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Where the boys of summer spend the winter

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I am not a baseball fan, in part because of a ten-year bout with "bleacher butt" acquired while cheering three kids through Little League. My song of summer is "Take me out of the Ball Game" and, for the record, I hate peanuts and cracker jacks. If I root root root for anything it is for my dog to escape the village dog catcher so I won't have to pay yet another fine to Animal Control.

I did not become a Chicago Cubs fan until the day I barely made it out of a Chicago blizzard to the warm breezes of Mesa, Arizona. The fine Mexican food and light-sweater evenings were expected, and I luxuriated in them. But wait. Why was I hearing "Cubs" every where I went? Even I know there are no Arizona Cubs, no Mesa Cubs.

Mesa is where the Chicago Cubs go for spring training, and the Cubs are so important to Mesa that the town built them an $84 million training facility with six fan-accessible practice fields and a 15,000-seat stadium. This is all part of a 140-acre community park and pond so Mesa Cub fans who footed the bill can picnic and watch the kids run around while watching practice games and getting a sun tan,

Mesa's Cubs Park may look like Wrigley Field with light standards and cantilevered roofs matching those in Chicago and a replica of the Wrigley Field marquee, but there is no snow during spring training season. There are plenty of activities for the Chicago-weary, both travelers and ball players, to forget about the "s" words: snow, sleet, slush, slips, slides, and expletives deleted.

I came for the sun and the food, and I left with a Cubs hat. Baseball still strikes me as kinda dumb and dull, but the Cubs are a savvy team to winter in Mesa. I'll buy a ticket for that. See you at Wrigley in June. I'll even eat a hot dog. Hold the cracker jacks and keep your mitts off my Cubs hat.

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