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‘Splash Shots’ Part of World Series

October 28, 2001

PHOENIX (AP) _ At Yankee Stadium, a splash shot usually means a cup of beer hit its targeted outfielder. At Bank One Ballpark, pool ball has a different meaning.

There were no freezing fans bundled in parkas at this year’s World Series opener.

For the first time in the history of the Fall Classic, Speedos and shorts were the uniforms of the day as three dozen fans lounged in the swimming pool beyond the right-center field fence, waiting for baseball’s championship to unfold before their chlorinated eyes.

``You know what’s going to get me in the water _ when Gonzo hits one!,″ said Steve Brown, one of the guests invited by Miller Brewing Co., which paid $7,000 to rent the pool for Saturday’s opener between the Arizona Diamondback and New York Yankees.

While it was 46 degrees at game time back in the Bronx, it was 78 degrees in the Valley of the Sun.

Byron St. Claire, the general manager of Miller’s southwest market area, had the task of deciding who got in the pool area and who didn’t. There were four Miller employees, 15 retail customers and 20 employees of local distributor Pearce Beverage Co., Brown among them.

``We had an overabundance of people calling for tickets,″ said Frank Herrera, Miller’s senior sales manager for the southwest. ``It was incredible.″

Gregg Zaun became the first player to homer onto the pool deck on April 19, 1998, and Mark Grace hit the first home run into the swimming pool on May 12, 1998, while playing for the Chicago Cubs. The swimsuited spectator who splashed after the ball tossed it back on the field because it was hit by an opponent.

``I didn’t even know it was going to be a home run,″ said Grace, the Diamondbacks’ current first baseman. ``I was running the whole way. Finally I got the signal from the umpire that it was out, so I slowed down. But I usually don’t hit them far enough to worry about dancing down the first-base line.″

There have been 22 splash shots into the pool, which is 415 feet from home plate. Ten have been hit by the Diamondbacks and the last to find water in the desert was off the bat of Arizona’s Damian Miller on Aug. 14.

The 30-by-15-foot pool and attached Jacuzzi, with two four-seat picnic tables and two loungers on the deck, costs $4,000 to rent for a regular-season game. Guests Saturday were served hot dogs, chicken wings, soft drinks _ and, of course, beer.

``BEWARE OF FLYING OBJECTS LEAVING THE FIELD,″ says a sign on the back wall.

The depth ranges from 3 to 4 1/2 feet and there are plenty of rules, among them:

_ ``No diving or running.″

_ ``No jumping from the spa to the pool.″

_ ``Guests wearing obscene or indecent clothing will not be allowed into the pool area (example: thong-style swimming suits.)

_ ``No cutoffs allowed in the pool,″

_ ``No oils, please.″

Most of the guests were reluctant to get in the water. During pregame introductions, the only swimming spectator was a Sports Illustrated writer on a float, holding a basketball, posing for his photographer.

When an Arizona player homers, water cannons alongside the pool shoot streams 35 feet into the air.

Andrew Varni of Alaskan Pools, which services the Sun Pool Party Pavilion in right-center field along with a pool in the Diamondbacks clubhouse, spent Friday changing the chlorine and the acid, changing the light in the spa and polishing the tiles and stainless steel. He maintains the temperature at 85 in the pool and 104 in the Jacuzzi.

Varni came up with the first home run hit at Bank One Ballpark, a drive by Travis Lee on March 31, 1998, that bounced around the stands.

``They’re hitting a lot of balls out here today,″ he said as the Yankees took batting practice Friday.

It’s quite a contrast from Yankee Stadium, where canopies were erected over the bullpens during the 1978 World Series to keep Dodgers’ relievers from getting splashed and pelted.

``I think they should put a pool in the center-field bleachers at Yankee Stadium, just to see how it works out,″ New York shortstop Derek Jeter joked.

Some Yankees didn’t care about their surroundings.

``I don’t have time for that,″ said a focused Mariano Rivera. ``I don’t really care, either.″

Mike Stanton tried to remember the last time he warmed up next to a pool.

``Some time down the road I might have pitched next to one,″ he said, ``in a rec league.″

Jeter was asked if the pool was the most unusual feature he’s ever seen on a baseball field.

``Nope _ my grandmother’s window,″ he said, referring to what must have been a childhood target. ``I had to pay for that.″

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