Being at most home Mahoning Valley Scrappers games is enjoyable for the most part. I have been blessed to meet some very good people and have a great time reporting what I am watching on the field. I had an experience this past Tuesday however, that I will not forget anytime soon. It involved filling in for Craig Antush, the official scorekeeper at the lions share of Scrapper home games.
It all started when Heather Sahli, who works for the Scrappers personnel department, asked me if I would be able to keep the book on Monday. Former GM, Dave Smith, was asked but did not reply. Having kept the book as a coach for years while I coached Pony League Baseball, I figured the numbers have not changed and it would not be a problem. About three days later, I got a thank you-but never mind- e-mail because Smith did call back saying he would be able to do the duty.
The next day, I get an e-mail saying that YSU Sports Information Director, Trevor Parks, who was supposed to do the book on Sunday and Tuesday, was unable to show due to a family matter. At this point, I was asked to fill in on those two days. I obliged, how hard could it be?
Mr. Antush left a detailed set of directions in the press box. The first interesting thing I had to do was give a weather report to Minor League Baseball via telephone an hour and a half before the game. When I called, I introduced myself to a guy named Jeff who seemed less than thrilled to be working on a Sunday. I introduced myself and gave him the starting lineups for both teams. He then asked me how the weather was. I told him it was “nice outside today”. Mistake #1 – The man wanted to know how hard the wind was blowing and from which direction. After that he needed a temperature and a general forecast. OK, once I was done being Don Guthrie, I had an hour and a half to kill before the first pitch.
Once Sunday’s game started, I realized that I was charting pitches, counting balls and strikes, and doing the official book. Every half inning a call was to be made to “Jeff” to give him the results for each batter that inning. I also had to watch for substitutions and pitching changes. After seven total runs were scored by both teams in the first inning, I knew I was in for it.
With that being said, the rest of Sunday’s game went smooth. I waited for the box score in the pressroom, as my instructions said to do. Looking at my directions sheet, it clearly said to leave four copies in the pressbox for media, and to bring three copies to the visiting clubhouse, then three to the Scrappers clubhouse. No problems, no objections, no mistakes – mission accomplished, and I was 50% through it.
Tuesday was the third game of a series with State College. The Scrappers rolled the first two games and State College was struggling, sitting in last place of the divisional standings. I settled in early, played Al Roker again, and geared up for the first pitch. Then the fun started.
In the first inning of the Sunday game, Alex Lavisky was up with runners on first and second, one out. Lavisky hit a towering pop-up about 20 feet behind the first baseman. The second baseman was sliding over, the right fielder was charging, the first baseman was retreating, and the sun was bright. The second baseman came close to catching the pop, but dropped it. Mistake #2 – I ruled it a base hit. This drew criticism from nearly everyone in the press box, I just felt he was battling too many things to make a catch, so I ruled it a hit.
In the very next inning, Todd Hankins was batting. He hit a lazy bloop of a one hopper to the second baseman. The fielder chose to back up and play the ball on a more natural arc off of its hop. He booted the ball. Mistake #3 – E4. Nobody groveled over this one until after the game. The rest of the game was a scorekeepers nightmare complete with about six more errors, a rundown, balls hitting the backstop, and substitutions galore.
When the game ended, I called Jeff, who still sounded like he got woken up when the phone rang. I gave him the attendance, time of game, and other useful things he needed. I got the box scores from Grant Tunkel and headed toward the clubhouse. When I entered the State College locker room, the coaches were tucked in a corner. I politely said, “Excuse me, here are the box scores, I will wait if you want to look them over”. (Keep in mind, they just got swept.) One of the coaches was eating a piece of chicken with his shirt off. Another was hammering away at a laptop on a chair, and a third was staring at the lights or something on the ceiling the whole time I was in there. The intense laptop user asked me how I could have awarded a base hit to Lavisky. I pleaded my case about the sun, the other fielders, the non-routine elements of the play. He scowled. Mistake #4 - Never debate a coach on a ruling.
After I was told I was wrong by the State College Staff, I entered the Mahoning Valley locker room to discuss the objection with David Wallace, Greg Hibbard, and Tony Mansolino. They agreed, it was an error, not a hit. I immediately called to awaken Jeff again to tell him of my error, being an error, and not a hit. He scowled.
Once that was done and I thought I could go home, Coach Wallace said, we want to question a call you made on Hankins’ grounder to second. We feel he was fast enough to beat that out, even if it was fielded cleanly. Fair enough. So I had to go back into the State College locker room. Coach Laptop was still mad at my first visit when I got in there. I told them what the problem was, they debated for a moment then agreed that I could score that a hit instead of an error. I got the joy of calling Jeff at Castle Grayskull yet again. Mistake #5 - Call all objections in at once. Jeff scowled again.
I would do it again in a pinch, but the nightmare I had behind the mall that night took about eight hours off of my life. Back to doing what I can handle. Welcome back, Craig!