Craib mug

Bill Craib 

One baseball trip that covers 54,000 miles over 209 days for 199 games and 178 ball parks might seem like enough.

Not for Bill Craib.

He made that trip to 44 states in 1991 for an estimated cost of $12,000 with his then-girlfriend Sue Easler for what became known as “Bill and Sue’s Excellent Adventure.”

Yet, in 2003, Craib did it again, visiting each of the minor league stadiums, although some of those he had seen 12 years before were either no longer in existence and or not being used for professional baseball.

His original plan in 1991 was sidetracked as the couple seemed to reach mini-celebrity status wherever they went.

“The 2003 trip was quite different. My goal in 2003 was to do some of the stuff that I didn’t do the first time,” Craib said. “As we went on further and further into the trip, we had the local TV stations and newspapers were waiting for us almost every night.

“Most of the teams wanted us to participate in some kind of promotions on the field, things like the dizzy bat race in Greensboro. I didn’t get a chance to do what we sort of originally set out to do which was to try to be the journalist, to tell the story of what was going on.”

Twelve years later, he was back on the road, this time on his own.

* * *

The idea for the original trip came to while Craib - a broadcast journalism graduate from Syracuse - was working as a bartender and Easler as a waitress at a restaurant in Lyme Center, New Hampshire.

The year after that memorable adventure, the couple relocated to Bend, Oregon, the original farm club of the Colorado Rockies. Easler worked for the team, while Craib wrote for the local newspaper. Bend started play in ‘92, the Rockies in Denver the following season.

“We lived out there in Bend for two years and then we split up and I came back east. She is still out in Oregon,” said Craib, a talent consultant for Human Capital Institute residing in Hartland, Vermont. “I saw her every now and then for the next few years.

“I haven’t seen her now for probably 15 or 20 years, but we communicated via Facebook before this thing. I told her I was going to be doing this video series about the old parks again.”

***

Craib is currently revisiting that ‘91 trip by putting the original videos on YouTube of each stadium visit on the dates that coincide with those stops 29 seasons ago. He has added a few revisions or facts along the way, with plans to catch up on the ones he missed early this spring after the minor league season was slated to end in September.

Those videos can be found at by visiting findamerica.org/lmt2020 or by typing in Low Mileage Tour on YouTube.

“My goal in 2003 was to do that, but I have to say the world of Minor League Baseball had changed significantly,” said Craib, who is the Managing Director of the Project to Find America. “By 2003 I would say most of the parks that I saw were pretty similar.

“They had all been upgraded to the new major league standards and a lot of them were brand new. They were lovely ball parks, probably much more comfortable and much nicer than the ones we saw in ‘91.”

That included the Appalachian League, which still had nine of the same 10 cities in 2003, with Danville having replaced Huntington. Most of the stadiums had undergone facelifts, while affiliates had changed for four of the teams, sometimes multiple times.

“When I came back in 2003 some of the Appy League parks had gotten a little bigger and a little bit more modern, but the league hadn’t changed much frankly,” he said.

Other leagues had changed much more, such as the Low-A South Atlantic League based primarily along the east coast from Maryland to Georgia. Many of those clubs from ‘91 were no longer in existence, with some stadiums then being used by various college wooden bat leagues.

“If you look at leagues like the South Atlantic League for instance, the world of Minor League Baseball was entirely different then,” he said. “At least half of the teams we saw aren’t in their same town anymore, having been taken over by Coastal Plains League teams mostly.

“It has been interesting to go back. A lot of parks that we saw in ‘91 have literally been demolished so it there is sort of historical interest there.”

He has been able to add a few facts or tales about the various parks with the newest videos, including showing the entire Appalachian League this past week, with Huntington finishing it off today. Among the additions is the interesting story of Burlington Athletic Stadium, the lone North Carolina club currently in the Appalachian League.

“That whole stadium was literally picked up and shipped by truck from Danville, Virginia down to Burlington,” said Craib, who also recognized the contributions of Miles Wolff, who brought professional baseball to Burlington and remained part of the organization for nearly 35 years. “You can imagine the logistics that go into that. They bought the stadium for $5,000.

“That is fascinating. To me that is pretty interesting factoid so I get a little bit more into…I am trying to get into a little bit more into stuff either we didn’t know about or for whatever reason didn’t mention on the tapes. I am trying to incorporate some of that in addition to utilizing the original video tapes.”

The plan to revisit those stops came to Craib when he became quarantined due to the coronavirus.

“I feel very fortunate. Most of this stuff has been sitting in a box in my basement for 28 years,”

said Craib, who has been transferring the data from old VHS video tapes into digital files. “I had no idea when I got it out this spring if it is was going to be ruined and old and moldy, but it has held up pretty well.”

What a trip it was. Craib said the Plymouth Voyager that logged more than 50,000 miles in such a short time did just fine, although they did get one speeding ticket between Visalia and San Jose in California

“There was a speed trap in one of these little California towns in the central valley that we went through and we got a speeding ticket there,” said Craib, who was in Arlington, Texas that year to see Nolan Ryan’s seventh and final career no-hitter. “The rest of the way, no speeding tickets and amazingly no flat tires.

“I did get a flat tire when I did in 2003 up in British Columbia. The van held up incredibly. We drove 54,000 miles in that summer. We ended up on “Good Morning America” that season, which was the day after our last stop which was at Yankee Stadium.”

Craib still harkens back to that trip ‘91 trip, which ended by seeing the final six of seven World Series games, completed when Jack Morris pitched a masterpiece to lead the Minnesota Twins past the Atlanta Braves in Game 7.

Today, Craib is still just as interested in baseball, especially the minor leagues, where his adventures always got plenty of attention. They still do.

 “It is no small irony to me that most of the people that work in minor league baseball today weren’t even born when we did this trip,” he said, with a laugh.

bwoodson@bristolnews.com | Twitter: BHCWoodson | (276) 645-2543

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