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Column: It's a small world of sports after all
sports-emeralds1websmall JP
Brian Adams works on his bunting technique during a Eugene Emeralds practice earlier this month. - photo by Jared Putnam

I make a sincere effort to leave my job behind when I’m on vacation.

It never happens, but I try.

At the very least I end up fielding a few questions about what to do while I’m gone.

More often than not, I usually even end up writing a feature story that I wasn’t able to finish before I left. It’s just the nature of having a small staff.

What I don’t expect, however, is to find myself covering a former local standout during my time off. Especially not when I’m 2,100 miles away on the other side of the continent,  in a state where trees outnumber people 43 million to 1.

That last part isn’t as much a fact as just a wild guess about the trees-to-people ratio in the state of Oregon.

Yet there I was a couple weeks ago, standing on the University of Oregon baseball field in Eugene, Ore., chatting with former South Forsyth standout Brian Adams.

Brian is a personable, likeable guy. My first assignment in this job was South Forsyth’s 2007 football season opener, and I still recall that the first photo I ever published here was one of him streaking down the sideline in the pouring rain during that game.

That said, I can’t claim to have a travel-across-the-country-on-my-own-dime-just-to-watch-you-play-ball level of affection for any athletes, no matter how long I’ve been covering them.

But if you happen to be on a field in the exact same place I’m spending my vacation?

Sure, sounds like fun.

Brian spent the past three years playing football and baseball at Kentucky before being drafted by the San Diego Padres in eighth round of the June MLB Draft.

We covered the story, but he didn’t know at the time where he’d be assigned.

It wasn’t until I was in Oregon visiting family that I saw one of his tweets about playing for the Eugene Emeralds, a Class A farm team of the Padres which plays its home games at P.K. Park on the University of Oregon campus.

I arranged some last-minute press credentials and visited with Brian during an afternoon practice.

At the time he had only 28 at-bats, less than half of many of his teammates, but he was leading the Emeralds in home runs (3), stolen bases (4) and slugging percentage (.714), and was in the top three in batting average (.321) and OPS (1.121).

Impressive for a guy who saw limited time on his college team last season.

Even more impressive?

He put up most of those numbers with a broken hand.

Brian has been stuck at 28 at-bats since the day I saw him, shortly before an MRI revealed his injury. He said he was hit by a pitch during the first week of the season but continued to play after X-rays came back negative, hoping it was just a bruise.

He will likely miss the remainder of the Emeralds’ season.

"Up to that point I was playing well," Adams said.

"I’ve been having a lot of fun and I’ve really learned a lot."

It’s the fourth season-ending injury he’s suffered since high school, but the first that has been baseball-related or has caused him to miss any baseball games. All the others occurred during football season.

"I’ve been used to being healthy as far as baseball goes," Adams said. "It’s definitely been frustrating, but at the same time God put me here for a reason ... and [this injury] isn’t going to end anything.

"Some guys you never see get injured, and others [have it happen] all the time. It’s the first time I’ve been hurt in baseball and hopefully it will be the last."

Life in the minors has been an adjustment for Brian and his teammates. The Emeralds’ players reside at the Hilton in Eugene, and between frequent road trips and roster moves, they learn to pack light and be ready to hit the road at a moment’s notice.

Brian said there’s even a chance he’ll spend the winter playing baseball in Australia.

I have no plans to be Down Under anytime soon — I’m going back to spending my vacation time, you know, vacationing — so we’ll go back to providing coverage from a distance.

Meanwhile, Brian remains upbeat about his future in pro baseball.

If the early minor league numbers he put up with one good hand are any indication, he has good reason to be.