Tuesday, January 8, 2013

No. 513 – Gravity

Performer: A Perfect Circle
Songwriters: Billy Howerdell, Maynard James Keenan, Josh Freese, Troy Van Leeuwen, Paz Lenchantin
Original Release: Thirteenth Step
Year: 2003
Definitive Version: None

In April 2004, I started as the official scorer at Columbus Clippers’ ballgames. As I mentioned, I was an employee of the International League—Commissioner Randy Mobley’s name was on my paycheck.

Part of what made it such a great experience—a large part—was the cast of characters with whom I interacted on a daily basis in the Clippers’ press box. Most of the crew—all male, as you might expect in a minor-league baseball pressbox—worked every game, like I did, so the conversation was ongoing. By June, everyone joked easily.

Going from left to right as you looked out on the field, were the out-of-town radio guys, then Rich, the p.a. announcer. Rich, who had something of his own booth, asked me to pay particular attention to pitchers warming up or when the ump would signal a position change, so he’d be Richie-on-the-spot with the proper announcement. The second the game was over, I’d call out the time of the game, so he would be able to announce that.

Just inside the pressbox, to my immediate left, sat Chris, also known as Malcom for reasons that were never made clear, who ran the score part of the scoreboard. From time to time he needed confirmation of the pitch count if he got confused, so I started keeping track of that even though it wasn’t required for my job. Chris was a young guy and a big baseball fan, like me, so he became one of my main conversation foils during the year.

Next to me on the right was an open seat. Joe or one of his assistants often would take that seat if the game had no additional press, but sometimes glad-handers or extra folks would sit there. Randy Mobley would sit there if he were visiting the game. I met Gary Gillette of Baseball Encyclopedia fame, who sat there one night while touring old ballparks.

However, on several occasions, that’s where the TV folks would set up if the game were broadcast, as it was once a month for local cable. Usually there was plenty of room, but on those days, everything was squished tight in the booth. The tradeoff was their scorer got an extra monitor that I could see, which would help with hit-error calls—in theory. The reality, however, was that they never showed the replay when I needed it, so it was more a hindrance than anything.

Past that would be any additional press box hangers-on, and, finally, the far seat in the press box was for The Dispatch reporter. That season Bill, a cub reporter who was cutting his teeth on the daily beat, covered the team. It was interesting to watch his progression during the season. By year’s end, he had the cynicism down pat although not yet the entitlement or know-it-all arrogance.

Past Bill was the hometown radio booth, where Todd and Gary (about half the time) held court. In the middle innings, Todd would wander into the booth while Gary took over p-by-p chores for an inning or two and yank everyone’s chain.

In the back, immediately behind me, were the guys who ran the non-baseball show. Mark, who was head of promotions, was always up there, directing the interns during the T-shirt toss or hot dog race or whatever was going on between innings. The other guy, Dan, ran the video scoreboard in coordination with Rich.

Farther in the back, one of Joe’s assistants, Anthony or Matt, monitored the out-of-town and MLB scores. They also would run the phone, just in case a manager had to take the official scorer to task for some boneheaded decision. Joe himself was in and out, sometimes wandering the stadium to take photos, other times holding court in the pressbox.

And then there was me—a 40-year-old ex-newspaperman living the dream of going to a professional ballpark every day and getting paid to do it. Needless to say, I’ll have a lot more stories about what was unquestionably the greatest professional experience of my life in the days ahead.

No comments:

Post a Comment