Coaches grab handheld computers to track stats

When high school baseball coach Jeff Barker wants to know how to defend a certain hitter, he just checks his scorebook.

When he wants to know how many pitches his hurler has thrown, he checks the scorebook.

When he wants to know how successful his batter has been throughout the season when the count is 1-2 and a right-handed pitcher throws a curveball low and outside on a partly cloudy day … you get the idea.

Scorebooks are changing. The pencil-and-paper system of tracking a game’s activity is yielding to technology, and baseball managers are now embracing handheld computers that can hold an abundance of information.

"They’re amazing," said Barker, who took over the helm this season at Hamshire-Fannett High School in Texas and also had the school purchase a Palm Pilot through the baseball budget.

"Last year, I spent about six hours a week doing stats," he said. "This gives you a professional box score and a scoresheet after the game. You can review it and make sure it’s correct while the game is fresh in your mind. Then you can get statistics, scouting reports, charts."

The software for handheld computers interacts with a traditional PC to track entire statistics for the season.

The computers are changing the face of baseball and softball on many levels. Port Neches, Texas, Little League All-Stars manager Robert Sangster used one during the District 32 tournament recently. Beaumont Blast softball scorekeeper Steve Walker of Evadale, Texas, had one on hand during the state tournament in mid-July.

"You can keep a lot more stats with [a handheld computer]," said Walker, who said the team has been using one for more than four years. "You can track how many strikes they have, how many balls they pitched, the location of where the ball went when it was hit. It’s a lot quicker and a lot easier to access. And you can download it to your desktop. You can get all the stats you could ever want from it."

Managers can use the information to help their own players. For example, Barker said Hamshire-Fannett printed hitting spray charts for opposing lineups to consult during the game. Walker said he relays information on opponents’ hitting tendencies to his first baseman, who then tells her Blast teammates how to position themselves.

"One thing we found with it," Barker said, "is that one of our players … was hitting .520 when he put the ball in play up the middle, and when he tried to pull it, he did a lot worse."

Barker and his staff were able to work with the player, who hit nearly .400 for the season.

One of the most important functions of the handheld computer is keeping track of the pitch count.

"Last year, I had one of these handheld clickers like the big leagues, and I did it myself," Barker said. "Sometimes some pitches would go by and I’d be thinking about something else and forget to click them, so it wasn’t an accurate count."

The team’s scorekeeper can punch in each pitch–including foul balls–as part of the scoring, and the computer adds the numbers.

"I can just ask our scorekeeper for a [pitch count]," Barker said. "We’re able to make decisions to keep our pitchers safe."

Walker said he’s spoiled by the handheld computer scoring. "Some people go back to pencil and paper," he said, "but after doing this we can’t go back to it."


Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District

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