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My 13-year-old son Noah loves to keep score at Cubs games. Doing so gives him a chance to participate in a spectator sport in a way that doesn't exist when we watch basketball or football or whatever else. Of course, he also loves to have information that others don't and then to fill them in on the gaps in their knowledge. Keeping score gives him a great chance to do that.
By the time a sixth inning of a given game rolls around, just about the time the conversation begins to lag during game-day get-togethers I have at the park, Noah starts busting out the little tidbits of information provided by his careful record-keeping.
It is exhausting at times but my wife reminds me that soon he probably won't talk to us hardly at all. A part of me pines for those future days but I think the bigger part knows she's right and that I better try hard to cherish our current interactions.
We took in the Cubs-Red Sox tilt on Sunday and by very good fortune we were able to settle into our seats literally as the Cubs were taking the field in the top of the first. I went for a beer and a Pepsi and Noah locked it down in his spot in the upper deck reserved for the next two hours.
Our seats are tough on hot summer nights. We are a little ways down the right field line (I have written before that if you draw a line from third base to first and then up into the stands, we are right on that line extended). The sun beats down on us for a good hour after the game begins before finally dropping below the upper-deck roof as it accelerates toward the horizon.
But Noah (who both handles the heat better than his dad and also had the foresight to wear sandals on this given night while his goofball dad stomped around in socks and shoes) was perfectly happy to sit in the heat and record every little detail about the game unfolding in front of him.
The last few years have been great because his dad can take trips to the concessions stand in part to track down food and drink and in part to cool off a little and he is all good sitting in his seat and focusing intently on just about every pitch. I'm thinking he maybe had to ask me twice last night "What happened?" And as any committed scorekeeper can tell you, that is an awfully good rate.
The main positive that flowed from this evening of scorekeeping was that we knew when Starlin Castro came up in the eighth inning, he was going for the cycle. After we had an argument about how rare cycles are - I said they were much less rare than perfect games, he disagreed and I don't really want to know what the right answer is because let's just say he reads a lot of books about baseball - we watched Castro step up and crush ball to right-center. But as is often the case with Castro (who has great gap power but rarely lofts the ball into the stands), the ball didn't carry and the outfielder was able to flag it down for the out.
Still, it had been a great night on the Castro stat line; the sort of night the young shortstop has with remarkable frequency.
I have to say that the baseball numbers contained in the scorecard are oftentimes mundane but are at least occasionally delightful. Noah was able to tell me at one point "Dad, the pitchers for both teams right now have the same number, number 37."
Still, I go to games for scenes like the Cubs' rally for their second run. Reed Johnson had doubled and after Darwin Barney failed to get him over to third with one out, Castro stepped up and hit a sky-high pop-up into shallow right.
I actually am in a great spot at games to evaluate whether pop-ups qualify as sky-high. This one did because it arched up and out of sight for a moment above the roof. As it came down, we realized that the Red Sox's awesome little second baseman Dustin Pedroia was scrambling like mad to get under it. He managed to do so but then the ball popped out of his glove. Johnson rounded third and raced for home and slid in head-first just under the tag. Castro took second. It was probably better he didn't hit for the cycle because that was a pretty weak double. The achievement would have required an asterisk.
In the end, Noah's tired (not because of excessive conversation but because it had been a long weekend) dad forced him to leave before the ninth inning of yet another disappointing Cubs performance. Fortunately I was able to sooth the savage scorekeeper by pointing out that he would still be able to complete his scorecard. The game's official play-by-play would be on ESPN.com - probably by the time we got home.
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