As in writing a biography: the big secret of baseball scorekeeping lies not in what you record, but in what you leave out. A good scoresheet tells the story of the game without getting bogged down in irrelevancies. The act of keeping score, like that of keeping a journal, focuses the mind in the present moment — and magically stretches that moment into history.
But enough with philosophizing — play ball! The 2003 season of the Clark Griffith League has just begun, and my local team, the Silver Spring - Takoma "Thunderbolts" are rumbling. They've already won their first five games. On 12 June they were getting ready to try for Number Six when a line of violent storms moved through the area tossing real thunderbolts and soaking the field.
So until the next home game, a survey of Tbolt action that I've witnessed so far this year:
2 June — pre-season exhibition vs. the Maryland Orioles: a 3-3 tie — It's a cool evening with high overcast and play doesn't start until after a Babe Ruth League all-star contest among some younger kids finishes. The stadium is still under construction, so there's no food, no place to sit, and no announcer — in other words, the game is merely a good experience, below my usual standard for amateur baseball. I stand behind the screen back of home plate and watch over the umpire's shoulder. A scout, affiliation unknown, wields a radar gun and measures pitch speeds of 88-91 miles/hour — in between holding conversations on his cellphone as he attempts to recruit a hot high school prospect. Both teams change pitchers every few innings, and there are a couple of fielding errors on each side. But fine diving catches and sharp plays make up for the mistakes.
6 June — opening day vs. the Germantown Black Rox: an amazing come-from-behind 11-10 victory for the Tbolts — Son RadRob and I share scorekeeping and food-fetching duties. It's another cool night, partly cloudy and breezy; we get a blanket from the car to drape over us in the late innings. Several local politicians line up near the mound to lob ceremonial "first pitches" at a parallel line of Thunderbolt boys. Once that display is out of the way, the fireworks start — beginning with a grand-slam homer by Black Rox center fielder Hans Falkenhan in the third inning. (A run scored by Tbolts designated hitter Justin McClanahan in the bottom of the second came on an error and is less exciting.) The lead changes hands a couple of times during the game and then settles 10-8 on the Rox. Top of the ninth inning, they go down 1-2-3. Last chance for the home team ... and its first pair of batters likewise fail to reach base. Then, just one out away from a loss, the Tbolts get lucky — or, if you prefer, unveil their strength. With the top of the lineup at the plate there's a base on balls. Then another. The crowd (close to 100 fans) begins to feel hopeful again. Catcher Jon Hodach bunts, and now the bases are loaded, two outs, bottom of the ninth. Clean-up hitter Michael Epping singles to bring in a run ... DH McClanahan does it again ... and with the score tied 10-10 left fielder Jeremy Hess strokes a long ball, and the game is over. Whew!
8 June — make-up for the previous day's rain-cancelled event vs. the Bethesda Big Train: a well-played 3-2 Tbolt win on a slippery-wet field. In the first inning the Thunderbolt catcher is injured as he successfully guards the plate against a Big Train rumbling in to score; he's taken to the hospital for a check-up and returns ambulatory but on crutches later that evening — bruised but unbroken. The Thunderbolts knock in two runs in the third, and with good defense keep the Big Train confined to the station.
8 June — second game of a double-header vs. Bethesda Big Train: a seven-inning Tbolt victory 6-5 — Temperatures drop and a misty fog gathers late in the game, but the umpire says to play on. Thunderbolt bats are quiet until the fifth inning when they bang out a succession of three singles, a double, and a triple (right fielder Mike Epping) to score four runs. Another triple (shortstop Matt Capece) in the sixth knocks in two more.
I'm gradually settling into the summer spirit of baseball: long slow spells with "nothing" going on — at least nothing obvious, just potential energy like that stored in a tightly-wound spring. Then, with the crack of the ball off the bat, there's smooth choreography as fielders shift into position to make the play while runners rocket along the basepaths.
Now if only the rains would pause long enough for the diamond to dry out ...
Thank you for writing about the Clark Griffith baseball league... the team pages and main site are not doing a very good job of keeping up with game summaries. I am particularly interested in the Germantown Black Rox, but will enjoy reading any updates at all from this league.. I'm from SC and there are a few players from here playing in the league. Thanks!