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Fun in Phoenix - 03/30/2001

I imagine that most of you reading this piece have been to spring training before. It's something that diehard fans tend to do, and once you begin the tradition, it feels like a given in your life. I'm a relative newcomer to this experience. I've been attending spring training since 1996. But ever since my first spring training, I have dreamed of some day spending the entire month of March in Arizona, watching the A's play. This year, I am going down to Arizona twice.

I love to go probably for the same reasons that you do. There is the sheer physical pleasure of being in the sun again after a rainy, cold Bay Area winter. There is the delight of being back again in my favorite place in the world, a ballpark, and a small one at that. There's the joy of seeing the players of my team out on the field in their home whites. There's the thrill of being able to connect a name with a face, to see that prospect that I've read so much about actually play. There's a happiness in seeing my general manager just two rows down from where I sit with his lap full of papers and conferring with his peers, watching everything to try to ensure that this will be a good season for all of us. And this year, there is the added fun of hearing the drummers over in the bleachers, bringing the magic of the Oakland Coliseum to Phoenix.

Then there are places where I love to go when I'm in Arizona and not at the ballpark. My favorite restaurant is the Havana Café, a small Cuban restaurant with delicious food, often a baseball player or broadcaster in attendance, and the most congenial host in the world. I always go to the Blue Mountain Café in Old Scottsdale, an espresso joint full of local characters. And then there's Don and Charlie's, where there's more than enough memorabilia, ballplayers, red meat, and hot fudge sauce for one evening. And this year, I discovered the bar at the Double Tree Hotel, a place where A's players and personnel can sometimes be found.

The first weekend of spring training this year, I went to spring training with a group from this Coalition. It felt very much like the real version of our electronic lives. We were lively, often funny, brilliant, sometimes cantankerous, and ultimately loving with each other. I felt blessed to be part of this group.

I don't know if I ever will live out the dream of spending the entire month of March in Arizona. This may actually be my last year of spring training. I believe there will be a work stoppage next year. If the A's move, I will in all likelihood permanently retire my major league baseball fan credentials. If this is the last year, it's a good way to go out, among friends so dear to my heart, laughing and arguing as we cheer on our team in these early days of spring.

by Wendy Ellen Ledger