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A Family's Search for America's Best Baseball

Fodor's Ballpark Vacations: Great Family Trips to Minor League and Classic Major League Parks Across America

By Bruce Adams and Margaret Engel

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Fodor's Travel Publications, Inc. 291 pp., $16.50

Want to know where the best seats are for Toledo (Ohio) Mud Hens minor-league baseball games? Or which section the Kissimmee (Fla.) Cobras have designated alcohol free? Or a good place to stay when in Colorado Springs, Colo., to see the Sky Sox play?

Just ask the Adams family of Bethesda, Md. They've been to all these professional baseball venues and many more. Last summer Bruce, Peggy (pen name Margaret Engel), and their two young children hopped in the family's Dodge Caravan in search of the best baseball-watching experiences America has to offer.

After attending 85 games in 82 different stadiums, racking up 25,000 miles in 44 states plus Canada, and scooping up 11 foul balls, mom and dad sat down to record their findings. The results can be found in "Fodor's Ballpark Vacations." Minor-league baseball, in particular, is a family affair that appeals to children, the authors explain.

That's because the smaller scale creates intimacy, yet there's usually room to roam safely. Then, too, teams conduct many contests and giveaways with youngsters in mind. The Adamses, for example, returned home with enough backpacks for half the neighborhood.

Another advantage to minor-league baseball travel is economy. Tickets, parking, and concessions are generally less than at big-league parks. And because minor-league cities are smaller, the Adamses confidently recommend many lodgings under $50 a night.

Besides describing the experience of visiting various ballparks, the guide has maps and concise summaries, giving information on directions, tickets, game times, stadium food, and seating suggestions.

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Among general tips are these:

* Buy a program, since it often carries information about the games and activities that fans can participate in.

* Get to the park early so children have an opportunity to interact with the players.

* Take sweaters and jackets along to night games no matter the daytime temperature.

* Sit in a protected area (such as behind home plate) if only casually watching the game.

* Resist the temptation to park right outside the ballpark, since foul balls can shatter windshields and dent hoods.

Another rich source of information on baseball travel is "Mud Hens and Mavericks" by Judith Blahnik and Phillip S. Schulz (Viking Studio Books). Published in 1995, it carries information on 116 minor-league teams.

It's important to realize, however, that teams sometimes move, are sold, or go out of business, so the facts can change from year to year.

One modest annual guide popular with a growing number of fans is called "Minor Trips." Bob Carson, a Strongsville, Ohio, schoolteacher and coach, and his wife Sue have been publishing the compact directory since 1990. To receive a guide and newsletter with travel tips, send $6 to Minor Trips, P.O. Box 360105, Strongsville, OH 44136. The e-mail address is:

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