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“Why don’t you come and watch us play ball tonight,” George asked.

“Ball, what kind of ball? I replied.

“Softball, company team, we play at Sage Avenue Park at 7:30. Bring your family. It’s a lot of fun.”

“A lot of people come?” I asked.

“Sure, many employees and their families. You will enjoy it.

I thought that it may be a good way to get to know my coworkers better so I replied, “We’ll try to make it.”

I had only been working at Virginia Chemical three months and I wanted to fit in.

“The games only last an hour so don’t be late,” George said.

We arrived at the ball park a 7:00 P.M. The stands were already full of fans cheering for their teams.

George met us as we approached the stands and with a big ole smile, he said, “Welcome Wayne. I assume that this is your family.”

After a few introductions, George said, “The stands will empty soon as this game is over and y’all can find a seat then.”

As coworkers and their families arrived, I methodically introduced my wife and children to them. After about ten minutes, the stands erupted into a joyous victory celebration. Soon they began picking up their stuff and exited to meet with their players as we climbed to our seats and repopulated the stands. Carolyn and I took a top row seat while Tammi, Terri, and Gary ran around and played with other children.

Marla, the plant secretary, and her husband sat down about four rows in front of us. Willie Byrd sat just to our left and others filled the stands all around us.

About ten minutes before game time, George who is the manager of the softball team climbed the stands and stopped right in front of me and said, “We do not have a score keeper. Will you serve as ours?”

Now, I played a little softball at PE while in school and I understood the basics of the game. I had also seen the Little Rascals play ball on TV and understood that they basically wrote a number on a chalk “score board” after a runner crossed home plate. They also kept track of how many outs a team had.

“Will the other team be okay with this? I asked.

“Sure. Sure. There is an official scorekeeper for the game, I just need someone to keep up my lineup book and keep track of the game for me. I will use it to review the game tomorrow,” George said.

“Okay, I’ll do it.”

“Good,” George said as he sat down beside me. “Have you ever done this before?”

“No,” I said.

“Let me show you a few things,” George said as he opened a spiral bound notebook. “This is an official lineup book. It’s where I want you to record everything. I have already filled in the starting lineup. We will substitute some players around the third or fourth inning.”

I nodded thinking it looked innocent enough. I would soon learn that there was more to it than I initially thought. A lot more.

George pointed to a square on the page and said, “If a batter hits a line drive, draw a straight line from home plate to the location where the ball is fielded.”   George drew an arrow from the home plate on the little diamond to a point just to the right of second base. “If the second baseman catches it then put 01 in the box. If he catches a bouncing ball then throws it to first for an out then draw 4—3 like this and put 01 in the box. Now if he misses the ball and the batter gets on base because of the missed ball enter E1 in the box. If the second baseman catches the ball and throws it to first base but it’s not in time to get the runner out then it’s a base hit and enter 1B in the box.”

If all this was not enough, “If the batter pops the ball up, draw a line like this,” George continued as he penciled a steep arc from home plate to second base. “If it is a low fly ball make the arc less pronounced, like this.” He drew a slightly less curved arc from home plate to second base.

“Wow, there is more to this than I thought,” I said feeling overwhelmed with what he had shown me so far.

“Yes it is, do you have any questions?” George asked.

“Yes I do,” I responded. “Why did you enter the 4—3 right there?”

“Because the number 4 player, the second baseman, made the out by throwing the ball to the number 3 player, the first baseman.”

He continued, “All of the players on the field are numbered. The pitcher is number 1, the catcher number 2, the first baseman number 3, the second baseman number 4, shortstop number 5, the third baseman number 6, the left fielder number 7, left center field number 8, right center field number 9, and the right fielder number 10. Numbering the players makes it easier to keep up with who is doing what.”

“This is going to be much more complicated than I thought,” feeling a little like being in an Abbot and Costello conversation, “Who’s on first I said.”

“Three,” George said and then smiled, “You got it.”

“I tell you what, I’ll stay up here with you during the first inning until I have to bat and I’ll help you get started,” George said.

“Thanks, I’d appreciate that.”

“No, thank you for helping,” he said.

It was really helpful to have George with me during the first inning. Our first batter hit a little looper over second base into right center field. The fielder had no chance to get him out at first so I put 1B in the box. The next batter hit a line drive to the shortstop and he threw the ball to the second baseman to get the advancing runner out. The second baseman turned and fired the ball to first.

“Safe,” Russell Osborne, the league hired umpire, yelled as he waved his hands in a motion that apparently also meant safe. I wrote 1B in the block for the hitter.

George looked at what I had done and then said, “No that was not a base hit. It was a fielder’s choice because the shortstop could have gotten the batter out if he had thrown to first but he choose instead to get the runner at second. So you enter an FC and not 1B.”

“I see,” I said kind of mumbling half understanding.

“Now you have to go back to the previous batter’s box and modify it to show out number 01 by a throw from the shortstop to the second baseman like this 5—4.

“Is all this necessary?” I asked.

“It most certainly is. With a properly documented score book I can review the game completely and better understand how well our players are doing. This is a very key function. I’ve got to go but I’ll check back with you the next time we are at bat. Do the best you can.

The game moved quickly and George did check with me occasionally, answering questions and correcting mistakes. He kept reassuring me. I really got it mixed up when we substituted players.

After about thirty minutes, Marla turned to me and asked,” What’s the score?”

“Six,” I said.

“Six?” She asked.

“Yes, six,” I said again.

“Shouldn’t it be six to something or something to six?” She asked.

“No, just six.” I could feel every eye in the stand staring at me now asking the same question.

“Who has six?” Marla asked.

“We do.”

“What does the other team have?”

“I don’t know. It took all I could do to keep up with our team. I spent most of the time they were batting correcting my mistakes.”

Marla turned to the rest of the crowd and said, “The score is six!”

Wayne Brady 10/10/2014

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