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   Amid all the doom and gloom in the news, it’s time for a bit of sunshine, a ray of hope. A week in new surroundings, reconnecting with family and friends, could be the ticket. Airfares and hotels are cheap and ripe for the asking. 
   I recommend you pack the suitcase and head to a destination with a baseball park. My world outlook was renewed last week while visiting Arizona and its “spring training” Cactus League. 
   The desert was waking up from winter’s slumber with flowers and opening buds. Birds, many types I had never spied before, were singing. The brilliant red cliffs in Sedona were ablaze in all their glory, indifferent to the roller coaster stock market or the perils of terrorism. 
   At the Heard Museum in Phoenix and aboard the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake, people smiled and offered friendly conversation. Cameras clicked, recording happy moments and panoramic vistas. Cash registers hummed and the cold beer went down easy in the sunny, 80-degree weather. 
   Each day brought a new thing to see and do or something to learn about. It was great to visit with my cousins, Bill and Norma, who over-winter in the Grand Canyon State each year.
   One thing we especially enjoyed brought the fun meter up a notch—attending a spring training baseball game in the middle of March. Life doesn’t get any better than enjoying America’s favorite pastime while on vacation. In Arizona, the Cactus League smacks of high hopes for the upcoming major league season. The league offers games in 11 stadiums in nine Arizona cities. 
    At the 11,500-seat Scottsdale Stadium, there were plenty of “hometown” San Francisco Giants fans, outfitted in their team’s colors. They obviously were regulars, attending to cheer on their team-in-training. 
    The visiting Angels’ traveled from their spring home in Tempe. We enjoy watching the Angels on TV in Hawaii so we rooted for them. When they scored several exciting runs in the first inning, we easily connected with other enthusiastic Angels fans in the sea of faces. The stands were packed and the grassy area donned a patchwork of quilts and picnic baskets. Peanuts and ice-cold beer were conveniently delivered right to your bleacher seat. 
   One food hawker could be heard throughout the intimate-sized stadium. “Lemonade, lemonade, just like grandma made,” he cried up and down the stands. Friendly and robust, he often obliged patrons by snapping their photos—especially the giggling and grinning suntanned young ladies. 
   I bought one of those tall lemonades and slurped it for the entire game; it was still full of ice hours later. I guess the “dry heat” Arizonians extol about is really “cooler” than the heat I’m used to from living in the Midwest and Hawaii. 
    Everybody seemed glad to be at the game. As Giants fans became disgruntled with the score, they only cheered louder and more faithfully. The hometown players reciprocated by throwing free balls into the stands between innings.
    The congenial, 90-year-old man sitting next to me didn’t care who won or lost. He was there “to watch baseball” he declared. He commented on every crack of the bat, every error, every out. “That’s really a hard one to catch,” he surmised after one towering fly ball. He conferred with his companion, who diligently recorded every play in the program guide, and he stood up between every inning to stretch. He was truly “on vacation,” focusing on the drama atop the manicured baseball diamond. 
   “I played baseball until I was 60,” the Arkansas resident stated matter-of-factly. “Now I come and watch it.”
   My husband remarked that watching the players and action, “so up close,” was an unexpected plus. It was different from visits to the former Comiskey Park or “The Friendly Confines” of Wrigley Field, where we attend Chicago games when on vacation back in our native Indiana. In fact, while in Arizona, we originally planned to see the Cubs play at Mesa’s HoHoKam Stadium, but tickets were sold out. I was told the Cubs lead the Cactus League in game attendance.

   Singing during the seventh inning stretch was fun and it was gratifying when a fellow Angel fan, sitting nearby, waved “so long” after the last out. Our team had won. Connecting with others to enjoy a couple hours without a care in the world—for the sheer love of the game—made it seem like everything was going to be okay on Planet Earth. 
   As we enter April, the Cactus League is wrapping up. But the regular season is about to begin at vacation destinations just itching for your business. Play ball! 
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