"I'm 39 years old, I love my family and I'm about to drag them across the country to read books and watch baseball."
This, a mission statement of sorts, was written by David LaBounty on the first page of the first issue of his zine Bookstores and Baseball (a "zine" is a small-circulation, self-published magazine, often distributed via independent bookstores as well as through trades with other zine writers). LaBounty and his wife, Robin, publish The First Line zine and run Blue Cubicle Press, which supports "writers trapped in the daily grind." The Dallas-area couple regularly sells and promotes its various publications at literary festivals; the LaBounty's son, Gabe, and daughter, Olivia, are always along for the ride.
Though David wasn't initially a baseball fan, Gabe was an obsessive student of the game from a young age (he is now a freshman at the University of Houston; Olivia is in high school). Beginning in 2008, the LaBounty family developed ballpark and independent bookstore-based itineraries in conjunction with its literary festival schedule. The LaBountys visited dozens of Minor and Major League teams in this capacity while also regularly making time for their hometown Frisco RoughRiders (the Texas League in general figures prominently throughout). The "First Inning" of Bookstores and Baseball covers the LaBounty family's 2008 "season"; seven such issues have followed.
As someone who regularly embarks on his own ballpark road trips, often visiting independent book and record stores along the way, the guiding principles of Bookstores and Baseball appealed to me. Surely it will also appeal to MiLB.com readers of a similar disposition -- those who enjoy the national pastime, road trips and the written word in equal measure. With that in mind, I interviewed David (and, for one question, Gabe) about this labor of love.
MiLB.com: How did the idea to write the Bookstores and Baseball zine come about?
David LaBounty: In 2009, I put together the "First Inning" as an anniversary present for Robin. Then, in 2011, Quimby's Bookstore in Chicago and Atomic Books in Baltimore sponsored Revenge of Print!, which was a challenge to old zinesters to "Make one more issue." So I made a couple of extra copies and sent them to the bookstores. They were a hit, and since I had detailed notes of all of our summer trips involving bookstores and baseball, I decided to make it a series.
MiLB.com: What sort of audience has it attracted thus far, and how can interested readers obtain a copy?
David LaBounty: At first it was only available to family and friends and a few select bookstores, but then we started taking them to book festivals with our other publications. People would see the cover and stop by to chat about baseball and road trips with Robin. They usually ended up buying a copy or two for themselves and their friends. I also trade copies with other zinesters, which led me to Mike Faloon and Steve Reynolds of Zisk zine ("The Baseball Magazine For People Who Hate Baseball Magazines"). With the help of Gabe, we ended up publishing an anthology of the best of Zisk.
I think there are still a few copies of Bookstores and Baseball at Quimby's and Atomic, or you can order them (PDF or print) HERE.
MiLB.com: Taking into account both Minor League Baseball and independent bookstores, what city would you consider to be the best of both worlds?
David LaBounty: Of the ones we've visited, Louisville was the best of both worlds. The Louisville Bats game was a little boring (we might have been there on an off night), but we love Carmichael's Bookstore (two locations!) and the city gets bonus points for being home to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
MiLB.com: More broadly, if you were advising a fellow literary-minded baseball fan on his or her own trip itinerary, what would you recommend?
David LaBounty: You can't go wrong with a trip to the Bay Area, as there are great bookstores and lively baseball on both sides of the Bay Bridge. D.C. is excellent, and Chicago and Baltimore are great towns for baseball fans who are looking for alternative lit.
MiLB.com: Gabe, you've contributed your own ballpark accounts to the zine over the years. Through which one can see your own evolution as a writer. Would you like to write professionally about baseball or other topics?
Gabe LaBounty: I've been writing for school newspapers since fifth grade. I like writing about sports, but as I've grown, I prefer writing hard news stories. I'm currently at college pursuing a journalism degree and writing for The Cougar (the University of Houston's newspaper).
MiLB.com: David, you've published eight "innings" of Bookstores and Baseball thus far. Is the LaBounty family planning to go for the complete game?
David LaBounty: We are in negotiations for a ninth inning as I type. I was hoping to head to Denver, Gabe's pushing for a tour of the Carolina League and Liv wants New York (but she's just dying for Hamilton tickets).
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.