Ah, there's nothing so sublime as leaning back on a bleacher with a cool drink and a hot dog, a freshening breeze in your face, and watching pitchers pitch and hitters hit. And while slow-pitch softball may not be on a par with pro baseball, it is in a league of its own -- the Amateur Softball Association. The ASA's Co-ed Slow Pitch National Championship, scheduled Friday, September 16, and Saturday, September 17, will pit the top 12 to 15 U.S. teams in a double-elimination tournament. The tourney begins with an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday. Prelims are scheduled all day Saturday, with the championship taking place at about 9 that night. The scene is the Rose Mofford Sports Complex, 9833 North 25th Avenue. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids and seniors. Call 602-262-6542 or visit www.phoenix.gov/TEAMSPRT/asacoed.html. -- Clay McNear
The icemen returneth
Fresh from a self-imposed yearlong lockout that was met with a collective yawn, the National Hockey League is about to find out if anyone still gives a puck. Step one in the local franchise's rehab came last month when the game's greatest player and ambassador, Wayne Gretzky, was named head coach of our own Phoenix Coyotes. Catch the Great One in his coaching debut as the resuscitated Coyotes take on the Minnesota Wild in the team's preseason opener at 7 p.m. Friday, September 16, at Glendale Arena, 9400 West Maryland. Tickets cost $15 to $225. Call 480-563-7825. -- Craig Wallach
Survivalism of the fittest
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"If you do get caught somewhat unprepared," says REI outreach specialist Carla Olson, "you'll learn how to get through the night and find your way out." She could be talking about the 7-Eleven in our neighborhood, but, in fact, she's describing the "Outdoor Survival and Safety" clinic led by former Air Force global survival instructor Gene Ward. Ward is on tour promoting his new DVD, Survival Beyond the 10 Essentials. Water, fire, shelter, signaling for help -- it's all in there. The free clinic starts at 7 p.m. Monday, September 19, at the REI store at 12634 North Paradise Village Parkway. Call 602-996-5400 or visit www.survivalandoutdoorsafety.com. -- Julie Peterson