Longform

Springtime for Hitters

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* 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:

A's
Doubletree Suites
320 North 44th Street, Phoenix

Angels
Rodeway Inn 5700 East Main, Mesa

Angels and Cubs
Ramada Renaissance
200 North Centennial Way, Mesa

Cubs
Mezona Motor Inn
250 West Main, Mesa

Brewers
Dobson Ranch Inn
1666 South Dobson, Mesa

Giants
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?"

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Cap'n Dave