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Rejoice ladies. Football season is over and, for us sports widows, finally a chance to get our men folk back (for at least a couple of weeks anyway). Yes, hot on the heels of football comes baseball and whereas there are several weeks until the regular season begins, die-hard fans will be itching for some pitching and catching action as their teams compete in spring training games, mostly held down in Florida or Arizona.

It isn't all bad. Even if you're not particularly a baseball fan, it's a great excuse to convince your significant other that a winter break is necessary and while you are lying on the beach (or having a massage at the spa, playing a round of golf or visiting a theme park), he or she can get their fix of bat and ball.

Spring Training Tours (tel. 800/892-7687; www.springtrainingtours.com) offers packages to various spring training sites including Mesa, AZ (Cubs), Tampa, FL (Phillies), Jupiter, FL (Cardinals), Orlando, FL (Atlanta Braves) and Port St. Lucie, FL (Mets). Unfortunately their Boston Red Sox packages are already sold out for 2008 (reserve early for 2009), but for over a dozen other teams, they still offer three-, five- or seven-day land-only packages that include accommodation at nearby hotels (ranging from budget to luxury and usually within two to 20 miles driving distance of the stadium), car rental with unlimited mileage, daily game tickets, an exclusive meal/reception featuring a Meet and Greet or Q and A with team legacy players or current players (depending on the team), custom sports merchandise package (travel bag, shirt, spring training cap and collector pin) and all taxes. They can also arrange your airfare but the cost of the airline ticket is not included in the original package. Sample prices per person for trips between February 27 and March 28, 2008 include:

  • A three-night (weekend) Chicago Cubs package in Mesa, AZ staying at the Residence Inn priced from $803 based on double occupancy
  • A five-night St Louis Cardinals package in Jupiter, FL staying at the Holiday Inn Express priced from $745 based on quad occupancy
  • A seven-night Atlanta Braves package in Buena Vista (Orlando), FL at the Disney Port Orleans Riverside Hotel priced from $728 based on quad occupancy
  • A three-night New York Mets package in Port St. Lucie, FL at the Hilton Garden Inn PGA priced from $728 based on double occupancy

If you're a Yankees fan, Spring Training Tours doesn't cover your team, but you can still head to Tampa, FL and purchase your own tickets on line (newyork.yankees.mlb.com/spring_training), where print at home tickets run from $17 to $30 each (my favorite are picnic table seating (deck area) for $25 each).

Prefer to go it alone and just purchase your tickets directly from your team's website and watch games at your leisure? No problem. Here are a few airfares to key locations to get you started:

  • Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) has round-trip airfares from Chicago to Phoenix, AZ for you Cubs fans in March, 2008 priced from $268 including all taxes
  • Yankees or Phillies supporters, head down to Tampa in March, 2008 on Air Tran (www.airtran.com) from New York for $170 roundtrip including all taxes. Alternatively fly Continental (and get a meal) (www.continental.com) or JetBlue (for a fun and comfortable flight) (www.jetblue.com) from $199 including taxes
  • Mets enthusiasts, head to West Palm Beach from New York flying U.S. Airways (www.usairways.com) from $160 round trip including taxes
  • Cardinals and Braves devotees can get to Orlando from Atlanta from $151 flying Delta (www.delta.com) or $179 from St Louis on Air Tran (www.airtran.com) including taxes

P.S. For a real travel treat for baseball fans, 2008's Major League Baseball's season opener is in Tokyo, Japan on March 25 and 26, 2008 (Boston Red Sox versus the Oakland A's). Surprise the one your love (or would love to love) with a few tickets to this highly coveted event. General ticket sales will be available through the Tokyo Dome ticket office, ranging in price from ¥4,500 ($42) to ¥18,000 ($169) or from online sellers like Acheapseat.com (www.acheapseat.com) from $255. The A's and Red Sox will also each play the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants in preseason games March 22 and 23, 2008.

If you choose to travel independently to this event airfares from San Francisco to Tokyo in mid to late March, 2008 start from $808 round-trip including all taxes and from Boston to Tokyo from $921, both flying American Airlines (www.aa.com). Another splurge option is to join Fenway Sports Group's (tel. 617/226-6400; www.redsox.com/redsoxdestinations), trip to Japan which includes round-trip private charter airfare from Boston to Tokyo on a Japan Airlines 747 aircraft (along with many Red Sox executives), four nights' hotel accommodations at the official team hotel (the New Otani Hotel in Tokyo), lower-level tickets to three games (the two season opener games plus one exhibition match) at the Tokyo Dome, a private reception with select Red Sox players and personnel, ground transportation to and from all events, premium Red Sox travel bags and other merchandise, organized sight-seeing opportunities around Japan, on-site 24/7 concierge services, commemorative photos and a digital archive CD. Red Sox Destination packages to Japan start at $4,999 per person.

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