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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

If He Finds Way to Strike Zone, All Is Forgiven

February 19, 2001|ROBYN NORWOOD

Here's a suggestion for Ismael Valdes, who got lost on the way to Angel training camp in Tempe, Ariz., and ended up at the Oakland Athletics camp in Phoenix instead.

Ever consider investing in a GPS unit?

Here's one advertised on the Internet for $399:

"Eliminate the stress, anxiety, and wasted time of late or missed appointments. CoPilot 2001 dramatically increases productivity by taking the guesswork out of traveling by road.

"Voice technology means you simply ask for directions and CoPilot 2001 responds--telling you exactly when and where to turn, even naming the street."

On second thought, maybe Valdes should have asked a computer which team to sign with. The Angels are picked by many to finish last in the American League West--not that Valdes, the former Dodger who has become a reclamation project, was overwhelmed by other offers.

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Trivia time: How many teams hold spring training in Florida, and how many in Arizona?

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Add lost athlete: Valdes is hardly the first athlete to show up late for work, and granted, it is a little difficult to discern all that Phoenix sprawl.

Pascual Perez, who pitched for the Pirates, Braves, Expos and Yankees, is famous for getting lost on Atlanta's freeways, circling the ballpark on a night when he was supposed to pitch.

For the home team.

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That's a strike: The arrival of spring training prompted Joe Henderson of the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune to offer two bits of wisdom.

"1. Don't go outside to watch batting practice without a cap and at least No. 15 sunscreen.

"2. The Devil Rays, Royals, Twins, Expos, Orioles, Tigers, Marlins, Phillies, Brewers, Pirates and Padres were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention."

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Trivia answer: Twenty teams train in Florida's Grapefruit League. The other 10 call Arizona's Cactus League home.

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And finally: Neil Hayes of the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times will never forget his first spring training.

"I was standing in the Cubs clubhouse one day, trying to work up the nerve to approach George Bell, who wore a scowl so fierce it made you think he would rip your Adam's apple out with his teeth and spit it on the floor, when I noticed players lining up next to a table at the far end of the room.

"Lining up for peanut butter.

"One by one they took a plastic knife and smeared it on soda crackers or soft white bread and shoved it into their hungry mouths.

"I never would've believed millionaire athletes such as Ryne Sandberg lined up like Little Leaguers for a cheap and tasteless snack when any of them could've afforded a sumptuous catered lunch buffet.

"That's either a testament to how down to earth baseball players really are or proof that pro athletes will eat and drink anything as long as it's free."

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