April 10, 2002: Sports

Play Ball!
Baseball enthusiast Bruce Adams ’70 can’t contain his passion for the game

Sports shorts
Tora, Tora, Tora! and other Tiger sports news

Sports Web Exclusives! The Varsity Typewriter column



Play Ball!
Baseball enthusiast Bruce Adams ’70 can’t contain his passion for the game

By Louis Jacobson ’92

Photo: Bruce Adams ’70, and below with his wife and coauthor Margaret Engel and their children at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

In 1995, Bruce Adams ’70 had just completed eight hectic years as an elected councilman in Montgomery County, Maryland, and had just come off a failed bid for county executive. After spending years as a policy wonk at Common Cause, battling the tobacco companies to enact antismoking ordinances, Adams found his salvation in baseball.

Facing a lighter schedule, Adams decided that his family – wife Margaret Engel, daughter Emily, 8, and son Hugh, 5 – deserved a real vacation. That’s when inspiration hit. Adams remembered that friends always seemed interested when he recounted stories of the family’s weekend trips to out-of-town baseball games. So why not embark on a family road trip to baseball parks, then turn their experiences into a travel guide?

As Adams suggested the idea to his wife, a journalist, he prepared himself for the worst. “I steeled myself for her ‘you-are-crazy’ speech,” Adams recalls. “But when I suggested it, she thought it was a great idea.” His wife even contacted Fodor’s and sold them on the idea. The couple whipped out a passel of highway maps, game schedules, and calendars, and set about planning the itinerary.

Adams assembled an intricate logistical schedule. During the course of one spring-break trip and one extended summer sojourn, the Adams family covered 25,000 miles through 45 states to visit 80 ballparks.

Ballpark Vacations was published in 1997. A revised third edition, now called Baseball Vacations, was released in early 2002.

The 400-page volume is packed with valuable trivia: seating tips, recommendations of the best stadium food, the best spots to catch foul balls, and a list of other attractions that can be visited while in the area. The book even chronicles what happened to former stadiums, such as Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. (The authors note tartly that the apartment building built on the site of Ebbets Field now sports a sign that reads, “PLEASE NO BALL PLAYING.”)

Adams decided not to limit the family’s ballpark visits to major-league stadiums. “I’m as happy sitting on a concrete slab in Bluefield, West Virginia” – home of the Baltimore Orioles’ rookie league team – “as I am in Yankee Stadium,” he says. The trips unearthed some diamond gems, from Damaschke Field in Oneonta, New York (“No beer. No fancy logo or trendy nickname. Just baseball,” the book crows) to the Epicenter, in Rancho Cucamonga, California (“a miniature of Baltimore’s Camden Yards, deep green elegance and all”).

Adams – whose good-field, no-hit baseball career ended sometime around Little League – says that he finds himself “completely relaxed” after finishing the baseball trips despite all the driving. The only problem arose when he pulled a calf muscle while chasing a foul ball in San Antonio. “I limped through two weeks of that summer,” Adams says. “Worse, some kid got the ball.”

The trip opened new doors for Adams. One night at Damaschke Field, Adams tracked down his son, Hugh, who was chatting up pitchers in the visiting team bullpen. (Tip: That’s the best spot to trade hot dogs for baseballs, since the off-duty hurlers typically aren’t supervised and the home team pays for the balls.)

Adams was fascinated to hear the players talk about the amateur summer leagues they had played in during breaks from college. Unlike college baseball, the leagues use wooden bats, so scouts can assess their major-league potential.

So the next year, Adams visited one of these leagues, located in Virginia’s idyllic Shenandoah Valley. Inspired, he decided to become a baseball entrepreneur, bringing small-town baseball to Washington, D.C. Adams cofounded the Bethesda Community Base Ball Club, which now fields a team in the wooden-bat Clark C. Griffith Collegiate Baseball League.

To give the team a place to play, Adams used his extensive connections in suburban Maryland and spearheaded the construction of a 756-seat stadium in 1999 named after the late Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich. Princeton’s varsity team has sent several players to summer with Adams’s Bethesda Big Train, including pitcher Tom Rowland ’02 and shortstop Pat Boran ’02, who lived with the Adamses in 2000.

Adams, 54, has recently sought to combine his passion for baseball with his interest in community building. He has secured foundation and corporate funding to start Fields of Dreams, an after-school, baseball-and-educational-enrichment program for students at three public schools in Washington, D.C.

Louis Jacobson ’92, a staff correspondent at National Journal magazine in Washington, writes frequently about baseball.



Sports shorts
Tora, Tora, Tora! and other Tiger sports news

Senior Tora Harris’s 2.26-meter high jump at the NCAA indoor track championships earned him the 2002 NCAA national title, making him Princeton’s first individual champion since Dave Pellegrini ’80 in 1980. Pellegrini captured the 35-pound weight throw national title in 1980 with a distance of 69' 3.5", which still stands as a Princeton record. (Photo of Tora Harris ’02 by Beverly Schaefer)

“I came here to compete,” said Harris, a seven-time heptagonal champion. “I knew if I did what I had to, it wouldn’t matter who I was up against.” Harris’s winning jump broke his own Princeton record, which he set earlier this year. He is a three-time all-America at the 1998, 1999, and 2001 outdoor championships.

“Tora is a great NCAA champion, an unbelievable athlete, and a wonderful representative of Princeton,” said head coach Fred Samara, who earned the NCAA Regional Coach of the Year Award this season. “He’s worked so hard for four years, and now he’s achieved this.”

The only other Tiger at the 2002 NCAA championships, Josh McCaughey ’04, earned his second all-America selection by placing ninth in the 35-pound weight throw with a distance of 20.56 meters.

Greg Parker ’03 qualified for the NCAA wrestling championships (March 22—23) thanks to his win at 174 pounds at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships on March 11. The title is Princeton’s first individual EIWA crown since former mat standout Dave Crisanti ’86 captured the title at 118 pounds 16 years ago. (Photo of Greg Parker ’03 by Beverly Schaefer)

In a matter of seconds, the 2001—02 Princeton men’s basketball team went from pure adulation to total lamentation in the first round of the NIT on March 12. The host Louisville Cardinals snatched a 66—65 win on a basket in the closing seconds of the postseason thrill ride. (Photo of Ed Persia ’04 by frank wojciechowski)

The Tigers, who were down by 10 with six minutes left in the game, shot the lights out in the second half from three-point range, connecting on 8 of 13 to take the lead with less than 12 seconds left in the nationally televised game. Ed Persia ’04, who hit three straight shots from behind the arc in the final six minutes, and Mike Bechtold ’02, who finished his Princeton career with a game-high 24 points, led the late-game surge.

Persia’s backdoor lay-in on a pass from Dominick Martin ’05 with 11.7 seconds on the clock gave the Tigers a 65—64 lead. But on the ensuing inbounds play, Louisville’s Reece Gaines raced down court and sliced into the lane before connecting on an off-balance shot to give Louisville a one-point lead.

Left with no timeouts and 5.3 seconds on the clock, Princeton got the ball to senior Ahmed El-Nokali, whose final shot in a Tiger uniform hit the front of the rim as time ran out.

Princeton (16—12, 11—3) finished the season with a share of the Ivy League title and its seventh-straight postseason berth.

Leading scorer Theresa Sherry ’04 carried women’s lacrosse to a 10—6 win over Loyola in Baltimore on March 10. Sherry scored three goals and assisted on two others as Princeton improved to 2—1. The Tigers defeated Lafayette 18—7 at home last week.

The team’s difficult opening schedule does not get any easier as they faced Virginia at home on March 17. The Tigers were ranked third in the March 12 Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Association poll. Duke leads the poll, followed by Georgetown, which beat Princeton in the season opener.

The road woes continued for the defending NCAA men’s lacrosse champions as they fell to sixth-ranked Virginia 13—11 on March 9. The Tigers have not won in Virginia since 1994. They opened the season with a loss at Johns Hopkins.

The Tigers played their home opener on March 16 against Hofstra.

The season closed out earlier than anticipated for women’s hockey against Harvard, and a late-season flourish for the men’s squad was cut short at Rensselaer.

On the women’s side, the Tigers (15—11—3) had the benefit of home ice against Harvard (18—10—2) but were swept in the first round of the ECAC playoffs. Harvard came back to win the first game 3—2 and ended the Tigers’ season with a 3—1 win on March 9.

Princeton goalie Megan Van Beusekom ’04 stopped 78 Crimson shots, earning her ECAC Goalie of the Week honors for the fourth time this season. Her .920 save percentage this year is tops for a single season in Princeton women’s hockey history.

The men’s hockey team (11—17—2) traveled to Troy, New York, and lost two straight to Rensselaer, 5—3 and 6—0. They had not lost in five straight games to qualify for the playoffs.

By A.D.


Return to Sports Main Menu

Current Issue    Online Archives    Printed Issue Archives
Advertising Info    Reader Services    Search    Contact PAW    Your Class Secretary