This will come as a shock to pretty much anybody who knows me – but I’m a baseball nerd.
I love baseball.
I’m one of those guys who gets to a stadium early, just to explore. I look for lineup boards. I keep a scorebook at every professional game I go to. I rarely leave games early. And I don’t like missing first pitches.
During a game, depending on who is with me and if they can take over the book for an inning or two, I’ll usually explore the park for some photos. But when I’ve been to a stadium more than once, I’ll usually stay put for the full game.
I participate in the Baseball Passport program, purchase Baseball America’s Prospect book each year, and pretty much anything else when it comes to being the baseball nerd.
And though I love visiting new places and would love to see more of Europe or go on more cruises, my dream vacations include road-tripping and seeing as many baseball games and stadiums as I can.
With all that comes knowing a lot of baseball fans – male and female. The beauty of the game is everybody is a fan at different levels, but can appreciate what others do or how they love the game.
And then there’s scorekeeping.
This is truly a different level of baseball fandom. Many years ago, you’d probably see way more people keeping a book or scoresheet at games. Though scoresheets are still in programs at every level, not everybody does it. I always try and peek around the park and see who else might be keeping book. Sometimes, if the crowds aren’t huge, I’ll go chat with somebody else to see how they keep score and how long they’ve been doing it etc.
In recent years, I’ve been making it a point to try and chat with people, I’ve learned a lot of different quirks and such. It’s really fun to see and learn what others do.
For those of you who don’t keep a scorebook, allow me to say this – it’s a very unique experience. Everybody does it different. Yes, there are basics that we all follow – showing hits, outs, runs etc. – but there are so many different ways of doing things. It’s the beauty of it all – you can make it your own. One person could keep book at the same game I do and the sheets won’t look anything alike, but it will still tell a story.
And that’s what scorekeeping is – it’s an art form that tells a story of the game you are watching. I can go through sheets I had years ago and do a pretty good job at telling you what happened during the game. It’s one of the ways baseball is truly unique from other sports.
Before I get into this a bit more, allow me to say where I started keeping score. It was in high school during games. If you were on the bench, you’d get stuck doing the book. The times I was on the bench, I did the book. After that, when I went to games, I’d usually keep a scorecard at least until the no-hitters were done, and then kind of come and go.
I learned from many different people. I don’t remember anybody actually saying “this is how you do it.” I always knew the game and I spent time on the bench, so … I learned.
Over the years, I’ve taught some people how to do it, more as something they needed to know with being on a team or whatever. Some people do it like I do – at games they attend. Last year, I was at a Lehigh Valley IronPigs game and saw two (I assume) siblings keeping a scorecard. They couldn’t have been more than eight. They didn’t do every inning or batter, but they did a bunch. It was very cool to see.
A few weeks ago, when planning a trip to Washington DC to see the Nationals, somebody I had been friends with online for many years – Lauren – had a blog post about 30 before 30. One of her goals was to learn how to keep score at a game. I told her that I was coming down for a game and she proceeded to invite herself (apologizing of course!) to the game so she could learn.
Now, how many ladies do you all know who love baseball so much they want to learn how to keep score at a game?
This past Saturday, Lauren got a crash course in scorekeeping and passed with flying colors.
What I should have done was taken notes throughout the day so I didn’t forget certain things – but I’ll try my best to remember.
Armed with a scorebook for her (the Eephus League original, which is an amazing book for people learning, or those who like small and compact), we went over the basics and that had to start with knowing positions.
Of course she knew the positions, but did she know the numbers?
OK, let me slow down for those of you still with me, yet don’t know scorekeeping. Each position in baseball has a number to go with it – for example, the pitcher is 1, first base is 3, shortstop is 6 and so on. For those who haven’t paid attention to that detail, sometimes it’s hard to pick up. Especially shortstop as it seems out of place because you count around the horn P/C/1B/2b/3B are 1-5, then SS is 6, then LF to RF goes 7-9.
But then it just gets more in-depth.
You have to record outs, and hits, and all sorts of stuff. For example, did you know that if Bryce Harper grounded into a double-play that started at shortstop would go down as a 6-4-3?
And that if a ball bounces off one player, to another, and then thrown to first would give two assists? So there’d be a 5-6-3?
Outs in the air can be pretty easy, but then there’s so much more to it – like an F9, a P4, or an L3.
With me still?
I give Lauren major props. She not only stayed with me, she picked things up quick. She’d copy here and there, but we’d make sure she made the call before letting her see what we wrote. It’s fun to watch a new scorekeeper as they try and grasp everything – such as counting positions to make sure she had the right numbers for the position.
And then there’s substitutes, which can become pretty tough at times. But you can’t conquer everything all in one day, right?
Here’s the thing – when explaining different aspects of scorekeeping, I made sure to mention that everything is your own personal preference. No book is alike. Some people put lines for hits, others write down what they are (1b, 2b etc.). RBIs are done differently. Same with runs and everything else. So as the explanations went out, she was told different ways of doing things.
This was a basic course in scorekeeping. The basics, the important parts. She answered the question right about why she wanted to do it when she told us it was a way to pay better attention to the game. She asked questions, but still figured things out. We quizzed and tested her. And to Lauren’s credit, she passed with flying colors.
My lone complaint?
Too neat. She needs to get a little sloppy with the book sometimes. Give it some personality. But that, too, will come in time! Hopefully Lauren keeps up this new hobby when she goes to games, even if it’s not every time.
It would be cool to see more people enjoy this aspect of baseball. It really is a great way to watch a game and remember things. If you have more than one person working on a book or two, it’s great conversation at the park. This type of thing goes back to the roots of the game and it would be nice to get back to those roots.
Now, take it around the horn with a 6-4-3 DP and go score some runs!
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