Phoenix

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - DES­TI­NA­TIONS -

Part of the rit­ual at Sloan is eat­ing the same hot dogs and drink­ing the same beer as they do at Wrigley and get­ting some die-hard Cubs fans to sing Take Me Out To the Ball Game while stand­ing atop the home team’s dugout dur­ing the sev­enth-in­ning stretch. Speak­ing of the dugout, we had ex­tra­or­di­nary seats right be­hind it, so we could see the smile on Mon­tero’s face as he high­fived team­mates af­ter scor­ing. We also shut­tle over to the Los An­ge­les An­gels’ spring train­ing home of Tempe Di­ablo Sta­dium in that Phoenix sub­urb two days later to catch the An­gels fall to the Chicago White Sox 9-4. Again, an­other sunny af­ter­noon at the ball­park. “Spring train­ing makes March in this area the peak of peak sea­son,” said Toni Smith of the Tempe Tourism of­fice when we bump into her at down­town’s Blasted Bar­ley Pub for pre-game burg­ers and beer. “The eco­nomic im­pact is over US$800 mil­lion an­nu­ally, with fans flock­ing to over 200 games to see 15 teams in ac­tion at 10 sta­di­ums.” Spring train­ing in the Phoenix area for teams in cen­tral and west U.S. has been a tra­di­tion since 1947 and has cre­ated the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of pro­fes­sional base­ball fa­cil­i­ties in the coun­try. Ma­jor League Base­ball teams from the east­ern half of the U.S. and the Toronto Blue Jays have Grape­fruit League in Florida in March. But man can­not live by base­ball alone. So, be­ing Cana­dian, we seek out NHL hockey and watch the Ari­zona Coy­otes best the Florida Pan­thers 5-1 at Gila River Arena. We also trek out into the Sono­ran Desert to pose with 150-year-old Saguaro cac­tus and drive the Apache Trail to ride the Dolly Steam­boat on Canyon Lake and eat prickly-pear cac­tus ice cream in Tor­tilla Flat. Another day, there’s time to swill at three stops on the Ari­zona Brew­ery Tour and eat filet mignons at the Val­ley’s best steak­house, the Min­ing Camp. We stay at the cen­trally lo­cated Pointe Hil­ton Squaw Peak in a twobed­room, two-storey ca­sita, where we make time to laze by the pool and share the three-meat plat­ter and prickly-pear cac­tus mar­gar­i­tas at pool­side Hole-inthe-Wall restau­rant. WestJet flies non-stop to Phoenix from Win­nipeg.

Bob MacNaull, left, and his grand­son, Alex, ham it up with a 150-year-old Saguaro cac­tus in the Sono­ran Desert out­side of Phoenix.

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