster, but it may take a few seasons before he is able to build the same viewership loyalty that Orsillo achieved, one that was only previously reached with past Red Sox broadcasting icons Ken Coleman and Ned Martin.
Hmm… I wonder what Ned would say about all of this… Mercy!