March 8, 2006 - There was a culmination of reasons that found me seeking out the long mechanical arm of the southpaw at the batting cageslast week.

Perhaps it was the blitzkrieg of weekend events - PGA Tour, Rodeo Week, MLB spring training and state high school basketball playoff games - that left my brain spongy and fuzzy by Monday evening.

Maybe it was the first rain in four months that had me feeling that winter was only now just beginning.

Turning on the news was no help either. It was filled with stories that made me feel uneasy about being human. Girl brings to school cocaine to pass out to her classmates. Boy slathers wad of gum on $1.5 million painting. Coach drugs own player's opponents before tennis match. Man steals plane from Marana airport and actually sneaks into Mexico.

I needed the mental rehabilitation only a batting cage can provide.

Therapeutic? Yes, very.

As pitch after pitch of rubber-dimpled, yellow, batting-cage balls came in and jumped off my crummy batting-cage bat, I slipped into a baseball-induced alternate subconscious, eventually drowning out the surrounding world.

After all, to quote Yankee great Yogi Berra, baseball is 90 percent mental; the other half is physical. In other words, this was a chance to hardwire my brain for hardball.

Football and college basketball both rank high, but baseball is still the great American pastime in the scorer's book that is my mind. After all, this is a guy who fell asleep the other night watching China and Korea duke it out in the World Baseball Classic, a game that didn't start until 11 p.m. and went to past 1 a.m., U.S. time.

As each batting cage pitch falsely boosted my ego, I began to stray into the upcoming baseball season and question where my fading talents could fit in.

I wondered: Could I hit a 68-mph Kenzie Fowler heater? Fowler is the freshman prodigy for defending softball-state-champs Canyon Del Oro High School

Could I steal a base off of Catalina Foothills senior southpaw Joey Rohe, the man with the deadliest pick-off attempt in the state? I'll even give him a week to recoup from the flu that recently nagged him.

The mind continues to giddily roam into what promises to be another great season of baseball in the Northwest and Foothills. This summer provides us with quality hardball, from Little League to the Bigs.

We'll be able to root on former CDO players like: Brian Anderson as he attempts to make the Chicago White Sox; Dennis Anderson as he tries to make the cross-town rival Cubs; Ian Kinsler as he battles it out for the Texas Ranger's starting job at second base; and Scott Hairston as he fights off an injury-plagued year and officially joins the Diamondbacks.

How about catching T-shirts on a sunny day at Sancet Field, home of the University of Arizona baseball team? (Every time UA scores a run, they toss UA T-shirts into the crowd). This year's Wildcat nine features five area players, including CDO's T.J. Steel and Tyson Moll; Ironwood Ridge High School's Matt Denker; Marana's Ryan Perry; and Foothills John James.

James' alma matter should challenge CDO for top team in the area. In fact, the Falcons already have earned bragging rights, beating the Dorados 11-4.

The mind continues to fly with the Falcons, this time it takes me to Florida and the thought of playing in Foothills' spring break tournament in the Westminster Academy National Baseball Classic. You know Westminster, the national powerhouse that raised Alex Rodriguez.

Closer to home, Fowler already has the Dorados off to an 8-0 start, including a win in their very own tournament, the Dorado Classic. The possibilities to watch anything from T-ball in Arthur Pack Park to major league baseball are endless on any given night in the Northwest and the surrounding area.

By now, the tokens have run out and my thumb is turning red from the missing finger on my tattered batting glove. Perhaps I'll go back to watching the sport I love or guide my energy toward my true passion: Wiffleball.

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