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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

I don't remember ever writing about just what it is I do when I work a game for Major League Baseball.

What I do is keep entering the disposition of each pitch and subsequent play if a walk or third strike or the ball is put into play. It is a pretty fun gig but it has taken me a few years to really feel comfortable doing the job. That is because baseball is such a funny game. Nothing might happen for innings and hours, and then suddenly there are baserunners and wild pitches (or was that a passed ball?) and balls are being thrown around, and often in such a situation there are substitutions. And, I am expected to catch them all.

Plus, I need to note when the ball is blocked, when runners are on base, or if the foul was a tip, or a foul bunt, or whether the pitcher threw to another base were there baserunners, or any of the other esoteric things that can happen during a baseball game.

Mostly, it is routine: One gets into a rhythm, though, not unlike the game itself, such that a tight well-played game can be easy to score, and a long slow affair with a lot of full counts and two strike fouls somehow begs for a miscue.

What I love about it, though--aside from having made friends with those who sit around me, and loving seeing a lot of games in the flesh with these folks--it has made me watch the game even more closely. I now tend to watch the umpire as much as anyone, something I rarely did before starting this. Not to mention there is always some scuttlebutt in the booth or clubhouse--most of which I try to share with you, faithful readers.

It has also given me some wonderful moments. I got to score Dallas Braden's perfect game last year, for example. And, I also worked the second World Series contest in San Francisco. These are both games I will always remember.

It is, though, tough in many ways. Pretty much once the game starts, you cannot get up. And, there is usually a seven second delay (not always), but you have to make sure you log every pitch, and correctly. In fact, as I told Cathy many years back, when I first started, "It is the hardest multi tasking I have ever done. Much harder than playing guitar and singing at the same time."

And, as noted, one of the things we have to be mindful of during the job is substitutions. And, from April through August, that is usually not a problem.

But, during the spring, for example, when Chris Stewart, a fourth string catcher on the Giants, number 83 I think, sneaks in with six or seven of his counterparts during the seventh inning of a game in Scottsdale, it can be an adventure trying to sort out who went in and who came out, and more important, what spot the sub will take in the batting order. I mean, say the home team takes the field at the top of the inning and replaces both the second baseman and the shortstop. How do those of us scoring know whether it is a straight up replacement or whether the new shortstop will hit in the old second sacker's spot, and vice versa?

This problem also occurs some during roster expansion, but even then it is not quite as looney as during a spring contest, which means no league assigned official scorer, and some informalities when handling these important logistics.

Now, as I suggested above that there are "usually" no problems during the rest of the season when handling replacements. April 15 is the reason this is not absolute, for April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day: the day we comemorate the great Dodger second baseman's Major League debut and triumphant breaking of the color barrier in baseball. And, I cannot mention this without also noting Branch Rickey, who was the architect to Robinson's mortar.

On Jackie Robinson Day, all players wear #42, meaning on the Yankees, it can be hard, at a distance, to figure out which player actually is Mariano Rivera. Anyway, I am sure you can only imagine how crazy that must be for those of us who have to track such things, for the box score, and related statistics we do, are the ones that go into the official stat archive for MLB.

I do have to say, though, that every time I think of it being Jackie Robinson Day, and then #42, my mind immediately goes to The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where Arthur Dent goes in search of the answers to the questions of the universe. Per the book, there is only one answer, and it is "42."

And, well, I have always loved that connection, as crazy as it is. Because baseball is sort of a tonic. And because breaking the color barrier in baseball was arguably the biggest step our country took towards equality since the Emancipation Proclamation. So, as silly as it is for "42" to be the answer to all our questions, at another level, well, it makes perfect sense.

As I write, I am watching #42 Matt Harrison, pitch to #42, Russell Martin, while #42 Yorvit Torrealba handles pitches behind the plate. At least, that is who I think these players are (we used to need a scorecard).

As for making sure we get the Harrisons and Martins and Torrealbas correctly, well, it is a small sacrifice in lieu of what Robinson gave us.

 

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