The Watts graduate turned a passion for baseball into a groundbreaking career
When Kara Blackstone hears the ball cracking on a baseball bat, she doesn’t see it as a moment of excitement from fans — it’s a verdict.
Blackstone, a graduate of Arizona State University, is the official scorer for Major League Baseball and the first official scorer for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The job requires deep knowledge and love of the game.
“I make the hard decisions,” said Blackstone, who graduated from ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development with a degree in Parks and Recreation Management in 2018.
“Whatever I call it affects their stats, which every baseball player thrives on. That helps them grow.”
Every MLB game has an official scorer who sits in the press box and not only records the results of individual baseball games, but sometimes also judges them. The umpires decide on strikes and balls, but when a batter reaches first base, the official scorer decides whether it was a hit or an error. These ratings affect the batter’s batting average and the pitcher’s personal stats, including no-hitter plays.
Blackstone was part of an MLB initiative to diversify the ranks of official scorers, many of whom stay on the job for decades. Tyler Barton, MLB’s senior manager of data operations, created a “Scorer University” program last year to train a new cohort, including Blackstone, who was among the five women hired for this season. Before that, MLB had only four other official scorers going back to the 19th century.
Not only did Blackstone have a passion and background in baseball, she had the confidence to turn some luck into a path to a dream job.
She answered some questions from ASU News about her historic new role:
Question: How did you become the official scorer?
Answers: I was in the right place at the right time.
I went to South Mountain Community College and played softball there. I graduated and became a sports information director, worked on the website, and followed the baseball team. I used an app called Game Changer to generate stats for them and record scores for them.
While attending ASU, I worked at Buffalo Wild Wings in Scottsdale. During spring training, a group walked in and I got the feeling they were baseball guys. We started talking. When I found out what they were doing, I told them I was doing something similar for community college.
things happened Conversations were held.
I gave my business card to the man who is now my boss (Tyler Barton) and he invited me to a spring training game a week later.
Then I was hired for a position as a Statcast supervisor, where I would feed what’s happening on the field into the computer for you to live stream on your app.
Q: How did you make the leap to becoming the official top scorer?
A: Tyler oversees the official scorers and tries to keep the playing field level. So if a call is a mistake in one place, it will be the same in another place.
And he had the idea for an official “scorer university” to ensure diversity within the MLB. The idea was to get more diverse people into the job and also see how much we actually know and teach each other.
Q: What did you learn at Scorer University?
A: I grew up with baseball, but there are so many things in the official standings that I never knew because I didn’t have to worry about them.
We spoke to a lot of official scorers and they talked about certain plays they had.
We watched video clips. The main thing they tried to teach us was “common effort” and that’s how you can decide if it was hit or miss. We watched clip by clip why it’s an “Ordinary Effort” or “Extraordinary Effort.” We did little tests to see if we thought it was a bug or not.
Q: Did you have to pass a quiz to get the official scorer job?
A: no There’s a quiz we had to take to get into Major League Baseball, but the job was based on references from other scorers in that market. There are three other Arizona Diamondbacks scorers that I’ve been statcasting with for a year. They knew my baseball skills.
From day one, Tyler has said, “You go everywhere,” and his support has been phenomenal. I am very thankful for the opportunity.
Q: What is your schedule?
A: I’m a full-time MLB employee. When I’m not scoring at the stadium, I’m at home managing the statcast stringers. I watch two or three games at a time and make sure the stringers in the stadium are doing well.
I manage the stringers for all 30 racquets.
Each official scorer works about 20 games, but since this is my freshman year and I have the full-time MLB job, I’ll play about 13 this season. I’ll do more next season.
Q: What is your favorite part of the job?
A: Go to the ballpark. The atmosphere is so fun. When I’m the official scorer, I just walk in, sit down and record everything.
Q: Were you a baseball fan growing up?
A: I grew up in Albuquerque, so I went to a lot of Triple-A (Albuquerque Isotopes) games. I worked for the team as usher and as supervisor for the “fun zone” out in the outfield. That’s where I started baseball.
I had no idea it would be.
I didn’t attend many MLB games until I moved here and started attending more games.
I’ve learned how to score since I’ve played softball, but I didn’t delve deeply into it until I was South Mountain’s sports information director.
The South Mountain head baseball coach is joking with me. He’ll say, “You didn’t know what a wild pitch was, and now you’re making the actual calls.” I tell him, “You taught me, and it worked.”
Q: What did you study at ASU in Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions?
A: My degree is in Parks and Recreation Management. I had the idea of doing sports management and it was as close to baseball as I could get at the time.
To be honest I’ve been all over the map. I wasn’t sure what life would bring.
I took many event planning classes and started getting involved with events. After graduating, I went to Desert Mountain Country Club and became an events coordinator.
I thought, “Baseball isn’t going to be my career. I have to do something else.”
I got into the mindset that I would keep baseball as a hobby.
Q: Now that you work in baseball, is it still fun?
A: Yes. In every single game I learn something new and see something different. The first two games I scored this season were insane. The first game (on opening day) ended in a walk-off, and the second game went into extra innings and had some crazy plays.
For me it never gets boring.
Q: What advice would you give to a young person who would like to do what you do?
A: Score as much baseball as possible. Go to little league games, high school games, ASU baseball games. Get the experience, learn as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to talk to people.
Pictured above: ASU grad Kara Blackstone poses for a photo at Chase Field before serving as the official scorer for the June 24 Arizona Diamondbacks game. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News