Saturday, February 12, 2005

AT&T PEBBLE BEACH NATIONAL PRO-AM / Belichick a tough critic assessing his own golf game 

AT&T PEBBLE BEACH NATIONAL PRO-AM / Belichick a tough critic assessing his own golf game

Pebble Beach -- The gray hooded sweatshirt was nowhere to be seen. But when the hottest pro football coach in America needed protection from the intermittent rain Friday at Poppy Hills, he donned a blue sweatshirt with "Super Bowl XXXIX'' on the front.

It wasn't a good luck charm, Bill Belichick said. "I was just trying to stay warm.''

In two rounds in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, he has helped partner Larry Mize by 11 strokes. They're not among the leaders in the pro-am competition -- 11 strokes back at 134 -- but the coach of the New England Patriots has played fairly well, considering he hadn't picked up a club since July.

When he sank a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 18, his ninth hole of the day, one impressed fan said, "Sixteen handicap? My foot.''

"That was a tough putt, a big breaking putt,'' said his caddie, Dan Thornton of Salinas. "Even when the greens here are in good shape, they're challenging, and they're tougher in the rain. Plus, there are a lot of optical illusions on this course.''

Maybe that explains why Belichick spent so much time in the traps on Friday. "He's definitely had his share of sand play, there's no question," said Mize with a smile. "His ball seems to find the sand. But he's made a birdie each day. For not playing much golf in the last six months, as we know he hasn't, he's done well.''

Since taking that ice-water shower with his father on the sideline of the Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., Belichick has taken part in the Patriots' victory parade in Boston on Tuesday and appeared on "The Tonight Show'' with Jay Leno, cracking a joke at the expense of mouthy Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell. "I heard he had something for (Patriots safety) Rodney Harrison," he said. "Maybe it was the two dropped passes."

He was invited to the AT&T by his friend, Pebble Beach Co. CEO Bill Perocchi, who followed his round and observed, "You can tell he's used to pressure from the way he putts.''

Belichick was a lot harder in describing his scrambling round. "There were a couple of good shots and a lot of bad ones,'' he said. The birdie putt? "Every dog has its hole.''

He said he started playing golf when he was 3 or 4 years old with his dad, Steve, a longtime college football coach. The Patriots' coach has passed on the love of golf to his own kids. "My youngest, Brian, is 13,'' he said. "Hopefully, I can still beat him -- I don't know. It's getting closer every year.''

There weren't many Patriots fans on hand at Poppy Hills, but the most conspicuous was Sandy Hartley, who with her husband, Ken, moved from Cohasset, Mass., to San Luis Obispo last summer. Wearing a Patriots cap, T-shirt and jacket, she said, "He's my idol. I love defense, and that's what his teams play.''

Halfway through his round, he huddled briefly with old friend Dick Tomey, now the head coach at San Jose State. Later, Tomey tried to pinpoint the qualities that have helped Belichick guide three Super Bowl winners in four years.

"He's not trying to be anything but a great coach,'' he said. "He's consistent in who he is. Players mirror their coach, and his teams are as unselfish as he is. They don't buy into the hype because he doesn't buy into the hype.''

After finishing his round and spending 45 minutes signing autographs, Belichick said he will see the tape of the Super Bowl for the first time next week when he gets back to work. He scoffed at "dynasty'' discussions. "Next year we'll start at the bottom,'' he said.

As for golf, this tournament may be his one crack at it for a while. "I won't be doing a lot of golfing in Boston," he said. "We're under about a foot of snow.''

Friday, February 11, 2005

SI.com - MLB - Senator wants to end charging for autograph - Friday February 11, 2005 8:36PM 

SI.com - MLB - Senator wants to end charging for autograph - Friday February 11, 2005 8:36PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Professional athletes who try to pad their million-dollar paychecks with paid autograph signings wouldn't be welcome in Rhode Island under legislation introduced this week.

Sen. Roger Badeau said he is fed up with athletes charging upwards of $100 for an autograph at large-scale autograph signing events. What really irks him is that children have to pay for the signatures of their sports heroes.

"They get paid millions and millions. Where do we stop with this? It doesn't make sense," Badeau said Friday. "It's not even realistic anymore."

Badeau's bill would ban professional athletes, entertainers or promoters from charging a fee for an autograph to a child under age 16. They would be fined $100 for each violation.

A Democrat who represents the Northern Rhode Island communities of Cumberland and Woonsocket, Badeau said he was appalled after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series last year and several players participated in an autograph signing event in Providence.

He said it sickened him to see parents shelling out $125 so their children could get a baseball, photo or bat signed by a player.

"There's a buck with everything," he said.

Badeau said it didn't matter that some of those signed baseballs and bats will end up online or with sports memorabilia dealers. He said it still sends the wrong message.

The Red Sox declined to comment on the legislation.

Badeau said he's gotten a lot of support for his bill. And though he doesn't expect it to pass, that's not the point.

"Whether the bill passes or not, I'll do it again next year," Badeau said. "I'm just trying to send a message to these guys."

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Oops, she did it again - snubbed autograph seeker 

Oops, she did it again - snubbed autograph seeker

Feb. 7, 2005 12:00 AM

Britney Spears makes it to the top of another "worst" list. And this time, it has nothing to do with clothes or singing.

Autograph Collector magazine, saying "no one is better at showing their fans how little they mean to them," names Spears its worst celebrity signer of the year in its 13th annual survey of who's cool and who's cruel to the fans.

"While we're the first to defend any celebrity's right not to sign, how do you defend rude, crude and downright unattractive behavior?" asks Steve Cyrkin, publisher and editor in chief. "As one collector told us, 'Britney has done all she can to earn her nickname, Bitchney Sneers.' " advertisement

Rating a dishonorable mention, the pre-breakup Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

"They're not nasty, but they pretty much ignore fans requesting autographs," Cyrkin says.

But Hollywood isn't all scowls and passive aggression. Turns out Johnny Depp is pretty nice. "He never says 'No' to autograph seekers," Cyrkin says.

The other good guys on the Autograph Collector list: Matt Damon, Tom Cruise, Mike Myers, Angelina Jolie, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, Hilary Duff and Charlize Theron.

The naughty list includes Cameron Diaz, Tobey Maguire, Justin Timberlake, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Eminem, Halle Berry and Paris Hilton.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Patriot Ledger at SouthofBoston.com 

The Patriot Ledger at SouthofBoston.com


PRO SPORTS: Fans enjoying golden time in New England sports

Patriots running back Corey Dillon signs autographs for admiring fans at Foxboro Stadium Monday night. (AMELIA KUNHARDT/The Patriot Ledger)

FOXBORO - The streets didn't boil over with people screaming uncontrollably, turning over things or setting cars on fire.

Not many gun shots were fired into the night on Sunday as the final seconds ticked away with the New England Patriots winning Super Bowl XXXIX in another close and dramatic contest.

There wasn't even much civil disobedience at local college campuses, thereby shaking the collective heads of the rest of the sporting world with another television example of a city not knowing how to celebrate winning a championship.

Nope. New England was quite calm after Sunday's victory - much different than the scene a year ago that consisted of both good cheer and bad. Maybe enjoying a third Super Bowl triumph in four years has something to do with that or the new life of a winner that has made these happenings more expected than an out-of-nowhere surprise.

‘‘I think we're getting used to it,'' said Nancy Salvaggio of Braintree, who waited for the Patriots to return to Gillette Stadium yesterday with her two children, Jackie and Dan. ‘‘We know now what it's like, not that it's not a big deal because it is, but we're just so used to it that its like ‘OK, another year, another championship.'''

New England fans are living well these days that's for sure. Since the Pats upset the St. Louis Rams at the end of the 2001 season, the region has celebrated four world championships in four years - counting the World Series title the Boston Red Sox will begin defending in the upcoming baseball season.

Some major cities don't have four crowns total, so this new winner's existence is a special time indeed.

Sunday night when the Pats were busy securing their third Super Bowl victory by a three-point margin, fans enjoyed the action at home, at work, at parties, at the local pub or at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.

As the faithful scattered around the country they all had one thing in common: confidence. The immovable belief that their team would find a way to win and the gridiron fairy tale would continue in their favor.

That wasn't always the case around here remember? It's funny how winning big affects people. Even the most casual supporters build a connection to the home logo over time and merge with it emotionally. While wins bring on chest-beating pride and huge spray-painted signs, losing can skew personal identity and perspective.

After years of intermittent success overshadowed by a steady downpour of losing, New England began to wonder if its sporting hand was a bad one.

Authors made money off of this vulnerability, selling funny stories of dubious fortunes and bad luck, and with each annual disaster on the playing field, more and more fans started to consider its supernatural credence as fact.

Whether it was the endless disappointments by the Red Sox, the instability of the Pats or the misfortune of the Celtics or Bruins, a sour trend had infiltrated New England sports and seemed here to stay.

This generation should consider itself cleansed.

A dynasty special down at Foxboro and the breakthrough season by the Sox have made that historic losing and laughing stock hard to remember with confetti in your eyes. Trophies on podiums have a way of locking time into just the magical moments.

‘‘It's incredible,'' said Dawn Morrison of Norton as she tossed a football in the Gillette Stadium parking lot yesterday with her 10-year-old son Corey. ‘‘We feel like winners ourselves.''

The players realize the new standard that they have created.

‘‘This is what they expect out of us, and this is what we try to give them,'' Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch acknowledged. ‘‘It's a great feeling for us to come back and touch people and their lives.''

Walk into your local post office, doctor's office or business, and team colors are proudly displayed like a New Year's Eve party that never ends.

As New England fans party into 2005, they truly hope that it never does.

Del N. Jones may be reached at djones@ledger.com.

Copyright 2005 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Tom Moore: Soaking in the scenery at Pebble Beach February 8, 2005 

Tom Moore: Soaking in the scenery at Pebble Beach February 8, 2005

Tom Moore: Soaking in the scenery at Pebble Beach
PEBBLE BEACH — TV taught me nothing.
I took my first visit to Pebble Beach Golf Links on Monday.

As many of the world’s best players rolled in on 17-Mile Drive for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, I took a look around.

A longtime golf fan, I’ve seen Pebble Beach on television. I’ve played simulated rounds at the course on video games. I knew the course as well as I could in two dimensions.

I’ve taken the drive, stopped at the clubhouse, considered dropping $400 for a round, as if it wasn’t insanity.

I’d looked out at the scene from the 18th green.

So Monday, as it spit a little rain, I found myself standing at Pebble Beach, media credential in hand. And since no one was inviting me to tee it up, there was only one thing for a state-of-Washington transplant to do. I walked it.

The rumor was that Vijay Singh had set out on a practice round earlier.


The crowds hadn’t arrived, many players hadn’t arrived. The scene had none of the tournament atmosphere.

What you can’t see on TV are the elevation changes, the subtleties, the horizons, how high Singh hits the ball.

I’d seen putts on TV, but hadn’t seen the tiny, sloped fifth green and understood why the putts curled. I hadn’t seen that amid one of most scenic spots in the world, someone with a home on the fifth hole decided it needed a giant blob of a modern man-made statue in his or her back yard. The riches of the mansions, the real estate prices, the excess left me stunned.

I knew the second shot on the sixth hole played uphill, but you can’t see the severity, the reality on TV.

I knew the seventh hole was short, that it stuck out into the water, that winds and weather played tricks with the 106-yard shot. But I hadn’t heard the surf there, or taken in the scenery, the look to the south at the sands of Carmel, the view to the north of No. 17.

Paul Gow, who is still searching for his first PGA Tour victory, played the hole, then teed up on No. 8, hit two shots, then took a moment to take in the view.

And one fan turned to me and said it: "When God plays golf, this is where he plays."

Coincidentally, that’s about when I caught up with Singh — the $10 million man. Defending champion at Pebble Beach. No. 1 in the world — as close to God playing golf as we’ve got. (A claim arguable to the people running the Web site www.tigerwoodsisgod.com).

I covered Singh’s first major title, the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club in the Seattle area. Since the breakthrough, he’s been nothing but better, winning 19 times, including two more majors. And he enters this week’s play by returning to the site of his first of nine victories in 2004. He’s already ahead of that pace, with a victory at the Sony Open last month.

I wondered what $400 green fees meant to a man who made $10.9 million last year (before endorsements), not that he had to pay them. Singh appeared at ease, able to enjoy the scenery. He signed autographs generously. He hit towering tee shots, which will serve him well on a soft course with little roll.

He’ll take on a field this week that includes Phil Mickelson, who is coming off a win in Phoenix on Sunday. He’s taking on a Tour this year as strong and as interesting as it has ever been. Tiger Woods, absent this week from the site of his 2000 U.S. Open victory, seems to be close to the form he had in 2000 after a victory at Torrey Pines last month. Ernie Els, who also is skipping the Pro-Am, hasn’t finished out of the top 10 in three events.

As Singh went through the practice round, he smiled occasionally, studied, practiced chips shots and eyeballed potential pin placements. His streak in 2004 may have started on the back nine last year on Saturday. That’s when he birdied five of six holes to take over the lead.

He appeared to have some magic left Monday. He chipped in with shots on No. 14 and No. 15 during practice. In a bizarre moment, he almost hit a dog with his approach shot on No. 16. No harm.

On the 178-yard No. 17, site of Tom Watson’s chip-in at the 1982 U.S. Open — perhaps golf’s most memorable shot — Singh stuck his tee shot to within 3 feet. The small crowd gave him a smattering of applause and he probably deserved more. On the green, he Ty Webb-ed a couple of putts ("nanenenene-na," I thought).

On 18, Singh took no notice of the small chunk of prime real estate that had slipped off the cliff and had been artificially refilled. He knocked his second shot on the par 5 into the greenside bunker, practiced a couple shots and walked off the course. ... looking like 10 million bucks, and with more game than you see on TV.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Major League Baseball : News 

Major League Baseball : News

'Baseball fever is in the air'
Fans turn out for the fun-filled annual Winter Warm-Up
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com

Unlike a normal baseball Saturday at Ameriquest Field, this time the fans were on the diamond. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

ARLINGTON -- The sun had broken through at Ameriquest Field as 10-year-old baseball enthusiast Kyle Treta of Southlake lived the dream.
There he was, shagging fly balls in left field of the Rangers' home stadium. With a machine positioned on the left-field line to propel balls high into the air, Kyle could take a few steps, pound his mitt and feel as though he were David Dellucci or Kevin Mench taking care of business for Texas in a Major League game.

"Fun," Kyle said. "Really fun."

A lot of Rangers fans were as happy as Kyle during a whirlwind baseball adventure on Saturday. The Texas Winter Warm-Up served to whet the baseball appetite with the Rangers just 11 days from the beginning of Spring Training.

"Baseball fever is in the air," said Rich Treta, who snapped pictures of son Kyle as the youngster was patrolling left field. "For the fans, this is really the first day of it."

Rangers fans had plenty of keep them busy during the Winter Warm-Up. There was numerous activities in the Coca-Cola Sports Park, and the little ones could even get Rangers tattoos if they and their parents so desired. Fans gathered periodically for tours of the stadium and chalk talks with Rangers personnel, including American League Manager of the Year Buck Showalter.

There was shopping to do, refreshments to be consumed and autographs to be sought. Not far from the main entrance, Hall of Fame right-hander Ferguson Jenkins was available for autographs and several current Rangers players also were present to sign for their fans.

"I love coming out for this because baseball is my sport," said J.R. Todd of Fort Worth. "This type of thing gets everybody ready and anxious for Spring Training and the start of a new season. I haven't missed an Opening Day in about 20 years."

The Rangers, who will have pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training on Feb. 16, won't play their home opener until April 11. Texas will open the regular season with a six-game road trip against the Angels and Mariners. Thus, the opportunity on Saturday to rub shoulders with the players was the last for many Rangers fans over a two-month span.

Michael and Nicole Judd of Fort Worth are big baseball fans, although Nicole has a strong allegiance to the Red Sox after living in Boston for a while. Husband Michael is a Rangers fan through and through.

"I've been ready since last season was over," Michael Judd said. "The core of young players that the Rangers have is going to be awesome. They just need to grow. They need to worry less about winning this year than winning for the long run.

"I'm glad they didn't go for the quick fix deal this offseason. We tried that in the past and it didn't work. I'm all on board with taking it step by step. We made a big move last year. Now, we just need to keep it going in a positive direction."

If the Rangers and Red Sox were to meet in the playoffs, Michael and Nicole Judd would be totally thrilled.

"You'd probably have to move in with your mom," Michael Judd kiddingly told his wife.

"No, you with yours," Nicole retorted.

By early afternoon, many fans were still exploring Ameriquest Field while the Rangers were in the Diamond Club having lunch and handing out awards for 2004. The honorees included former public relations chief John Blake (Good Guy Award), Kameron Loe (Minor League Pitcher of the Year), Ian Kinsler (Minor League Player of the Year), Chan Ho Park (Community Service Award), Frank Francisco (Rookie of the Year), Francisco Cordero (Pitcher of the Year), Michael Young (Player of the Year) and Showalter (AL Manager of the Year).

The Rangers will do the throwing and catching at Ameriquest Field in a couple of months. But on Saturday, it was a field of dreams for their young fans.

As much as he enjoyed catching popups in left field, Kyle Treta said his favorite activity of the day was throwing off the mound in the Rangers bullpen.

"With a little more practice, maybe you'll be out there yourself," Rich Treta gently said to his son.

"Some day," Kyle Treta responded. "Some day."

Redlands Daily Facts - Travel 

Redlands Daily Facts - Travel

Baseball oasis

At spring training in Arizona, you won't care if you ever get back

By Eric Noland, Travel Editor

TEMPE, Ariz. - Every pitcher feels capable of winning 20 games, or saving 40. Batters tee off on softly thrown practice pitches and fantasize about hitting over .300. Outfielders fly across the grass on legs freshened by four months of winter rest.
And every single team has a record of zero wins and zero losses, with the brightest prospects for storming through the season toward the World Series.

This is what makes baseball spring training so appealing for players and fans alike: hope that truly springs eternal.

Tuning up for the Major League Baseball season under Arizona's brilliantly sunny skies, with craggy brown buttes providing a backdrop, only enhances the effect.

The Angels will be one of a dozen teams participating in the Cactus League this year - but the only member of the circuit that made an appearance in baseball's playoffs last fall. It's the pervasive optimism of clubs like this - perhaps of duplicating its championship magic of 2002? - that is the fan's gain.

"I think the beauty of spring training is the laid-back atmosphere," said Angels spokesman Larry Babcock. "Access to the players is easier. They're not nearly as intense because it's spring training, so getting an autograph or talking to a player is easier.

"Obviously the ballparks are small, so there's just great appeal to being that close to the action. People are out there from the Midwest to get away from the snow. Kids come out at spring break. You're sitting out there in the sun, watching baseball with not a care in the world."

You certainly won't be alone, though. In recent years, greater Phoenix has grown in popularity with pro baseball teams and the fans who trail after them. In the last seven years, three new ballpark complexes have opened and four teams have moved their spring operations here. In 2002, attendance at Cactus League games topped 1 million for the first time, and it's stayed up there ever since.

Fans will find all of this extremely convenient. Unlike in Florida, where vast distances separate teams, mandating long drives for fans, spring training in Arizona is fairly compact. The Angels train in Tempe, the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale, the Oakland A's and Milwaukee Brewers in Phoenix, the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners in Peoria, and the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers in Surprise.

In Tucson, 117 miles south of Phoenix, are the camps of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Chicago White Sox and the Colorado Rockies.

That means a fan concentrating on the Phoenix area can readily roam and see multiple teams in a single day.

Maybe you start the day in Peoria, watching the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki take his lightning swings in a batting cage. Then you walk to an adjacent field at the same complex and see Rockies sensation Jeff Francis pitch a "B" game against a collection of Padres minor-leaguers. After that, it's only a 45-minute drive across town to Mesa for a 1 p.m. Cubs game. Once the final out is recorded, there is plenty of time to hop over to Scottsdale for one of the league's infrequent night games - and the hope of seeing the Giants' Barry Bonds stroke a home run onto North 75th Street.

Avid fans of one team, of course, can concentrate their attentions on that bunch. In the case of the Angels, the setup at Tempe Diablo Stadium is particularly friendly to visitors, in that the practice fields for the veteran players are on site.

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Feb. 16, with workouts beginning the next day. The position players are due in on Feb. 21, with full-squad practices starting on the 22nd. Games don't begin until March 3, so these first couple of weeks of spring training are a good time to watch the drills up close.

Players change into their uniforms at a clubhouse in the main stadium, but many of them participate in morning workouts at three fields nearby, which requires them to walk across the parking lot. Team officials, to give the players a little bit of privacy, construct a 500-foot walkway of light barriers, but fans may line up along this gauntlet in hopes of getting an autograph, snapping a picture or engaging a favorite player in some conversation. Players tend to be more receptive when they're returning to the clubhouse after their morning work is done.

The main field is also used for workouts - in February and again during the Cactus League season on days when the Angels aren't playing a home game.

"Fans can sit right behind home plate and watch (manager) Mike Scioscia do catching instruction and work on pop-ups," said stadium coordinator Wil Gorman. "If fans can't come out to games, practice can be a lot of fun."

But attending a spring training game is a special experience.

To begin with, the stadiums are intimate - 7,285 seats at Tempe Diablo - which puts fans right on top of the action. For those put off by the soaring cost of tickets during the regular season, it is also remarkably affordable - $5 for parking, $15 for a field box, and something different: $5 for a ticket to the grassy slope beyond the outfield wall.

Out here, fans may sit on blankets, catch a few rays and let their kids run wild. Some 2,500 tickets are available for this area, many of which are sold on the day of the game to families and college kids. (No lawn chairs or umbrellas are permitted out here, due to the prospect of blocking someone else's view of the game, according to Gorman.)

Spectators who aren't keen on enduring nine innings of full sunshine - and it can be intense in Arizona even in March - will find the stadium's shadiest spots behind home plate and down the first base and right field lines.

Once they've settled in for the action, fans not familiar with the spring routine might be in for some surprises. Specifically: Neither team has any special imperative to win the game.

These exhibitions are conducted solely for the purpose of getting the players ready for the real season - when wins, losses, standings and stats are meticulously tabulated. And no one is inclined to rush the process.

Early in the Cactus League schedule, a starting pitcher might only work two innings before sitting down. Then he might be relieved by another starting pitcher, who also works only two innings. Next to the mound might be the team's top relief pitcher - working not in the ninth inning, with the game on the line, but here in the fifth.

Position players, meanwhile, might only be in the lineup for three or four innings before giving way to some eager rookie. And don't be surprised, after the game, to discover that your favorite star player is no longer in the house, having changed clothes and headed back to the team hotel after his stint was completed.

This can be perplexing to the uninitiated. Bartolo Colon of the Angels might open a game working three perfect innings, with six strikeouts. Just when the crowd starts getting excited about whether he can keep it going, in comes some unknown minor-leaguer who gets rocked for three home runs.

"I remember five, six years ago, we no-hit the Giants with six different pitchers," said Babcock. "It was just because guys had gotten their work in and you just didn't want to push them."

At least there's little danger of you paying $15 for that box seat only to watch a bunch of no-name kids take the field. Major League Baseball has urged teams to use at least half the members of their presumptive starting lineup at the beginning of spring training games.

Another way to catch your favorite team is to follow it on the road, buying a ticket to see the Angels play at the home stadium of the Brewers or Rangers or A's or Cubs - or perhaps making the drive to Tucson for a game there. Also, teams will play a handful of split-squad games during the spring, sending one group of players across town and retaining another group to play at the home stadium.

It's difficult to find out in advance how the team will be divided up in these instances, but here's one rule of thumb to consider: The big-name players aren't generally keen about going on the road in spring training, even if it just means a half-hour ride to the west side of Phoenix.

After an Angels home game, food, drink and fun await just a few blocks away in Tempe's "Mill" district - a six-block stretch of Mill Avenue from Rio Salado Parkway to University Drive, right on the edge of Arizona State University.

For lodging convenience, meanwhile, you can't beat the Wyndam Buttes Resort, which is a Vladimir Guerrero blast to dead left field, built literally into the brown-rock face of pointy Tempe Butte. It's a short walk from the hotel to the stadium, and there is prime viewing of the game from the sun deck off the hotel's 6000 Wing.

Down on that playing field, the white uniforms gleam, muscles feel limber, and everyone is poised for the season of his life. Because this is a special time in the baseball calendar.

As Charles d'Orleans put it, "Gentle spring, in sunshine clad, well dost thy power display!"

D'Orleans was a French poet in the 15th century. Word has it he was pretty good at turning on the inside fastball.


Eric Noland, (818) 713-3681, eric.noland@dailynews.com ------

GETTING THERE: Tempe Diablo Stadium is at 2200 W. Alameda Drive (enter off 48th Street).
TICKETS: For the Cactus League schedule and ticket information, go to www.angels baseball.com and click on "Tickets." The Angels' 15-game home schedule in Arizona runs from March 3 to March 30. First home game: March 3 vs. San Francisco, 1:05 p.m. Tickets are priced from $5 to $15 and may be purchased on the team Web site, at the Tempe Diablo Stadium box office (beginning Saturday) or through Ticketmaster. For the latter, visit www.ticketmaster.com; in Phoenix, call (480) 784-4444.

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