By STEVE KRAH
Andy Pafko and Hank Sauer were stars in the Chicago Cubs outfield, South Bend’s Bob Rush was the top pitcher, Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch was the manager and Bert Wilson was the radio play-by-play voice for the North Siders when Keith Nuest started keeping score for baseball games in 1950.
Nuest was 7 and living in Kouts, Ind., which is 12 miles south of Valparaiso in Porter County.
More than seven decades later, the 78-year-old Nuest has scored and tabulated numerous sporting events for the Kouts Middle/High School Mustangs.
This winter was his 53rd season of keeping the book for boys basketball (he has not missed a game in that span and tracked the digits for the IHSAA Class 1A state runners-up in 2020-21) and the 43rd for girls basketball. He compiles stats for basketball, baseball, softball and track and field.
Much of what Earl Mishler has on his high school baseball website — ETPearl.com — came from Nuest.
His interest in the sport and numbers once had Nuest scoring Chicago Bulls and Indiana University games on the radio.
The 2020 season would have marked his 50th as statistician for Kouts baseball. But he doesn’t count that one since the COVID-19 pandemic took the season, making 2021 the half-century mark for that job.
But it’s not really a job. Nuest has never taken any pay for scoring or coaching baseball and minimal for basketball over the years.
It’s about helping the community and being close to things he enjoys.
“I’ve always had a love of numbers,” says Nuest, a 1961 Kouts graduate who went on to work 39 years in the financial department at Midwest Steel in Portage, retiring at 60. “Math always came easy to me.”
About five years ago, Nuest completed a 40-year run of coaching Kouts in high school summer ball. He ran the area league — which at various times included teams from Culver, Kankakee Valley, Knox, Renselaer Central, Wheeler, Valparaiso and beyond — for about 25 years, scheduling all the games.
“I always tried to make it fun for the kids,” says Nuest. “Just being around the kids was enjoyable for me. I watched them grow and improve as individuals.”
“I really love the game of baseball,” says Nuest. “I love the strategy that goes into it. Anything can happen on any given pitch.
“People think bas ball is boring and slow. But you never know what’s around the corner.”
As a scorekeeper, Nuest came up with a way of doing it and stayed with it.
What makes it unique?
“I don’t know that there’s any specific thing, but you should be able to read it like a book,” says Nuest. “You should be able to tell batting average and earned run averages of your team and your opponents.
“It all flows together. It you leave something out it’s like you left out a page.”
This spring, Kouts named its baseball diamond in honor of their longtime contributor.
“It’s a wonderful community,” says Nuest. “I was never a teacher at the school and never an official coach.
“It was kind of an overwhelming honor at the time. I’ve donated hours and hours of work. But I certainly never expected anything like this.”
Nuest was born in Valparaiso and except for a few years in Lake Village when he was in school and two years in Valparaiso when he married second wife Lana, he has resided in Kouts.
Keith and Lana were married 46 years and had a blended family of five. Lana Jeanne (Lawrence) Nuest died Aug. 6, 2020 at 77.
The 2021 Kouts Mustangs head into play today (May 10) at Keith Nuest Field against Covenant Christian (DeMotte) at 11-7. Kouts is in the 1A Washington Township Sectional.