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Weekend Escape: Arizona

Take Me Out to the . . . BOB?

That stands for Bank One Ballpark, Phoenix's new covered major league field

September 06, 1998|J.D. CROWE | Crowe draws the cartoon for the weekly Travel Insider column

PHOENIX, Ariz. — I had heard a lot about BOB. I wanted to see BOB for myself, even though it meant trudging into the oven of Arizona in August. BOB is Bank One Ballpark, the Phoenix-based home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, one of two new major league franchises born this year.

BOB is not your average ball yard for many reasons, but mostly because BOB is BIG. I suppose it takes a "baseball head" (a name I'm called by my 2-year-old daughter) to plan a trip to Phoenix in summer to watch a ballgame, so I figured the deal needed a sweetener to entice my wife, Lori, and our little smarty-pants, Bronwen, along for the weekend.

On a tip from a friend, I looked into the summer rates at some otherwise too-pricey Phoenix resorts, and found the prize in my Cracker-Jack weekend plans. The Pointe Hilton Resorts offer three sets of seasonal rates during the year: "peak," "value" and "shoulder." The value rates are the most affordable; they run from mid-May through Sept. 12 and during a one-month span from Nov. 22 to Dec. 26.

Our room at the Pointe Hilton Resort at Squaw Peak would have cost $299 a night during the peak season. We paid $105 for our standard suite, which included two breakfast coupons apiece (good for complimentary continental breakfasts or $7.95 toward any item on the full-breakfast menu) and four free drinks at poolside happy hour.

We chose Squaw Peak also because it seemed the most kid-friendly of the three Pointe Hiltons (the others are Tapatio Cliffs and South Mountain). More precisely, we were lured by a lazy river that lets you drift through the property in an inner tube.

We flew into Phoenix on a Friday night, and after a 15-minute cab ride, arrived at the resort. It was 10 p.m. and 96 degrees. We were courteously checked into our palatial new "house." Bronwen was quite impressed. She still thinks Mommy and Daddy own this bit of real estate with the mansion-like space, ornamentation and sparkling tile floors, and often asks to go back to "her room."

There are 430 suites in two main resort buildings at Squaw Peak, and 78 one- and two-bedroom casitas scattered around the rest of the garden-like grounds. Our room (uh, Bronwen's room) was a moderate but nice third-floor suite overlooking a large pool with spa and swim-up bar. The pool was dotted with youngsters getting in their final dips of the day. Bronwen was certain she saw otters in the water. We told her we would look for them tomorrow.

The next morning we got up, slathered our otter-hunter in sunscreen and went down to the Lentana Grille to redeem our breakfast coupons. I had the buffet of eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes and all the rest of the stuff that you're not supposed to eat but do when you're away from home. Lori chose a menu item that was so beautiful, so spicy and so delicious, that I sometimes whisper its name in her ear just to get her excited: Huevos Lentana . . . a crispy quesadilla with beef and eggs dripping in cheese and salsa, flanked by mint leaves.

We wobbled from our air-conditioned breakfast into the 100-degree desert, and after a few wrong turns found the Hole-in-the-Wall River Ranch, the water park located in the heart of the resort. We strapped our wee companion in a life vest and sloshed and splashed and played for the next few hours.

Every resort worth its salt, especially in Arizona, should build a waterway for inner-tubing. You can't seem to remember your cares when you're floating leisurely along a clean little "river" surrounded by palm trees and desert mountains.

The sun eventually drove us back to our room for shade, snacks and a re-slathering of sunscreen. We reemerged in midafternoon at the pool below. As the afternoon drew on, it became apparent that if I was going to see a baseball game that night, I was probably going solo.

The BOB crouches on the Phoenix skyline, careful not to step on the tiny skyscrapers around it. It looks like a mammoth magnetic barn, with streams of ant-like cars slowly pulling in. I consider indoor baseball parks blasphemous, but the BOB is an indoor park only part of the time. Its retractable roof opens to let real grass grow on the field, and it closes to let the mega-air-conditioners do their job.

The roof remained closed while I was there, so I didn't get the "outdoor" version of the baseball experience. To be honest, I didn't get much of a baseball experience at all. To me it seemed like a huge mall; instead of an ice rink in the middle, surrounded by shops and a food pavilion, there lies a baseball field.

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