Dennis Hetrick’s father taught him at a young age the basics of keeping score during a baseball game, which served him well as a player at the high school and college level.
A random visit with a friend 15 years ago in Frederick took things to a different level. And now, Hetrick is preparing to use his scoring skills in the national spotlight.
The Mount Airy native and South Carroll High School graduate landed the official scorer gig for the All-Star Futures Game, slated for Sunday at 4 p.m. at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
The annual exhibition features two teams of minor-league prospects — a United States squad against one filled with players from other countries. The Futures Game started in 1999, four years before Hetrick made his pivotal visit to Harry Grove Stadium to visit his friend George Richardson.
It was May, 2003, and Hetrick recalled attending a Frederick Keys game with some friends. Hetrick said he always made a point to say hello to Richardson, an official scorer for the Keys and Hetrick’s former American Legion baseball coach, when visiting. This time was a bit different, though.
“I felt so bored. It was the first time in my life I wasn’t playing or coaching,” said Hetrick, a 1990 South Carroll grad who played for the Cavaliers, and Mount Airy’s American Legion team, before moving onto Montgomery Community College.
“[Richardson] let me come into the press box there, and I could tell he was kind of down about something or frustrated,” Hetrick said. “And I asked him, and he said it was because he was the only scorer right then and he was also trying to coach high school baseball at the same time.”
Hetrick offered his services, raw as they might be, and asked if Richardson would teach him more about keeping score. The schooling led to Hetrick becoming one of Frederick’s scorers for the next 15 seasons.
“I was really put in the right place in the right time,” he said. “It’s just something in my life that I love to do. It was the perfect timing for me, and everything has worked out great.”
Hetrick, 45, is in his first year as one of three scorekeepers for the Nationals. His Major League Baseball scoring career began in 2014, when Hetrick said he inquired if the league had part-time opportunities.
He scores for the Nationals and, on occasion, the Orioles, and makes the trips from Keedysville in Washington County when he’s not working his full-time job as a sale associate in Mount Airy.
Hetrick works with Dave Matheson and Ben Trittipoe in Washington, and before the season the three men sat down and used the Nats’ regular-season slate to create a work schedule. Hetrick said they assumed the All-Star Game, set for Tuesday night, required two scorers, and since Matheson and Trittipoe had seniority they’d handle the Midsummer Classic.
That meant Hetrick had a chance at scoring the Futures Game, an event that as always commanded his attention.
“I follow it every year,” Hetrick said. “I know the last five or six years, if I’m not at home watching it I’m recording it so I can watch it later and see the Orioles’ minor-leaguers who are in the game. And also ones that have been coming through the Carolina League.”
Hetrick said he and his co-workers later discovered the All-Star Game required only one official scorer. He said he talked it over with Matheson.
“I told him, ‘Hey, I understand if you want to do the Futures Game,’” Hetrick said. “‘That’s fine. I’m the new guy here. He said, ‘No. No, go ahead.’ … I enjoy the game and I look forward to it every year, so to be able to get a chance to [score] it is really an honor and a blessing for me. I owe a big thank you and a big favor to Dave Matheson. … I hope I can return the favor sometime.”
Hetrick credits Richardson for helping him get started, and Matheson for being considerate. He also acknowledges his coaching staff at Montgomery Community College for forging a scoring spark inside of him years ago.
Hetrick went there to play baseball, but found himself languishing on the bench at times.
“I was kind of stuck in the bullpen; I didn’t pitch very much,” he said. “A lot of times they would give me the [scorebook] for something to do. Like, ‘Here, Hetrick. Keep the book today.’ I learned a little bit there. Sometimes I joke around and say I should thank that coach for giving me my start as a scorer.”
Hetrick’s beginnings as a scorer may have come at an older age, bu he said his passion for baseball is the true foundation. Richardson agrees.
“He loves the game,” said Richardson, who remembers Hetrick scoring Orioles games off the TV as practice. “And that makes it a lot easier when it’s something you really enjoy. That’s one of the reasons why I can sit and do it like I do. We enjoy watching the game.
“If you don’t enjoy the game of baseball, being an official scorer really isn’t a fun job.”
Hetrick said he plans on having fun Sunday afternoon, but it’s not a carefree assignment. Scorekeepers are the ones responsible for determining hits, errors, earned runs, and the like.
Hetrick won’t take the job lightly. He hasn’t since he first started in earnest 15 years ago.
“I feel like it’s an honor to be in that position,” Hetrick said. “I also look at it from a player’s perspective. They haven’t been to the big leagues yet and it’s probably the biggest game they’ve ever played. … So I’m definitely all in.”