Blue Jays' official scorekeeper calls Waterloo, Ont. home
'You don't do it for the pay, you do it cause, hey, I get paid to watch baseball,' Waterloo man says
He doesn't swing a bat or throw a pitch, but Stephen Utter will still play a key role in the first Toronto Blue Jays playoff home game in 22 years.
Officially employed by Major League Baseball (MLB) since 2006, the Waterloo, Ont. man is responsible for keeping score at Jays home games at the Rogers Centre.
That means he makes judgments on what happens on the field.
"I have to officially score all the plays of the game. Base hits, whether a base hit or an error," said Utter in an interview with Craig Norris, the host of CBC Radio's The Morning Edition in Kitchener, Ont. "If there's an error in an inning and it affects runs, whether the runs are earned or not. Those are my decisions."
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"You don't do it for the pay, you do it cause, hey, I get paid to watch baseball," Utter said of his role, which only includes home games. When he's working, Utter sits in the press box in the third deck at the Rogers Centre, behind the umpire and the catcher.
The scorekeeper says that what he gets paid barely covers travel and parking to and from the game. He travels about 250-kilometres round trip from Waterloo to Toronto.
Because it's a part-time role that doesn't pay incredibly well, there are only three other MLB scorekeepers in the country right now.
24 hours to change his mind
Utter stressed that he does not run the scoreboard, despite what many assume.
He recently overturned a call after paying a visit to the Rogers Centre TV room to re-watch a play from different angles. What Utter thought at first was an error turned out to be a base hit.
Players can also question his calls, but they have to file an official appeal with MLB and then the call gets reviewed.
He first acquired a feel for baseball stats when he began working for Stats Inc., beginning in 1990. The agency does scores for many types of sports, from basketball to golf and involves more detailed scorekeeping than what Utter now does for MLB.
No cheering allowed
Now, he's part of the select few who get paid to soak in the action from one of the best seats in the house. Besides getting to watch Toronto's first post-season game since 1993, a free meal and ballpark popcorn are also among the perks.
But just because he can eat like a fan, it doesn't mean he can act like one.
"I've been used to not cheering for — this is my 26th year in the press box, I've been used to it," he said, explaining he's not paid by the Jays. "I get paid by Major League Baseball. So the umpires don't cheer, I don't cheer."
While the scorekeeper can't hoot or holler, you can count on Blue Jays fans in the stands to get in on the action with plenty of noise. The first MLB post-season in more than two decades begins Thursday at 3:37 p.m. ET.