Dome Luck

But all of the opening spectacle was just so much sparkle. The diamond was the thing.

The ballpark is joyous.
Dark, forest-green girders frame your views, recalling ghosts from the Polo Grounds. Angles and quirky lines rim an outfield promising ricochets and new memories of left fielders playing caroms, like Carl Yaztremski once did.

The ballpark is gracious.
While long-legged centerfielders like Devon White will run down fly balls, the dimensions of the park are graceful, not cavernous.

The swimming pool, in right center, is even larger than the one in Colorado Springs belonging to the minor-league Sky Sox. The pool is unspeakable. It assaults the eye like a pinky ring upon the hand of a gentleman who is otherwise draped in a Saville-row suit.

Roarke, the budding purist, was contemptuous of the pool when he strolled past it on the grand concourse. But the water feature was only a distraction; even Wrigley Field has pigeons.

Picnic benches in the bleacher area beckon with terrific views. In the farthest reaches of dead centerfield, a clock of perfect proportion ticks off the minutes. Eschewing cold, digital technology, the timepiece's face is dignified with simple Arabic numbers.

The grass is green, and real, and not plastic, the fruit of a revolutionary seed that grows glorious sod in the shade.

Shadows and shade . . . for denizens of the Sonoran desert, nothing is more important during the blistering summers than shade. And there, up in the sky--part of the sky, actually--Colangelo's wondrous roof offers life-sustaining shade.

But at night, when the desert cools and the game is on, the roof will open.
On those spectacular days when the Arizona weather and the scent of damp creosote tempts visiting Canadians to abandon ice and snow to move to the Valley of the Sun, on those days the roof will retract; enormous panels on the north side of the stadium will also swing open to let views of the distant mountains into the ballpark.

On opening night when the roof peeled back, tens of thousands of fans roared. Gone were the bitter memories of the quarter-cent sales tax.

Fifty thousand people stood clapping their appreciation, their respect for Jerry Colangelo.

Only Deborah Laake was missing. She said she just did not feel up to rubbing elbows at Bank One with the volatile Colangelo. She watched the opening game on television at home. It was a sad turn.

When she was critically ill with cancer, Colangelo's Phoenix Suns arranged to let the bald-headed Laake sit behind the bald-headed basketball players at a game in order to lift her spirits.

Many professional teams extend such courtesies, yet when Laake approached Colangelo about the possibility of an interview, she readily expressed her gratitude.

At that moment, Laake glimpsed a facet of Colangelo that he seldom reveals to the press.

Unpredictably fragile after the ravages of chemotherapy, Laake will tell you that she is not her old self. And so she told Jerry.

Colangelo agreed to help this woman. He gave generously of his time so that Laake might complete the first story she has undertaken for New Times since she became ill.

He did this against his better judgment.
Following criticism of him in this newspaper, he has refused to speak to journalists from this publication.

He made an exception for Deborah.
Despite this sort of core decency, Colangelo's vendettas (and his gut instinct to Hoover every copper penny off the civic shag carpeting) keep his love affair with Phoenix dysfunctional.

Laake's story made you want to grab Colangelo in a headlock and give him a noogie.

The next time he feels like doing something as mean-spirited as banning fans from toting food into the ballpark, or he wants to lash out at a critic, he ought to paraphrase the wisdom of Stewart Smalley and remind himself: I'm better than that, and doggone it, people like me.

If he is wounded by a journalist's words, Colangelo might regain his sense of composure if he considered what happened to the most beleaguered 5-year-old at the ballpark on opening day.

During the sixth inning, Knuckles began pounding his mitt and shouting, "Hey mister, hit me a foul ball."

By the end of the seventh inning, Knuckles was mad. None of the players had hit the ball to him, which only confirmed his view that the world was tilted against him.

Knuckles told his mother he wasn't leaving until he got a ball.
After the seventh-inning stretch, Roarke took charge. He escorted his kid brother down to the back of the dugout of the visiting Colorado Rockies, who were blowing out the Diamondbacks 9-2.

Knuckles began to ride the Rockies for a ball.
"Hey guys, how about a ball," shouted Roarke.
A man in a Colorado uniform emerged from the dugout.

Not just any man, it was Larry Walker, the most valuable player in the National League last year.

Walker tapped on the dugout to get the boy's attention.
He didn't flip them a mere baseball; instead Larry Walker handed over his own, personal baseball bat to Knuckles.

The 5-year-old spun on his heel facing the fans. For a brief moment, Colin's head looked like it might explode from the sheer force of his smile.

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