A spotting board can be a tremendous resource for broadcasters of any sport. One of the core concepts we drove home in our discussion about broadcast structure was organizing and consolidating as much information into as few sheets of paper as possible. The more you consolidate in advance, the less time you’ll spend looking for the information during the actual broadcast. Spotting boards might be the poster child for structure and consolidation in sports broadcasting.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a “spotting board” is essentially a hyper-detailed version of a team’s roster. A spotting board includes relevant statistical and biographical information for each player in addition to the “names and numbers” found on a traditional roster. By consolidating information for every player on a single sheet, spotting boards assist the broadcaster in delivering high-quality information to the listener in a timely manner. They are especially useful in sports like football, hockey, and basketball where the players on the field/ice/court are often in motion at the same time and moving in different directions. Football spotting boards usually resemble a traditional “formation,” and organize the players by position. This helps the broadcaster visualize the location of a player on the field, and really comes in handy when trying to identify who executed a key block or tackle. Hockey spotting boards are generally organized by line or defensive pairing, and as a result, are commonly referred to as “line charts.” Below is an example of a football spotting board.
Interestingly, there are very few spotting boards designed for baseball. I’m not sure if this has to do with the natural pace of the game versus other sports (baseball lends more time in between plays to consult non-spotting board resources), the fact that the players generally stay in the same area versus other sports, or the mere presence of a scorebook (baseball is the only sport where the broadcaster can sequentially document every play while still calling the game, so a scorebook serves as something of a “real time” spotting board). I’ve seen plenty of baseball broadcasters utilize portions of the game notes pertaining to the starting pitchers, the hitters, or the bullpens. They serve the same purpose, but aren’t necessarily true spotting boards, because they span multiple pages.
The “six-four-three” double play (recorded as “6-4-3” in a scorebook) is one of baseball’s most recognizable events. The shortstop fields a groundball who flips it to the second baseman, forcing out the runner on first. The second baseman then throws to the first baseman, retiring the batter and completing the double play.
Whether it helps a pitcher escape a late-inning jam, the second baseman valiantly heaves the ball to first despite being taken out by the runner, or the first baseman saves the entire sequence with a nifty scoop, a well-executed double play can deliver some of the best drama and excitement baseball has to offer.
The “6-4-3” might be the most common version of a double play, but there are quite a few variations of the “twin killing.” Among them are the 4-6-3, 3-6-3, 3-6-1, home-to-first, and even line drives or flyballs that result in double plays. And of course, there are double plays such as this.
Due to the wide range of double play combinations, it’s very common for baseball broadcasters to verbally incorporate the defensive numerals into their calls (either in the “live” portion of calling the play, or as a means of informing the listener of the official scoring after the play is over).
Because this mechanism is frequently used by broadcasters, I want to bring up a specific type of double play that is often erroneously cited on the air.
In part two of our series on keeping score, we’ll take a closer look at ways to enhance your actual scoring system.
As mentioned in the first post, the suggested methods throughout this series were designed to fit my own personal system, and 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.
Below is a filled in scorecard and pitcher’s card from August 21st, 2016 in which the Winnipeg Goldeyes beat the Sioux City Explorers 6-1 on the road.
(Note: to get the most out of this post, I recommend opening the photo in a separate tab or window so that you can flip back and forth as each section is discussed)
Direct Link to the above photo: https://growcasting.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/full-scorebook-filled-in-e14904674408071.jpg
We’re mostly going to focus on the scorecard portion on the right side of the photo (please disregard the four plays that are highlighted in yellow. The highlighting earmarks the audio clips played back during our postgame show, and is not part of my actual scoring system).
The top of the lineup column indicates this is Winnipeg’s side of the scorecard (you would find Sioux City’s scorecard if you flipped the page over). The players’ jersey numbers are listed on the left-hand side, while the players’ defensive positions are listed on the right-hand side. I highly recommend writing both the position AND the jersey number of each player (it doesn’t matter where, but write both). It will help you spot a pinch hitter (in the on-deck circle, or even in the batter’s box if it really sneaks up on you) or defensive replacement more quickly, especially for an opposing team that you’re not as familiar with.