If you've ever been to a minor league baseball game, chances are you've seen us out there. We're the ones who look conspicuously out of place 5 rows behind home plate. Sitting there with radar gun held high and clipboard in hand; we are charting.
Usually comprised of 2-3 starting pitchers from each team, this unit is charged with profiling each game (pitch by pitch) for their respective clubs. For us, it's the day 3 and 4 pitchers. Allow me to explain...
Day 1: Your start
Day 2: Flush run
Day 3: Bullpen, Chart
Day 4: Play catch, Chart
Day 5: Day before start, Play catch, In the dugout for game
Day 1: Start...again
We keep a chart for our pitchers and a separate one for our hitters. Every single pitch and velocity is accounted for. It's a tedious job, but we make the most of it. It is meant to give us a different angle to watch the other teams' hitters while also giving that day's pitcher a study guide for the next time he faces that team. There's not much to it, honestly. But the chart itself isn't the main focus of what I want to talk about...it's the atmosphere.
They stick you right in the middle of the "regulars". You know, those baseball fans who are at EVERY game, who know EVERY player by name, and who have something to say about EVERYthing. Don't get me wrong, these are the people who love baseball. The people who make our jobs worth it. They also just happen to make charting a game much more interesting. These aren't your normal hecklers. They don't get hammered and scream obscenities at the teams, rather they are the nay-sayers. They watch a team from beginning to end of a season, picking up on all the routines they fall into. For instance, if a team commits an error, you will probably hear "Oh, here we go again!" or "It was just a matter of time." They love the team, so it hurts them that much more when we fail to bring home a victory.
Then there are the "other" scouts. Those guys who bring their briefcase, stopwatch, and radar gun to scout the prospects from each club. You can always tell these guys apart from the rest of the bunch by their outfits. Some sort of lightweight sport material polo shirt, pleated khakis, white tube socks, and running shoes. The accessories vary from case to case. Sometimes you'll see them throw on a full-brimmed gardening hat, or a pair of fancy Oakleys or Ray Bans. I've even seen the occasional suspenders. No lie. If not given away by their attire, then you can always spot them by their "elevated" knowledge of the game. I mean, it is their job to watch and dissect baseball games, but do I really need to hear about it after every pitch?
"23 years I've spent around this game. I've seen the best and worst players to ever play the game...In Person! I've worked for 9 current GM's in the Major Leagues. I've scouted 10 first round picks. I think I know the difference between a curve ball and a change-up. And that, son, was a curve ball."
It was a change up.
There is also a set of rules that we, as charters, have to follow. There is no eating in the stands (unless it's seeds). There is no listening to music while charting (unless it's the national anthem or Cotton Eye Joe). You are not to sit next to your girlfriend, parents, or spouse. And you are to wear a collared shirt and pants. We take liberties with all of the rules here, but especially the last. I think most charters will fall into one of two categories when it comes to our wardrobe in the stands. We either do the bare minimum to pass while cutting a few corners. Like, an old polo shirt, some ratty cargo shorts with a hole right below the butt pocket, and a pair of flip flops. Or, my personal favorite, when a guy throws the charting rule book completely out the window. This is the guy wearing the v-neck Affliction t shirt with 3 chain necklaces. His hair standing surprisingly upright in the summer heat (perhaps you can see the gel dripping off his sweaty head). He is wearing, shorts? or pants? Ok, let's call them Capris just for explanation's sake. If you can't see him, you can smell him. His partner in the ratty cargo shorts lucked out because his B.O. smell is completely overshadowed by guy #2's pungent cologne. Armani? probably.
No matter which camp we are in, all of us are back there for the same reason. Putting in our work and paying our dues, so that hopefully one day soon, someone else will do it for us.
Happy Charting everybody!