Cheap tickets, king-sized hot dogs, lawn seating, warm days and the opportunity for up-close glimpses of some of professional baseball's finest players are among the highlights of spring training.
Among the teams that train in the Valley are the Anaheim Angels (Tempe Diablo Stadium), Milwaukee Brewers (Maryvale Baseball Park), Oakland A's (Phoenix Municipal), Chicago Cubs (Hohokam Stadium), San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners (Peoria Sports Complex), San Francisco Giants (Scottsdale Stadium) and the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers (Surprise Recreation Campus).
The exhibition games begin March 1 and continue almost daily until April 2.
A day trip to training games in Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale or Peoria has long been among the rites of spring for Rim Country fans.
The most veteran of those visitors know that acquiring tickets early is among the keys to enjoying the games.
Most tickets, which are now on sale, can be obtained from several sources.
In addition, individual team Web sites and sources include ticket.com (1-800-905-3315), Ticketmaster (480-784-4444) or at Tower Records, Wherehouse Music and Robinson's-May Dept. Stores.
Also log on to www.ticketmaster.com.
Last chance for Little League
A final Little League registration, along with team tryouts, will begin at 9 a.m. Feb. 25 on the Rumsey South multipurpose field.
The fee is $60 for the first child in a family and $55 for each additional sibling. Parents will also be asked to volunteer in some form during the 2006 season.
Tryouts are mandatory for players 9 years of age and older hoping to play in the majors division.
Team practices will begin after the tryouts and the season tip off in April.
Call Linda Schreur at (928) 472-9331 for more information.
Steve Nash wannabes will have the chance to put their hardwood skills to the test at the second annual Basketball Bonanza.
The competition, sponsored by the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Parks and Recreation Association and the Payson Parks and Recreation Department, tips off at 9 a.m. Feb. 25 in the Payson High School gymnasium.
"This is a great opportunity for boys and girls to show off their skills and hopefully participate at a higher level," said Charlene Hunt, recreation specialist for the Payson Parks and Recreation Department.
The event is free of charge and open to both boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 14.
In the competition, boys and girls will participate in one of six age/gender divisions: 9-10 years, 11-12 years and 13-14 years.
In the local competition, players can compete in one or all three basketball contests -- free throw, hot shot and three-point shootout.
In the free throw contest, each player attempts 10 consecutive free throws and the player making the most shots will be declared the division winner. Those in the 9- to 10-age group have the option of shooting from two feet inside the free throw line.
In the hot shot competition, players begin on a referee's whistle at the half-court line and dribble into shooting range, where they must shoot from a minimum of three different locations out of seven predesignated spots, during a one-minute period.
Each shot location will be assigned a point value based on its difficulty.
Those who attempt shots from each of the seven locations will receive a five-point bonus.
The youngster scoring the most points in the time period will be deemed the division winner.
In the three-point shootout, a rack of five balls will be placed at five locations around the three-point line, 19 feet, 9 inches from the basket.
Each player will have one minute to shoot as many times as possible around the arc. Each successful shot with one of the first four balls on the rack is worth one point. The fifth ball, deemed the "money ball," is worth two points.
The winners of the Payson competition will be eligible to advance to a statewide Basketball Bonanza at the former America West Arena in Phoenix.
At the state level, players may compete in just one skill contest.