“Can we switch chairs?”, I looked at the guy asking the question. He looked at me kinda of annoyed (at least, that is how I saw it). I looked at him up and down and processed what he was saying, I said “Excuse me.” He repeated himself, “the chair, can we switch”, he stood looking at me. He had a can of Pepsi and a bag of Ruffles Original potato chips. It finally registered why he was asking. He was short and he needed the extra height of the chair I had; besides that, he was the official scorekeeper of the Connecticut Tigers.
“I have cerebral palsy on my right side” Chris tells me, “It is a slight physical disability for me. Its not… it didn’t affect my intelligence, some people have mental capacity difficulties.” Chris explained all of this before I had a chance to ask. I am sure he sees people’s questioning expressions. I explain to him what I am doing and asked if it is okay to talk while he is focused on the game. He didn’t have a problem with my request. He immediately sets up his area, you could tell that he has done this before. He positions his computer, phone, score book, Pepsi and chips where he wants them. He makes a couple of calls and fills out his book.
Chris tells me about all the players that came through when the team was the Double-A affiliate of the Giants and Yankees. He told me that he keeps all the score books from previous years and once in awhile he will go through it to see who has made it to “The Show”. Dustin Pedroia and Coco Crisp come to mind quickly; but, he said that when he saw them he couldn’t tell if they were something special. He smiles and says, “Lots of players come through, hard to remember them all.” There have been nights that Chris has gone home from a game and when asked who won, he has had to consult his score book. “I stay very in the moment”, he said with a smile, his job is to get the play scored correctly.
“I have always loved baseball,” Chris volunteers. I ask if it was frustrating growing up and having a passion for a game that was physically difficult for him to play. He admitted that it was; but, he found some acceptance when in high school. The baseball coach asked if he would do the score keeping for the J.V. baseball team and this made him feel part of the team. He attended Eastern Connecticut University where he got a degree in Computer Science. Even though, he continued to keep score for the college and during the summer. He worked with a college summer baseball team to create their website in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He was asked to fill in for the scorekeeper at a Norwich Navigators game in 2001 and he has been doing it ever since. The team has changed MLB affiliations, play levels and names; but, Chris has remained for 13 years.
Coaches call once-in-awhile to ask to change how he scored specific plays which he has 24 hours to change them. Normally he doesn’t unless a coach has compelling evidence; or, he didn’t have a great view. He has to call the MiLB offices in New York every half inning to report, I recorded one of the calls and it went like this:
“Chris in Connecticut, Meyers line drive triple to left field, ah left center, fielded by the centerfielder. Monge sac fly to right, Meyers scores. Moore line drive single to center. Suarez grounded out to 3rd, 5-3, Moore goes to 3rd, yep from 1st to 3rd. Yep it was a hit and run, he was starting to go on the pitch, since no one was covering 3rd he went over to 3rd and Hudson grounded out to 2nd, 4-3. Okay, Thank you.”
As I sit and watch the game, Chris repeats this type of conversation through out. He explains, “Most levels are connected directly into the computers in New York and there is no need to call but since this is the Short Season Class A, they won’t be switched over to that for a few more years.”
It seems that everyone in baseball has a dream of getting to the next level, whether it is a player, grounds crew member or the official score keeper and Chris is no different. He told me he would love to score a Red Sox game, his favorite team. If Pawtucket, or another higher level team, doesn’t come calling; Chris says, “I’m fine where I’m at and will continue to score the Tigers games as long as they will have me.”
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