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March 3, 2011 at 10:00 pm ET
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The scorecard from Heck

For someone who can rattle off all 23 ways a batter can legally reach first base, it’s oddly appropriate that getting there herself would present Bethany Heck’s greatest hurdle.

All she was trying to do was reinvent the baseball scorebook.

The graphic designer from Auburn, Ala., is the proud force behind The¬†Eephus League Official Scorebook, a pocket-size version of those massive, unwieldy, spiral-bound bibles of complexity for the stat-head set (meaning, OK, many of us). She’d filled in a few pages of one of those in her days as a young Braves¬†fan. But something was missing. A few things, actually: convenience, beauty, explanations of what all those pencil scratches mean. Years later, in need of a subject for her senior project at Auburn University, Heck decided to fix some of that, crafting a scorebook that would serve as “a perfect time capsule” of a day at the ballpark.

Heck’s prototype is a beauty, a 20-game scorecard a little bigger and thicker than a passport — “If Moleskine made a scorebook …,” she says — with fine graphic details, colorful stickers to indicate stuff like wins and losses, time of game, a place to note who sang the National Anthem and, soon, a fold-out primer on the hows and whys of scoring a baseball game.

Heck figured she had a winning idea with her scorecard, but was a little short on the cash needed to get enough printed to keep the retail price low. She could do about $15 with shipping, Heck figured, if she ordered a printing run of 5,000 of the things. But that required a tidy cash payment from Heck up front. With the calendar spinning toward Opening Day 2011, she worried she’d be a day late and about ten thousand dollars short.

One day, a friend mentioned Kickstarter.com, a fund-raising website that connects people with heroic goals but zero-ic cash with those looking to donate money online. Like Pete Rose steamrolling Ray Fosse, Heck dashed for the computer. On Monday, February 20, she set her Kickstarter fund-raising goal of $10,000 — another friend wondered if she weren’t perhaps being a tad optimistic — and a deadline of March 22 to put up or shut up at the printer’s office. By Thursday, February 24, she had, uh, $11,000 … and counting. By March 4, she had raised nearly $16,000.

That’s a grand slam, if you’re scoring at home.

Start the presses!

Ah, but there’s always a catch, isn’t there? Because she had set the fund-raising deadline at March 22, then and only then can Heck get the cash (actually, there’s an additional two-week waiting period, she says). Thankfully, the printing doesn’t have to wait for the money to catch up. With her financing secured, Heck hopes to get the thing to the printer ASAP, then have the first finished scorebooks in hand March 22. Then she can start filling the pre-orders. With luck, the scorebooks will arrive in the mail in time for Opening Day. Whew.

The format of the¬†Eephus League Official Scorebook won’t please them all, Heck admits. Take the folks who’d like five replacement slots for each player position, as if every contest were the All-Star Game and managers swapped out guys every inning or two. And there’s room for — gasp — only 11 innings instead of, say, 16. “There are plenty of gargantuan scorecards that are really intimidating, to say the least,” Heck, 23, says between sips of hot cocoa on the mezzanine level at Baltimore’s XS restaurant, a sushi/egg breakfast hybrid that somehow works. (She was in Charm City for a tryout with the Maryland Institute College of Art, or MICA, which she hopes to join as a master of fine arts candidate next year. Her fingers were still crossed at press time.) “To the average person, that kind of scorekeeping looks like work, not entertainment.”

Don’t get her wrong. As founder of the Eephus League of Baseball Minutiae website, Heck digs her some small details. Look over her shoulder at a Braves game, for instance, and she might be making note of not just the starting pitchers, lineups, weather and the final score, but the blends of grasses beneath the players’ feet — a fascination she picked up along the way to an article she wrote for the site NotGraphs.

So what’s a graphic design major doing “fixing” the baseball scorebook, anyway? Heck wonders why more graphic designers¬†aren’t doing it, reveling in the symmetry of the lines and boxes, checks and balance sheets, all the while “learning a language only they can understand.”

As for the Braves, Heck says she doesn’t make the 90-minute drive from Auburn to Turner Field in Atlanta very often. (Join the crowd.) But she insists the empty seats at The Ted are less a sign of fan apathy — or of a fan base spoiled, until recently, by a seemingly automatic spot in the playoffs each season — than an indictment of city planners’ complete lack of vision on parking. “And forget the post-game rush,” Heck says. “It’s like NASCAR.” And that whole¬†one World Series title to come from those 14 consecutive division titles thing? “They won it all once. That’s more than most people will have in a lifetime.” She’s never been to Camden Yards in Baltimore, a few convenient light rail stops and maybe 15 minutes from the Maryland Institute. And she’s dying to go, despite all the consecutive seasons without a division title for the O’s.

So she waits. On a call from MICA and one from her printer.

“I don’t want to make a killing,” she says of the¬†Eephus League Official Scorebook. “It’s more important to me to get more people excited about baseball.”

It’s the little things, after all.

Donate $15 and it’s yours. Or donate more and get other stuff thrown in.

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