It’s the fourth day of the new year, and the temperature in St. Louis is 12 degrees. Matt Holliday still hasn’t signed yet and Cardinal baseball seems as far away as the 100-degree mark on the mercury. In my email today, I received what has become an offseason tradition for me the last three winters: “Practice game 1” from the delightfully and basebally-named Earl Paylor, who is a stats coordinator at MLB Advanced Media. It’s the first of three offseason practice games that we datacasters score in preparation for the season. Last year, the first one came right before Christmas; Earl must’ve gotten some negative feedback and simply bumped it to after the holidays. However he made the decision, I like the 2010 approach. Once we datacasters conclude the previous season and receive a brief thank-you and invitation back from Hank Widmer, our (and Earl’s) boss, Practice Game 1 is the next correspondence we get from MLBAM and the first to-do for the new season.
I quickly scan the email for a due date — there it is, Monday, January 25 in boldface (Earl’s been around), then download the game file, which is a text-based play-by-play description of the events of the fictitious game. It begins again.