In 1995, having just completed eight hectic years on the Montgomery County Council, Bruce Adams was recovering from a failed bid for county executive. With lots of time on his hands, Adams decided that his family—his journalist wife, Margaret Engel; 8-year-old daughter, Emily; and 5-year-old son, Hugh—finally deserved a real vacation.
While mulling over the possibilities, Adams had a revelation: He remembered that friends and neighbors had always seemed interested when he recounted stories of the family’s weekend trips to out-of-town baseball games. Adams—whose baseball career ended sometime around Little League—had passed on his excitement for the sport to his kids; now, he thought, he could indulge that passion and expose them to the rest of the United States, to boot. What if they embarked on a family road trip to baseball parks and turned it into a book-length travel guide?
Adams contacted Fodor’s, sold it on the idea, and assembled an intricate touring schedule. During the course of one spring-break trip and one extended summer sojourn in 1995, the Adams family drove 25,000 miles through 45 states and visited 80 ballparks. The payoff was the book Baseball Vacations, first published in 1997 and re-released this month in a newly revised third edition that includes some 20 additional ballparks—many of them newly built—that the family visited in subsequent summers. Adams and Engel are credited as co-authors.
The 400-page volume is packed with valuable trivia: seating tips, outfield dimensions, recommendations for stadium food, the best spots to catch foul balls, and lists of other nearby tourist attractions. The book even chronicles what happened to former stadiums such as Manhattan’s Polo Grounds and Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. (The authors note tartly that the apartment building constructed on the site of the latter now sports a sign that reads, “PLEASE NO BALL PLAYING.”)
Adams decided from the beginning not to limit the family’s ballpark visits to major-league stadiums. “I’m as happy sitting on a concrete slab in Bluefield, W.Va.”—home of the Orioles’ rookie-league team—”as I am in Yankee Stadium,” he says. The trips unearthed some obscure gems, from Damaschke Field in Oneonta, N.Y. (“No beer. No fancy logo or trendy nickname. Just baseball,” the book crows), to the Epicenter, in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (“a miniature of Baltimore’s Camden Yards—deep green elegance and all”).
In 1996, Adams visited Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, home to one of the more idyllic summer leagues for college baseball players. He decided that he wanted to bring the same small-town spirit to Washington, so he co-founded the Bethesda Community Base Ball Club. To house the team, Adams spearheaded the fundraising and construction of a 756-seat stadium, Shirley Povich Field; the facility, located in Cabin John Regional Park in Bethesda, opened in 1999. More recently, Adams, 54, has secured foundation and corporate money to start an after-school baseball and educational-enrichment program for students at three D.C. public schools in Northeast and Anacostia.
Adams says that he found himself “completely relaxed” after finishing the baseball trips, despite the long drives and the pulled calf muscle he endured after chasing a foul ball in San Antonio. “I limped through two weeks of that summer,” Adams says. “Worse, some kid got the foul ball.” —Louis Jacobson