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Let's Play Two!

PEORIA and SURPRISE, Arizona -- Actually, the most remarkable thing that happened today during Carole, Ernie and Al's adventure to the Cubs/Padres day game and the Royals/Rangers night game was this:

At the Cubs/Padres game we were sitting right in front of a couple from California who are A's fans, who didn't have a game for their own team to take in today, so they decided to go to that one. During the course of the day we learned that they too were going to Surprise tonight to see the Rangers & Royals.

To our, um, Surprise... we took our seats at Surprise Stadium to find this couple seated right next to us. A cosmic convergence. We wished the A's luck, they wished the Cubs luck, and I asked them for some Powerball ticket numbers, which I never did get.

A few notes on a very long, but enjoyable, day and night of baseball:

* Eric Karros is an absolute chatterbox. We were sitting right by the 1B dugout and he was constantly talking; to the 1B umpire, to any baserunners, to the other fielders. I know 1B'men are supposed to do this, but it was amazing to actually hear this.

* Trenidad Hubbard made a good case for himself to back up Corey Patterson in CF. He went 2-for-3 with a 2-run HR. Charles Gipson also played CF for the first time since I've been here, but didn't distinguish himself. Hubbard, despite his age (36), may be the best choice for fifth outfielder, unless a deal can be made.

* Jason Dubois made his first appearance since being reacquiread; pinch-hit and struck out. Also appearing today was Brendan Harris; he grounded out. Our other Harris, Lenny, played an acceptable 1B. He still has a chance of making the roster.

* Sammy Sosa played the entire game, the only regular to do so. I presume this was because he won't go to Tucson tomorrow. He hit his second spring HR, and seems ready to begin the season.

* At one point the PA announcer made an announcement of a pitching change for the San Diego "Chargers".

* Juan Cruz was absolutely unhittable today -- he gave up only a walk and a groundball doubld down the LF line to Xavier Nady. I still think Cruz' future is as a setup man or closer, but off of today's performance he may be the temporary replacement for Kerry Wood.

* As good as Cruz was, that's how bad Kyle Farnsworth was today. It was the 2002 Kyle again; he allowed three extra-base hits to the Padres' scrubs and turned a rout into a close game, which had to be closed out by Mike Remlinger, who has shaved his goatee and looks ten years younger.

* We ran into my colleagues Mark Giangreco and cameraman Mike Dukewich from channel 7, outside the park setting up for a live shot into the 4:30 pm news.

* We saw numerous military jets fly over at various times during the day and night; could that be because of worries about an attack on the Palo Verde nuclear power plant near Phoenix?

* The Surprise Stadium complex is just as terrific as advertised. It's got all the amenities of a regular Triple-A stadium, with an actual upper deck, skyboxes, clubs for each team, a DiamondVision scoreboard, and a beautiful field, with practice fields all around and also places for the locals, such as a waterpark. They really did things right out there; commendations to everyone, especially the Surprise Sundancers group who runs the place; they are the friendliest of all the local groups. The park seems a real draw; there were as many people there with other teams' caps than the Royals and Rangers.

* Mike Sweeney, the Royals' only really good player, hit two HR, including a 420-foot bomb to dead CF. Carlos Beltran, who would be the Royals' other good player, is still out with a minor hamstring injury.

* Hank Blalock, who some Cub fans would like to see the club acquire, hit a long bomb of a HR himself; he also played second base tonight, which isn't a position he's really suited for, though he did OK there tonight; he's got a massive upper body which gives him his power, but he's much better suited to 3B, which for the Rangers is taken by Mark Teixeira.

* The Royals won the game 9-5, to the delight of a Royals fan family who sat in front of us and cheered literally every player by name. It was their 13th spring win in 20 games. Once the regular season starts it will take many more than 20 games for the Royals to win 13, so I hope they enjoy it now.

Tomorrow afternoon, I plan to go to Fitch Park in Mesa to see the Cubs minor leaguers play, and will report on that.