Marc Appleman's tale of how he fell in love with baseball is sweet, even if it is rather common. He learned the game from his father, who took him on a road trip to spring training when he was 13 -- hooking Appleman for life and setting off a chain reaction that would see him doing the same with his sons when they turned the same age.

Where Appleman might deviate from the typical baseball fan, however, is in his level of dedication. He is now the executive director of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) -- an increasingly mainstream group of nevertheless fanatic baseball fans, researchers and thinkers.

SABR will take over Minneapolis next week when its 42nd annual convention begins Wednesday. The organization has 6,000 members, and roughly 500 are expected in town. Twins President Dave St. Peter and GM Terry Ryan are featured speakers, while Roy Smalley and Ron Coomer are part of a players' panel discussion. It gets quite a bit more detailed from there -- including 34 presentations from members on such subjects as bat research, Lou Gehrig's actual RBI total and the impact of temperature and humidity on pitching. (Full details on the convention, which requires registration, are at

"We get a combination of research historians and those very interested in the statistics angle," Appleman said of the group's membership. "Then you have a lot of people in the middle. There is a real camaraderie. For four days, everyone is just talking and living what they love."

Most members join the organization after attending a meeting with a current member. The organization has worked on outreach to recruit new members in recent years, Appleman said -- including "SABR day," held the weekend between the NFL conference title games and Super Bowl, during which many of SABR's 60 chapters have held discussions and put on presentations.

The annual convention, though, is the main event and this year will give many SABR members their first look at Target Field. If you're used to being the smartest fan at the game, beware.

"One thing that's going to be entertaining and competitive is the SABR trivia contest," Appleman said. "The questions are very difficult, to say the least."

One can only imagine.