Reporting Tracy Perlman
Baseball is a game of numbers. Three strikes. Three outs. Nine innings. But there are many more numbers needed to keep score.
The game is made up of plays, so it’s not difficult to keep score and enjoy the ambiance of what else is going on around you. I took the challenge of scoring a recent game versus Seattle that I attended with my friends Carly and Christina.
Before we can talk about the challenges and intricacies of scoring — you need to know some basics. First: there is no right or wrong way to score. Each person, from amateurs to professionals, marks their score cards differently.
The key to scoring is understanding each position on the field has a specific number — and I don’t mean the player’s jersey. For instance, Drew Butera wears number 41, but his number is actually 2 for scoring because he is a catcher.
Those numbers are used to represent what happened on the field. So if the third baseman threw the ball to first for an out, you’d write 5-3 in the box.
Other codes you need to know:
* F-# (position number) = The player caught a fly ball for an out. Example: fly ball to centerfield would be F-8.
* K = Strike out. (S is already being used by strike during the pitch count). If the ump calls a third strike and the batter didn’t swing, some people will draw the K backwards.
* BB = Base on Balls … in other words, a walk.
* When the hitter makes it onto base, you draw the path around the diamond as they advance.
As you become more comfortable scoring, you can make additional markings to show where the hits were, strike/ball count and more. Despite learning how to score, there are many situations I didn’t know how to properly mark. Luckily, I could turn to the experts.
Gregg Wong has been an official score keeper for the Twins since 2007. He, along with Stew Thornley and Barry Fritz, rotate that job for every home game. They’re responsible for recording hits, outs, pitch totals, errors and much more. They also post live stats and play-by-play for MLB.com’s Game Day. At this specific game, Thornley and Fritz did the official scoring while Wong sat with us to explain the details.
The score keepers sit in the far left seats of the Press Box, closest to home plate. It’s important for them to see every play and if they need to see something again, they have a small TV screen next to them which has a seven-second delay of the game. If they still need another look, the game is recorded and they can rewind the play.
It’s important to note, the scorers are employed by Major League Baseball — not the Twins. And unlike an umpire’s decisions on the field, the scorers can change their call during a game and have up to 24 hours after a game to do so as well. The calls they make impact the player’s stats.
“The club PR guys will come up to us during the game if they don’t like a call we made,” Wong explained. “Most of them are gentlemen about it, and will ask ‘would you mind looking at that again?’ and we have no problem doing that. If they still don’t agree with what we call, they can send [the challenge] into Major League Baseball.”
Wong’s score book is fairly detailed. In fact, he uses four different pens to mark it up. For instance, his scoring is done in blue ink, but if a pitcher changes or a designated runner is used, he marks that change in red.
“I don’t know if there are any tricks, but everyone I know scores a little differently,” Wong said pointing to his book.
“I don’t know if there’s anyone else who uses four different colored pens like I do. Everyone has their own notations. Find what works for you and do it,” he said.
After going through Wong’s score book and learning his markings, I showed him mine from the night before.
“Well, one thing here,” Wong says pointing to the lineup, “you should write their name smaller, because you only have a small space if they change a player, so you’re erasing, which could confuse you.”
I grabbed a seat in the press box and I filled out my score sheet for that game.
Throughout the duration of the game, Wong explained what he looks for to determine if a fumbled catch is an error or a hit and how the catcher’s wrist can determine a wild pitch versus passed ball.
But when in doubt, there’s an entire section in the MLB rule book on scoring.
When the final out was called and the Twins had won, I felt confident I had properly scored the game. But like they say, “don’t quit your day job” — I still have a lot to learn.
So why score? The answer is simple.
“It enhances your enjoyment of the game,” Thornley explained. “What you want to be able to do at the end is to use your score sheet, if someone were to ask, and tell them what happened every play of the game.”
Though this lesson on scoring has made watching baseball more enjoyable, I learned there is one difficult aspect: trying to juggle your score card, hot dog and kettle corn. (For future reference, I’d suggest not trying to eat all of that at once.) But if the scorers ever need an apprentice, they know who to call!