The Washington Nationals no longer hand out game programs due to environmental  concerns. I greatly miss them, even though I appreciate attention to sustainability. 

I once bought the scorecard from the team store this summer, but I have also used the back of my ticket to keep score. That method is nice because I can easily remember where I was sitting during each game (and it’s free), but it just doesn’t have the same feel as a scorecard that has lines and places for me to write other important stats. 

The free scorecard in the center of the booklet is how I learned to keep score at baseball games. My dad, seeing the scorecard, decided to teach me one day. He initially filled them out while I watched, and then we moved on to alternating innings before I eventually began filling out the whole card on my own — he misses it now but dutifully waits until I let him fill out an inning, or until I get up to go to the bathroom. 

I’ve kept every scorecard. I even have one from when Ronnie Belliard was on the team. But my most prized cards are the ones from Jordan Zimmermann’s complete game and Max Scherzer’s 20 strikeout game, both of which I attended on a whim but are now two of my favorite memories. When I was very sick during the 2012 playoffs, my dad brought me the program from the game as a souvenir. 

Besides the scorecards, the programs were a fun way to keep busy during breaks in the game. My brother and I always gleefully looked at the rosters to see if any players shared our birthday or to see who was the shortest and tallest player on each team. The articles and puzzles kept us busy during many, many rain delays — typical weather for DC evenings. 

Even if keeping score becomes something I do on the back of a print-at-home ticket, it will be a skill that I hope to never lose. I kept score for my high school softball team when I was injured and it was a great way for me to stay involved with my teammates, despite not being on the field with them. I have tried, with little success, to teach my friends, but maybe one day I will take my kids to Nats games and teach them the same way my dad taught me. Everyone has their own style, and ours are just distinct enough that we can tell them apart, and my brother often stops so we always know who’s card is who’s by the end. 

Just remember, to keep score, you have to bring a pen! 

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