Springtime for Hitters

When you get right down to it, there are just two kinds of people in this world: There are people who like Steve Garvey, and there are people who don't.

Every single person, be they young or old, thin or fat, Pentecostal televangelist or Satan-worshiping heavy-metal bass-guitar player, shakes down into one of those two camps. Just so you know where I stand, I hate Steve Garvey. He's been retired from baseball for a while now, and I still get a big knot in my gut every time I think of his forearms. It's true, I've never met the man. I've seen him on TV, and I've even watched him play in person several times. A couple of years ago, I was in Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego for a meaningless ballgame in early July. A family of locals was sitting in the row right below me. Dad (maybe it was grandpa) looked to be retired Air Force. Mom had that tight look you get in the face if you live in California and don't do drugs or drink too much. When Garvey came up to the plate to hit and was introduced over the public-address system, I was the only guy in the whole ballpark who booed.

Obviously shaken, Mom gave a little jump in her seat. When she turned around to see what motorcycle gang I belonged to, I gave her a wink and let a little beer spill down my chin.

"You must not be from around here," she said, turning her granddaughter's head back toward the field. "No, ma'am," I said, trying to telepathically plant in her subconscious the idea that she should buy me a tall beer every inning for the rest of the game.

"Where are you from, then?"

Some people like Steve Garvey. Some people don't. In my opinion, this class distinction holds true throughout all strata of society. Politics, even. The kind of person who would like Steve Garvey--whose fame came as a result of a machine-like consistency and a superheroic personality so contrived it makes astronauts look like crack dealers in comparison--is the kind of person who would like, oh, say, a Dan Quayle-type person. Maybe that's an unfair comparison. Garvey was better at what he did than Quayle is at what he does. Their personalities are identical, true, but Garvey is cuter and a much better public speaker. And we're not sure whether or not Dan Quayle is consistent at anything, other than saying, "Yes, dear" and "Duh."

Baseball fans, too, can be divided into Garvey likers and Garvey dislikers. Garvey likers likely are wed to the cool, empirical logic of statistics, the box score, the slugging percentage and the decimal point. Garvey dislikers likely thrive on the green grass and cigar smoke at a ballpark, the crushed peanut shell and the diving catch down the foul line that carries the outfielder's face into the fence. There are exceptions to these divisions, to be sure, and there can be some crossover between groups. But for the purposes of supporting my already shaky thesis, we're going pretend that it's a hard-and-fast rule of physics, just like the one that says you can't make a collect call to one of those 976 phone numbers. I spent the past several weeks thoroughly researching the concept we know as "spring training." In that time, I survived wholly on Big Macs, vitamin C, and Advil. I logged dozens of miles on my truck. I made several phone calls. You are now holding the end result of that labor. Good luck getting through it.

MD120 Col 1, Depth P60.06 I10.00 At this point I think I should highlight a few of this supplement's more embarrassing flaws.

* Some may notice that the actual sport of baseball is only passingly mentioned in these pages. Purists--and Garvey likers--will wag their gray tongues at such an outrage. To them, I say: Take a hike, son.

* Some may notice that I have totally glossed over what apparently is one of spring training's more important activities, and that is seeking autographs from players, coaches and star broadcasters at every possible opportunity. Let me say this about autograph seeking: What used to be merely annoying to players and most fans has now become a form of emotional-economic fascism. Star athletes are charging to sign autographs these days, sometimes as much as $15 per scribble. They do this because the doofuses who collect sports junk have created a market for things like old foul balls and baseball cards, which originally were meant to be read once and then attached to the spokes of a bicycle tire to make it sound like a bitchin' motorboat or something. True, a few players, mostly the young ones whose personalities haven't already been ruined by fame and the availability of an infinite number of stunningly gorgeous sex partners, will still sign an autograph if you stick your pen at them at the ballpark. If you are someone who wants to go to a game and behave this way, I bid you peace.

* Some may notice that I've only briefly touched on another Big Deal in spring training, and that is finding the places where the ballplayers go so you can go and meet them. I have mentioned a few of the absolute top places, but only because I approve of them otherwise, and I encourage you to patronize those places all year round and not just when the stars are in town. If meeting ballplayers is important to you, keep in mind that there is almost no likelihood that you have anything in common with them. Unless you are a millionaire who chews tobacco, or a shapely aerobics instructor with a less than stringent moral code, I doubt there are any big-leaguers out there who will have anything to do with you. Still, if you've got your mind made up about this, I have to ask: Why waste your time at the ballpark? Why not go right for the gusto? Below is a list of some of the hotels in which the teams stay. If your intention is becoming buddy-buddy with professional baseball players, I suggest you put on your best howdy-stranger smile and start knocking on doors. Or, hit the golf course. Ballplayers spend as much time there these days as they do with their accountants.

Here's a list of hotels and motels where you might run into your favorite utility infielder:

Doubletree Suites
320 North 44th Street, Phoenix

Rodeway Inn 5700 East Main, Mesa

Angels and Cubs
Ramada Renaissance
200 North Centennial Way, Mesa

Mezona Motor Inn
250 West Main, Mesa

Dobson Ranch Inn
1666 South Dobson, Mesa

Sheraton Scottsdale
Cap'n Dave's Spring Training Rules of Thumb

* Whenever possible, purchase your game tickets in advance. Box-office lines are almost always long and slow moving on days of games, and good seats are almost always chewed up weeks before any of the players arrive in town. * In regard to the kind of ticket you might want to buy, the late great Bill Veeck said it best: "I have discovered, in twenty years of moving around a ballpark, that the knowledge of the game is usually in inverse proportion to the price of the seats."

* Speaking of cheap seats, most ballclubs hold intrasquad games in the mornings at their parks. The concession stands usually aren't open, but admission's free and the game's the same.

* If it's the Cubs you want to see, plan on doing that at one of their away games. HoHoKam, their home park, is a black hole of long concession lines and impossible-to-get tickets. Actually, it might be just as easy (and not much more expensive) to wait until April and fly to Chicago to see a game. * Sun-worshipers should begin their day in the left-field grandstand and work their way around to right field by the later innings. Sun-phobics should stay at home and take a bath. Very few of the spring training parks offer decent shade.

* Studies have shown that a full three quarters of everybody who goes to spring training games in Arizona are not full-time residents. They don't live through our summers, they don't pay taxes to support our schools, and they don't sit in traffic under the overpass at Grand Avenue and Indian School. And they won't understand your sense of humor, especially if your kind of comedy is based on references to local celebrities, such as, "Boy, I sure wish I could roll around for a while in a big vat of maple syrup with that Linda Turley." None of this makes our visitor friends bad people. Some would say it makes them very smart people. I say, let them have their fun, but don't let them push you around.

* Several of the ballparks are run by civic groups composed of successful local businessmen and politicians. These guys volunteer their time to keep spring training the thriving boon to the local economy that it is. And they do a fine job of it. But keep in mind that the bottom line for these guys is that their civic group is just another excuse to get away from their wives for a few hours every couple of weeks and tell dirty jokes over cocktails. They won't be all that helpful if you wander up and ask them an important question, such as, "Could you tell me where the bathrooms are, please?"

* If you want to catch a foul ball--and I certainly don't endorse this kind of thing--you should position yourself above the stands and Batting 1.000 User's Guide

Basically what I've done here is ramble on at great length about all of the Cactus League ballparks. Most of what I've written is pure opinion and/or obvious satire, which the Supreme Court has found to be a coupla wholly protected kindza speech. Fortunately for the reading public, most editors are somewhat less liberal than the high justices on this point, but with any luck at all, I'll be able to sneak most of this backwash past the honchos here.

Each big section is broken up into smaller sections, where I talk about stadium specifics, parking, navigation and pre- and post-game entertainment options. I've left off all of the addresses to the bars and restaurants I mention to A) attempt to disguise the blatantly commercial nature of this project and B) keep things moving. Detailed stuff like phone numbers and addresses always slow me down. Plus, there's got to be something for the gals at the front desk to do besides pop their gum and ogle the delivery boys. I just hand them a list of five or six businesses, and, six weeks later, as if by magic, they've looked up the addresses. So, buried somewhere near the back of this section you'll find a list of the joints mentioned inside. I believe you will find them all to be pretty good. Also littered throughout this baby you will find little snippets of real journalism--actual miniature profiles on spring training's more interesting characters. These profiles include stats, facts, various data and true quotes, which I obtained by doing real interviews. I did this not only because it's as impressive as heck to the Pulitzer committee, but because I really want you to like me.

See, I figure if I can make you like me, eventually I can maybe make you see things my way in regards to a certain former National League first baseman who may or may not be the Antichrist. Which is, after all, my ultimate goal in life.

Enjoy yourself, people, and watch out for foul tips. Oh, one final thought: When you're weary and feeling low, when the credit-card companies are calling at seven every morning, when your boss can't help but weep when he sees you come into the office, just remind yourself of this one simple fact: Steve Garvey's last wife left him for Marvin Hamlisch. It's a wonderful life, isn't it?

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Cap'n Dave