When I was seven, my father took me to my first Major League Baseball game. In the spirit of tradition, he tried to teach me to track the game on a scorecard. Unfortunately, I did not possess the required attention span at the time and dropped it, along with my pencil, somewhere under my seat.
I was more concerned with how lucky Jim Abbott was that he had been born a lefty (if he had been born right-handed he would've been screwed!), and trying to convince my father to buy me a foam finger. Despite my disinterest, my father spent many breaks in game play explaining what he was writing on his scorecard.
At the end of the day he knew in which inning Don Mattingly hit his home run, and I did not.
These days, after a game at Fenway, the stands are littered with abandoned and empty scorecards. Adults don't fill them out because they can look up recaps online at home, and if there are no adults to teach them, children aren't going to be scoring either.
The problem is, keeping a scorecard isn't just an outdated method of tracking a game—it’s a life-skill. It teaches kids note-taking techniques that will help them in their academic careers, keeps them focused and allows them to recall the game as a whole rather than a series of individual incidents. It’s also a great way for parents to bond with their children while contributing to their understanding of the sport.
However, these days with stadiums that double as malls and every other parent armed with a smartphone, it's easy to entertain kids at a baseball game without giving them the experience of being at a ballpark at all.
A woman asked me at Fenway last year to direct her to the “Build-A-Bear” shop. I informed her that there was one in the Natick Mall, and one in Faneuil Hall. “No,” she said. “Where is the one in the stadium?”
I told her I had never heard of such a thing, but to my horror I later found that there were SIX ballparks that hosted Build-A-Bear stores. Fenway, thankfully, is not yet one of them.
So how can we give this generation a true baseball experience with so many modern distractions?
Saul Wisnia author of Fenway Park: The Centennial, writes on his “Fenway Reflections” blog about keeping his six-year-old daughter entertained throughout four rain delays without ever whipping out a smartphone or building a teddy bear, but during their escapades through the park they too had to abandon scoring the game.
How can we keep the tradition of scorekeeping alive?
I believe if adults begin to keep score, children's interest will follow. If that doesn't work, I saw one family that kept a three-ring binder filled with scorecards of every ball game they had ever been to; the kids were proud of it and were quick to show off their favorite games. Or we can always resort to bribery: If you score through the fourth, I'll buy you an ice cream.