Our next few posts will cover several techniques you can use to enhance your scorekeeping. Keeping a basic scorebook should be a given for every baseball broadcaster, but the more details you can capture on a regular basis, the greater the quality of information you will pass on to the listener.
There is no right way to keep score. As long as you can retrieve a previous game and easily recreate what happened, then use whatever method you are most comfortable with. With that being said, specific emphasis is placed on “easily” and “recreate.” If it takes more than a couple of seconds to decipher what you wrote down (I’m referring to penmanship and not the mechanics of your scoring system), then you should probably make a concerted effort to improve your handwriting. You may not have more than a few seconds to locate and interpret a piece of information from a previous scoresheet, which runs the risk of time-sensitive information expiring.
Additionally, I used the phrase “recreate what happened” as opposed to “understand what happened,” because utilizing a scoring system that captures as many details as possible will pay major dividends on future broadcasts. If you’re reading this, then you probably have a fairly sophisticated system already in place, but can you pluck any game from last year’s scorebook and know exactly how many times a runner went from first to third? Are you able to compare the total number of line drives versus the total number of popups? If not, these next few posts can help.
Our scorekeeping “hacks” were designed to fit my own personal system, so they will be introduced as such for ease of explanation. By no means, however, am I trying to force you to adopt my scoring system. Our hope is that you find value in one or two (or more) of the hacks, and manage to incorporate them into the system you’re already using.
Let’s start with the most basic element of keeping score–your scoresheet or scorebook.
Like your scoring system, the type of sheet or book you use is entirely up to you. Pick whatever you are most comfortable with. I do recommend customizing and printing your own scoresheets instead of purchasing a pre-made book. Designing your own template allows you to tailor the scoresheet to your own specific system. Pre-printed books might be convenient, but force you–at least to some degree–to conform your scoring style to the layout of the book.
I promise this isn’t meant to be a crusade against pre-made scorebooks, but another limitation of a ready made book is the finite number of individual sheets. I’ve witnessed broadcasters run out of sheets due to rainouts, making a mistake when filling out a lineup, or simply buying a book that didn’t have enough pages for the entire season. They were forced to purchase a second book to finish the summer. Since it’s highly advisable to have every game from that season handy, it meant they had to lug around two full-sized scorebooks over the final couple of weeks. Sure, you could purchase a pre-made book with enough pages to afford you some mistakes (say 125 sheets for a 100-game season), but then you’re leaving (and paying for) blank pages that eventually go to waste. And if you’re thinking, “well, I’ll just use the remaining blank pages to start the following season,” you will undoubtedly run into the same dilemma of having to carry around two books (and for a much longer period of time than described in the original scenario).
Creating your own scorebook ensures the entire season will be stored in one binder. If you run out of sheets for any reason, you can print off more as needed and fit them seamlessly into the binder. You may have to experiment with the formatting at first, but the payoff greatly outweighs the time investment, because once you perfect the template to your liking, you have it forever.
Working out of a binder rather than a bound book also increases your ability to make the most efficient use of the space in the radio booth. A pre-made book might force you to keep it “open” to the maximum width at all times, whereas the binder allows you to isolate the sheet for that night’s game (which is simply inserted back into the binder at the end of the night). The binder is kept nearby in case I need access to a previous scoresheet, but it’s left off the actual broadcasting table. You might be thinking it’s a little ridiculous to place so much value on saving surface area that basically amounts to one extra 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper, but if you’ve ever called a game in a tight press box, then you understand that every available square inch makes a difference when trying to stay organized.
Lastly, and practically speaking, creating your own scorebook is going to be a lot cheaper than buying one made by someone else.
If you can’t live without a pre-made scorebook, I recommend at least buying one with “blank boxes” as opposed to a book with pre-determined options for you to fill in or circle. Below is an example of a pre-made scoresheet that also has options pre-printed in the boxes.
You can see that the writing (not the scoring system, but the physical writing) is very hard to decipher over the pre-printed blue ink. Blank boxes will make your handwriting “pop” and much easier to read. This comes in handy when you’re trying to quickly locate a specific play or where an inning ends.
Below is the scoresheet template that I use today. I’ll tweak it every few years, but it has gone largely unchanged since it was first created in 2005.
The individual score boxes are extra “tall,” because a major part of my scoring system involves tracking every pitch. The taller boxes ensure that I can record a 12-pitch at bat while still having enough space to record the at bat’s actual result.
The R/H/E (runs, hits, errors) rows are standard for most pre-made books, and I added a row for LOB (runners left on base). Many baseball announcers, including myself, reference the runners left on base at the conclusion of every half-inning, so this row comes in handy 18 times per night. It also makes adding up the cumulative runners left on base very easy. The row labeled “Pitch” tallies the current pitcher’s pitch count for that inning, as well as his total pitch count (if he has pitched in multiple innings).
The column labeled “Umpires” is self-explanatory, and the defensive grid at the bottom is for labeling the opposite team’s defense. Some pre-made scorebooks include a defensive grid, but I’ve seen quite a few pre-made books that do not. In the latter case, the broadcaster has to create a separate sheet for the defensive alignment, which is yet another piece of paper that you have to keep track of and find room for.
The column for the batting order has nine rows with each row split into two. Our league (the American Association) plays with 23-man rosters, so there are usually just one or two position players on the bench each night. It’s also rare in a DH league (which the American Association is) for a specific slot in the batting order to be substituted more than once, so the “nine rows split in two” method works best for me. If you’re in a league with larger benches and/or a league where the pitcher bats for himself, you can split the rows into three or more slots. If you broadcast softball, you can add a 10th row to the template. Below is an example of a pre-made scoresheet with the batting order rows split in three (it’s also an example of a pre-made sheet that does not provide room for a defensive alignment).
The main idea when customizing your own template is to maximize the utility you’re getting out of the entire piece of paper. One of the downsides we mentioned earlier about buying a pre-made book was the potential for wasting unused sheets. Apply that same concept when designing your individual template. You can add as many rows, columns, or widgets as you like. Just make sure they are consistently being put to use. The less wasted space there is at the end of the game, the more efficient your sheet.
Below is the original version of my scoresheet from 2005.
First, you’ll notice the difference in the height of the scoring boxes compared to the current version. In the 2005 template, it would be near impossible to track pitches and still have room for the result of the at bat. Second, you can see all of the wasted rows on the bottom half of the scoring grid. This particular game had no substitutions, but even if there had been three or four, it would still leave four full rows of unused space.
You’ll also notice that the batting rows are not “split.” If there was a substitution, the new player would have to be entered into the “10th” row, and special notation would be required to indicate which of the nine starters he was replacing. This makes tracking players around the bases more difficult. Splitting the rows in the lineup column (whether it’s into two, three, or more slots) allows you to keep the sequential batting order “true” throughout the game.
The opposite side of the scoresheet is identical, and keeps track of the other team. Below is the other “half” of the scoresheet I use.
I’ve always referred to this as the “pitcher’s card,” because it provides the lines for each pitcher that is used, but you can see there is space devoted to more general game information.
At the very top are the main statistics for that night’s starting pitchers. For consolidation purposes, I highly recommend writing this information down as opposed to reading it off the stat sheet/stat package. On the far right, you can see space for the starting pitcher’s height, weight, age, and hometown. I read all four categories for every pitcher (starter or reliever) when their appearance begins. For the purposes of my own system, this is where consolidating the starting pitcher’s statistics and basic biographical information into one area saves time.
The “Visiting” and “Home” lines are self-explanatory, and the “TP” or “total pitch” column is used in conjunction with the “Pitch” row at the bottom of the scorecard. Pitch counts are very relevant, and tracking pitches on your own allows you to pass that information on to the listener in real time without having to rely on a third party.
The middle-right provides space for basic game information, including the managers’ names, team records, result of the previous night’s game, and current winning/losing streaks.
Just below the general game information is space for more specific team notes. The pre-printed categories are something I’ve added for 2017, and include three of Growcasting’s “big four” split stats (home/road, left/right, and situational). I’ve always written this information in this exact space, so adding the pre-printed labels was done in an effort to save some time (or at least rest my hand for an extra few seconds).
You’ll also notice pre-printed labels for the team’s record in one-run and extra-inning games. You could go a long stretch of broadcasts without either category being relevant, but trust me when I say that you’ll be very thankful these two records are written down and readily available when they do matter.
Near the bottom, you’ll see the standard “line score” found in any pre-made book. This is valuable for tracking how many times the lead has changed, consecutive scoreless innings, or how many “crooked” numbers there have been. Utilizing a line score probably seems obvious, but I’ve seen broadcasters who rely on the stadium’s scoreboard for this information, and you can really get caught in a bind if the scoreboard malfunctions.
The bottom-left is standard bookkeeping information, including the weather, time of the first and last pitches, total game time, and attendance. If you don’t already do this, I definitely recommend getting into the habit of writing down the exact time of the first pitch. One, this allows you to track the exact time elapsed at any point in the game, and two, it provides a failsafe for informing the listener of the total game time in the event the official scorer is slow in getting you a box score. “Board” stands for our board operator at the studio, and reminds me to recognize the person keeping us on the air. Please recognize your board operators whenever possible.
The larger blank space at the bottom is used for additional freehand notes, including the upcoming pitching match ups.