There may be no sadder result to a baseball game than the rainout.
We all arrive at the ballpark with a certain amount of enthusiasm. We don’t know if we are going to see a blowout or a pitchers’ duel, a grand slam or perhaps a play we have never seen before.
But we rarely arrive thinking we are going to see nothing but raindrops, puddles and a giant, old tarp. At least, we hope not. And we certainly don’t expect to see those things for three hours, without seeing even one, single, solitary pitch. Not one.
And that kind of a rainout can really suck for the scout.
We don’t usually have to pay for our tickets and, sure, sometimes we can use a night off, like the players from Bull Durham, who created their own rainout. But most times the rainout throws off our routine and makes our life miserable.
When we are on the road, away from our families, we want to work. In fact, we want to get as much work done as possible. So that when we are home we can relax a little and enjoy some anticipated time our kids.
A rainout, especially a series of rainouts, can ruin that. First of all, it usually starts with a ridiculous, painful night at the ballpark. Minor league teams hate to call off games and lose the gate. The minor league season has fewer built in off days than the Major League schedule, so a rainout usually means a complete loss in terms of revenue.
So minor league clubs will wait until the last possible minute to call off a game. And wait. And wait. Especially if it’s fireworks night.
I’ll be at my hotel, looking out the window, and it will be pouring outside two hours before the game, with no relief in site. I will call over to the ballpark again and again, and I’ll ask the 57-year old woman who answers if the game is still on, and she will inevitably say yes, absolutely, sure, no problem, why not, it’s just sprinkling and besides it looks likes it’s clearing up. Finally, and only after I’m sure the team receptionist hates my guts, I’ll get in my car and head to the park, in the rain. I’ll pass some ticket-taker in full raingear, who must really be loving his life, go the the press box and ask what the forecast looks like.
Some sad sap will be sitting staring at a laptop screen with a weather map full of blues, greens and reds and will translate it for me. (I am one of those people who has no idea what good or bad weather is supposed to like from a satellite — and I actually don’t believe anyone else does either.) He’ll say, every time, “Well, it doesn’t look good.” Of course, that doesn’t mean the game’s off. No, that means find something to do for the next three hours.
So I do. I watch the fans sitting patiently in their seats and wonder just what is wrong with them. I will find the fat 19-year old guy in the T-shirt, dancing in the rain, and wonder what his life expectancy is. I will stare at the puddles and wonder just how anybody would be able to play baseball in this muck even if the rain were to end right now.
And I’ll run those same recurring thoughts through my head. Like how come the USC football program isn’t on probation for the Reggie Bush thing? Or if minor league teams draw 2,000 fans on average but then draw 7,000 fans on a night when the game is followed by fireworks, why don’t teams have fireworks nights every night when they are on the road and draw 5,000 fans? Or how come people still like fireworks even though they haven’t changed in 50 years?
And when the game is finally called (surprise, surprise) I will head back to my hotel room where I may find myself even more bored than I was at the park.
That’s because my routine has now been thrown off. I have not seen a game. I do not have reports to write. And I don’t have reports to write tomorrow either.
I’ve been hoping for weeks for some free time and now that I have it I have too much of it.
I try to remember all those things I wanted to get done when I was swamped and I try to do them. But they’ve gone away somehow. It’s too late to call home. My internet connection is slow. All of a sudden there is nothing good on TV. (Who watches Def Poetry Jam, anyway?)
My normal routine of seeing a game at night, checking boxscores after, sleeping, exercising in the morning, going to lunch, writing reports in the afternoon, and heading to the park for another game in the evening, is shot.
And the worst part is, after killing all that time, the next day I head out to the park for a makeup doubleheader, knowing that now I’m going to have twice the reports to do the next day, and I’ll be swamped again.
The scout’s diary is written by a current professional scout who has asked to remain anonymous.