A man whose hair color favors that of the chain-link fence his ladder is leaning against fiddles with an electronic scoreboard deep in the outfield of a youth baseball field at Camp Jordan.
Carl Hooper, a 40-year employee of the Coca-Cola Co.'s Chattanooga facility, has spent the past 30 years repairing scoreboards perched high above basketball gymnasiums and in home-run territory throughout the Tennessee Valley.
Hooper has been working for the company since he graduated from Central High School in 1973.
"I had just gotten out of school and didn't know what I was going to do in life, so I decided to try the bottling plant," he said.
One day, after nearly a decade of working on the iconic soda company's production line, a co-worker approached Hooper and asked if he would help him repair a scoreboard. Hooper agreed.
Soon he was elbow-deep in a wooden case of gears and wires and found that he had a passion for solving mechanical puzzles. Within weeks he transferred departments.
Since that day Hooper has been responsible for repairing the more than 600 boards throughout the Chattanooga area that display Coca-Cola's red-and-white logo.
Scoreboard technology has changed over the years, and Hooper has adapted. Mechanical scoreboards that were once run by relays and stepping switches have been replaced by digital ones with wireless receivers and LED displays.
Hooper has learned how to keep his job fun. He entertains himself by guessing what the problem is before addressing it. Usually, he guesses right, but once in a while he is surprised to find a bird using the wires inside for nesting materials or that the parts are no longer manufactured for a vintage piece.
After three decades of repairing the items that keep score for America's great pastime, Hooper reflected on what that has taught him.
"The only thing I've learned about life from a scoreboard," he said, "is that it gets hot in the summertime out on a ballfield."
Dan Henry, a native of Atlanta, Ga., graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s of fine arts and a minor in journalism in 2001. Dan worked as a photojournalist in Atlanta and North Alabama before joining the Chattanooga Times Free in 2005. While in Chattanooga. Dan has received numerous state and national awards on a multitude of platforms including still imagery, video, and multimedia projects. Contact Dan at 423-757-6693 or firstname.lastname@example.org.