Eye on the Ball: An Islander keeps score, major league style

COURTESY PHOTO Ron Jernick at work as the official scorer for the Miami Marlins.
Ron Jernick at work as the official scorer for the Miami Marlins.

Hang around Shelter Island and you never know what will pop up next.

In the bank last week I ran into young Ron Jernick, town worker who helps keep the Island beautiful. Our discussion caught my full interest when he told me what his mom and dad were doing in Florida. Even though his parents moved away from the Island over 25 years ago, I did remember Ron Sr. but knew nothing about what he was doing or why he had moved to Florida.

Ron Sr. is part of one of the most popular families to ever live on the Island. Anyone who has been on the Island for the past 50 years will know someone in the Jernick family. Although I knew them all, I knew his dad, Tom, the best. Tom not only started the Jernick Moving business but he served as Shelter Island

Town Supervisor for four years, 1972 to 1976. Ron’s mother, Virginia, was a lifelong Islander. I knew her best because she made me smile since she always told it the way it was. Somewhere on the Island you would have run into one of their seven children: Robert, Tom, Bruce, Dick, Ron, Linda Springer and Ginny Gibbs.

Like the rest of the Jernick family, Ron grew up here, graduating from Shelter Island High School in 1967, where he played four years of basketball. In 1971 he married Renee. They started their family here and like Ron Sr. coached Little League. In 1988, he and Renee just couldn’t take the cold winters anymore, packed up the family and headed for a permanent home in Florida. On April Fool’s Day, Ron, the youngest of all the Jernick boys, turned 66 years old.

Since his childhood, Ron has loved the New York professional teams and, as for baseball, he’s a diehard Mets fan, following them from their first pitch in 1962. Getting up there in age, he finds himself not only getting into the ballparks free of charge but sits in the best seat in the house. Pretty good deal for a baseball lover since he landed a dream job as an official scorer for the Miami Marlins.

As of this writing, the Marlins should be finishing up the Grapefruit League in Jupiter, Florida, where they play their home games at one of the oldest ballparks in Florida, the Roger Dean Stadium. Not only is it one of the oldest, it is also one of the busiest in professional baseball, also hosting the St. Louis Cardinals. Of course, now that the season is starting, the regular home is Marlins Park in Miami.

At his new post, Ron has met many people in Major League Baseball. He has met not only the major league players but the people in charge of making trades of players. He anonymously sits among the press corps at every major league ballpark, the ultimate arbiter of the day’s events. No one thinks of the scorer much, unless something bad happens.

Then all eyes are on the press box. Some poor soul has made an unpopular decision and he is going to hear it. The scorer’s primary role is to take the official record of action on the field: runs, hits, walks and errors. His primary link of controversy centers on whether a struck ball is a hit or error. “No call is tough,” Ron said. “You call them as you see them.”

Unlike the old days, the scorers are not close to the players. Years ago, newspaper reporters assigned to cover the team doubled as scorers. They would all travel together and friendships developed that often clouded scoring judgements. That was precisely the rap against scorer and reporter Dan Daniel when his friend Joe DiMaggio was putting together his 56-game hitting streak in 1941. Fair or not, legend has it that many borderline calls went DiMaggio’s way during that streak.

Many consider scoring a thankless job but Ron Jernick doesn’t worry about what people think about his calls. Since he has little connection with the players and their streaks, he can make a fair call.

When I asked Ron his greatest thrill scoring for the Marlins, he was quick to answer: Scoring the 2003 World Series with his wife Renee by his side. As much as he grew up loving New York sports teams, that year the Yankees were playing the Marlins and Ron was working for Florida. In the first three games, things were not looking good for the Marlins, with the Yankees taking two of them with identical 6-1 scores. That might have scared the fans, but it motivated the Marlins, as they fought back and won the next three contests to end the series in six games.

Life takes some funny turns, and today Ron is enjoying himself in the warm weather with his wife, four children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. I would have to guess that he and Renee made a good move!