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.