Business

He's the eyes for sports stat fanatics

During baseball season, you'll find Jon Passman in the press box at Wrigley Field. In the winter, when it's hockey and basketball season, you might see him at a Bulls game.

Like any sports reporter, he goes where the action is. But Passman doesn't fret about finding the right words to lure readers into a story. He doesn't write for the media.

Yet, it's his account of a ballgame – a detailed report of every pitch thrown – that tells millions of fans all they need to know. Passman's work, refreshed every minute, is sent to mobile phones, laptops and a host of other gadgets that help a nation of need-it-now sports fans not miss a moment.

Passman works for Stats LLC, a Northbrook, Ill.-based compiler of data for baseball, football, hockey and even cricket matches that sends an army of information collectors to stadiums across the globe to feed the hungry appetites of fantasy sports players, intense fans and private clients with special requests.

“People want everything as fast as possible now,” he said. “Whether it's news, the weather or how their third baseman is doing.”

Stats is jointly owned by The Associated Press and News Corp.

Its roster of clients reads like a who's who of the sports world: ESPN, Sports Illustrated CBS, Fox, XM and Sirius. Some clients send up-to-the minute updates via text message to your cell phone and others use the data to populate desktop scoreboards.

Worldwide, the company uses 350 so-called reporters to cover 85 sports at more than 55,000 live events a year, including mixed martial arts.

So how does that instant information arrive on your gadget?

It starts with people like Passman, and the process is not much different than what hundreds of fans do at a ballpark each game: keep score.

But that's not as easy as it sounds if you're scoring for Stats.

He starts about 90 minutes before game time when the managers for each club release their lineups. Passman enters the lineups by selecting players from the player lists built into the Stats software on his laptop.

Another person watches the game on TV and also scores it after each pitch. If Passman's equipment fails, the other person's scoring will feed the gadgets.

After each pitch, Passman hits the keyboard: a ‘B' for a ball, or one of two choices (swinging or watching) for a strike.

The action starts when he hits ‘H,' which denotes a ball has been put in play. Several options pop up on his screen.

To score a play, Passman typically hits between 15 and 20 keys before the next pitch. He also marks the play on paper, too.

An after-the-game analysis creates additional information, such as those remarkable details – he hits .222 with 2 strikes, 2 outs and runners in scoring position – that flash on TV during a game.

Then, before he turns his laptop off, he e-mails his score card to The Associated Press, where it is turned into a box score for the nation's newspapers.

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