Spend some time on California’s prestigious travel softball circuit, and chances are you’ll bump into Tom Best sitting behind the Orange County Batbusters dugout, iPad Mini in hand, eyes twitching between the field and the screen in front of him.
He looks up. There’s Best’s daughter Steffi, a California Polytechnic State University commit, hurling risers for an Under-18 powerhouse that’s earned West Coast renown under coaches Gary Haning and Mike Stith.
He looks back down. There’s Best recording another pitch with GameChanger. He was one of the program’s first power users and has been a not-so-unofficial statistician for his daughter’s teams since 2010.
Up again. Best sits on one of the baselines so as not to appear in his daughter’s field of vision. He also likes to avoid a good view of the strike zone.
“I don’t want to have any more ammunition to chirp at the umpire than I need,” Best joked. “Scorekeeping is important for me from a sanity standpoint. It’s hard to be a pitcher’s parent, and this occupies my mind during the game.”
An electrical engineer who manages a Northrop Grumman satellite program by day, Best live-scores every Batbusters game in real time and keeps the team’s rosters, schedule and season stats updated regularly. Once a month, he’ll download the cumulative metrics to date and shoot a report to Haning and Stith.
When the players are on the road, it’s not uncommon for at least half a dozen parents to follow games pitch-by-pitch using GameChanger’s front-end live stats capabilities, Best said.
“I like the abundance of information -- the fact that you can cut it by particular games, cut it by innings,” Best said. “You can go back and see pitch-by-pitch of the game. I like that everything is there.”
Since last September, he’s recorded 127 games, including Orange County’s second consecutive Premier Girls Fastpitch 18U national championship July 31.
There are times when an assistant coach has a gameday conflict, and Best sometimes works as a stand-in. When that’s happened, GameChanger’s user-friendly software has allowed him to quickly train a reserve player to track stats.
“I find it very intuitive,” Best said.
It also allows Best to compile and share in-depth, analytical information -- with parents, individual trainers and coaches, members of the media, and so forth -- quickly and concisely. “You can look back at it a lot easier than a paper book.”
It’s a high-performance system becoming of a team with a 104-12-11 record in the past calendar year. The Batbusters draw talent from a 100-mile radius around Orange County and consistently send players off to premier collegiate programs.
Last year’s team featured players headed to Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan, Washington, Oregon State, Northwestern, Nevada, Arizona, California, and Tennessee. Those programs average 8.9 Women’s College World Series appearances all-time, and all but Oregon State, Northwestern, and Cal have won a national title since 2005.
“It’s ridiculous,” Best said. “It’s like a college team.”
Once his daughter completes her final season and heads to Cal Poly, Best isn’t sure what will become of his pseudo-sports-information career. When a reporter joked he could pursue a similar position full-time, Best cracked back with, “Well, there’s always something to look forward to when I retire.”