SOUTH BEND — Peter Yarbro has witnessed a whole bunch of baseball in South Bend.
In fact, he’s seen more than most the past 12 seasons — from the routine to the bizarre.
Would you believe an infield triple?
The South Bend barrister and self-titled “baseball bigamist” has enjoyed a prime seat while serving as official scorekeeper for the South Bend Silver Hawks/Cubs.
“The funnest thing is just being out here at the ballpark every day,” Yarbro said before a recent South Bend Cubs game at Four Winds Field. “I get to come to a baseball game five nights a week and get paid for it.”
Employed by the Hains Law Firm LLP in downtown South Bend, Yarbro practices mostly small business and real estate law, with some appeals and general litigation.
The University of Notre Dame Law School graduate said it’s not unusual to see lawyers as scorekeepers in all levels of baseball.
“You have to know the rule book,” Yarbro said. “It’s not that different sitting down and going through the rules of baseball than Indiana code.”
Yarbro grew up in the small southwestern Wisconsin town of Viroqua, hanging around press boxes with a friend whose dad called high school sports on the radio. And there was young Pete keeping track of the happenings.
“I started keeping score when I learned to write, basically,” Yarbro said.
Living midway between Minneapolis and Milwaukee, Yarbro found himself rooting for the Twins and Brewers. When he went to college at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, he found himself at many Orioles games. The beginning of his freshman year coincided with the end of the first season at Camden Yards. In his senior year, Cal Ripken Jr. passed Lou Gehrig for baseball’s “Iron Man” consecutive games played streak.
When law school brought Yarbro to Michiana, he found himself following the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. Since working for the team, he finds himself keeping tabs on players who played in South Bend.
So he pulls for a lot of teams and players.
Yarbro has come to expect second-guessers and challenges to his calls. It just comes with the territory and “any publicity is good publicity.”
“You do have to make decisions that ultimately have an impact on these guys’ careers,” Yarbro said. “No one is going to be released or not promoted because the official scorekeeper is terrible.” But to some extent, a call affects a guy’s momentum.
Yarbro recalls the worst advice he got when he started the job: If you think you’re right about something, don’t let anyone change your mind.
“That was a terrible thing to tell somebody who had never done this before and then had to explain himself to guys who had worked their whole lives in professional baseball,” Yarbro said. “They think — and rightfully so — you’re an idiot for continuing to think you’re right when you might not be.”
“When those managers ask for a call, most of the time they are not doing it just to see what they can get away with. Usually, there’s a genuine question. You do have to take those things into account and be willing to say ‘I was wrong’ about something.”
The access to replays from multiple angles makes Yarbro’s job easier than the early days when he would sometimes have to survey the radio announcers or anyone else hanging around the press box.
His job is fun, but it’s not without its anxiety.
“There’s a certain degree of stress involved (in scorekeeping),” Yarbro said. “At certain points in the game, everyone in the stadium is looking at you. Was that a hit? Was that an error? Some people don’t want anything to do with that kind of pressure. I usually work better under pressure. If I have a lot of things going on and need to make decisions quickly, I can do it.”
Of course, Yarbro does breathe a sigh of relief when a no-hitter is going on and the first hit is a double off the wall and not a bang-bang play or one that could easily be ruled a hit or an error.
Yarbro charts the game and calls MLB.com in New York every half inning to report play-by-play. This allows for a uniform system throughout affiliated baseball and gives the folks in New York a chance to see if everything was done right and the earned runs were credited correctly.
Sometimes there’s a real head-scratcher of a play, like the one that happened July 12, 2013.
The South Bend Silver Hawks were playing host to the Kane County Cougars (then a Cubs affiliate) in a Friday night game. South Bend’s Alex Glenn hit a slow roller back to Kane County pitcher Jose Rosario, who tossed the ball to first baseman Dan Vogelbach, who lost the ball in the sun, which caused a run to score and Glenn to wind up on third base.
Yarbro’s call: infield triple.
“The pitcher fielded it well and made a good throw,” Yarbro said. “If you lose the ball in the sun, it’s not an error. I said at the time, you can’t fault the guy for not being able to handle the most powerful force in the solar system. He didn’t make a mistake, he just couldn’t see the ball. It can’t be an error, so it’s a hit. The batter ends up at third base so it’s a triple.”
And Yarbro ends up with a baseball story he can tell for years to come.