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THE SPORTS OF SUMMER

The heat is awful. The kids are out of school. And there's still no major-league baseball in the air-conditioned FloridaSuncoast Dome. Not to worry, though. There are plenty of sports and events in the area to help fill your summer days and nights. Here is a brief look at a few:

AUTO RACING

If you want to live in the fast lane, there's plenty of racing to see.

It doesn't get any faster in Florida than at Daytona International Speedway for the Pepsi 400 stock car race July 1-3. Some 100,000 fans are expected for this 400-mile race that features drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott and Davey Allison battling at close to 200 mph.

Every weekend, however, there's stock car racing and drag racing all around Tampa Bay. DeSoto Speedway in Bradenton, Sunshine Speedway in St. Petersburg and East Bay Raceway in Gibsonton stage drag races and short-track races on Friday and Saturday nights.

The atmosphere is geared for families with kids, and if the noise is too loud, you can buy ear plugs at the track.

Advance tickets for the Pepsi 400 are $30 and $60, and it's best to get those as soon as possible for the best seats. To order, call the speedway at (904) 253-7223. Buy tickets for the weekly short-track and drag races at the track. Admission to most area tracks is under $10 and some admit kids 12-and-under for free.

For more information, call DeSoto at (813) 748-1320, Sunshine at 573-4598 and East Bay at 677-7223.

_ DARRELL FRY

BASEBALL (Major League)

If you want a better look at major-league baseball than the old TV affords, you can head to South Florida for a Marlins game. With recent improvements to Alligator Alley, the drive from Tampa Bay isn't too bad _ about 4{-5 hours. Joe Robbie Stadium is easily accessible from Fort Lauderdale (take I-95 to Ives Dairy Road west or take the Florida Turnpike to the stadium exit) and there are some good hotel deals available.

Marlins tickets are available through Ticketmaster (898-2100, 287-8844) and prices range from $30 for a covered, air-conditioned club seat to $4 for an adult general admission and $1.50 for kids 2-12. Tickets also are available by mail (Florida Marlins ticket office, 100 NE Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale 33301) with check, money order or credit card number and at the stadium. Call (305) 779-7070 for information.

If you'd rather cheer for the visiting team, here are the game dates of some popular visitors: Cardinals, June 21-23; Mets, June 29-July 1; Braves July 9-11; Reds, July 22-25; Phillies, Aug. 6-8; Cubs, Aug. 9-12.

_ MARC TOPKIN

BASEBALL (Minor League)

Tampa Bay has three teams in the Class-A Florida State League: the Dunedin Blue Jays, the Clearwater Phillies and the St. Petersburg Cardinals.

Don't be skeptical: minor league doesn't mean minor talent. Okay, so the kids still are learning. But there's always the chance you'll get to see the next Dave Stieb (Dunedin, Class of '79), Darren Daulton (Clearwater, Class of '87) or Andy Van Slyke and Terry Pendleton (St. Petersburg, Class of '81 and '82).

Aside from the usual giveaways (beach towels, squeeze bottles), Clearwater will hold its annual Fireworks Night on July 3, the Blue Jays will give away a trip to Toronto on July 10 and St. Petersburg will be handing out baseball gloves to kids on July 31. Ticket prices start as low as $1.50 for grandstand seats and max out at $4 for box seats.

For more information, call the Phillies (441-8638), Blue Jays (733-9302) and Cardinals (822-3384).

_ JULIE GOODRICH

BASEBALL (Youth)

If you want to watch a little youth baseball or softball, you don't have to stray too far. There is plenty of both going on around the area over the next two months.

The action started last week in the District 12 Tournament of Champions as 17 leagues began competing for the team titles in five age divisions.

The tournament, which includes more than 10,000 kids, concludes near June 21. It is being played primarily at fields north of Ulmerton Road, extending to the Pasco County line.

Coming up is the District 5 Bill Lyons City Tournament, which involves approximately 8,000 children from 14 leagues. Play starts Monday at various fields south of Ulmerton Road all the way to the Sunshine Skyway. It will go on until June 25, depending on rainouts.

After a one-week breather, the two districts _ with Majors baseball (ages 10-12); Junior (age 13); Seniors baseball (ages 13-15); Majors softball (ages 10-12) and Seniors softball (ages 13-15) divisions _ begin a lengthy haul in all-star play. Those tournaments take two weeks, wrapping up with sectional and state play. Some of those tournaments will be held in Pinellas County. The state tournament in Majors baseball will be played at Countryside near the end of July.

Aside from Little League, there's also PAL's under-16 team, which aims for a fifth consecutive state championship, seven teams around the area in American Legion, the seven-team Stan Musial League, Big League playoffs in both districts (ages 16-18) and local Senior League baseball (30-over).

For specific dates, times and locations for games, consult the regional pages in the Times.

_ WAYNE McKNIGHT

BOWLING

Bowlers can take their pick of 45 centers on the Suncoast, from Citrus to Sarasota counties, offering a wide range of programs for youngsters and adults.

Learn To Bowl programs for kids and adults are under way at a number of centers, with fees ranging from $10 per week to $10 per half hour for private instruction. The Young American Bowling Alliance (YABA) programs have finished the winter season, but many centers run programs for youngsters on Saturday mornings.

Regular summer leagues also are under way for adult and senior bowlers, some still open to latecomers. Most leagues run weekly and some travel leagues are also available.

Weekend tournaments are designed for bowlers seeking tougher competition. Most centers stage weekend in-house tournaments in handicap, scratch and team formats.

Open bowling is available at any time at reduced rates. Some centers are open 24 hours. For more information, call the center nearest to you.

_ PHIL GULICK

FISHING

Summer fishing on the Suncoast combines the best of the inshore, offshore and freshwater angling worlds, serving them up in a smorgasbord that smokes with all the heat of the June sun.

We have a little bit of everything, from 500-pound blue marlin chasing tuna in the deep blue Gulf to fly-slurping tarpon near Homosassa to deep-shouldered snook smashing surface plugs in the shadows of lush mangroves. And then there's redfish, tasty grouper and largemouth bass of "hawg" proportions. It's never a case of "are they biting?" but "what's biting?" or "what species do I chase today?"

There are miles of shoreline, bridges and piers from which to sample the action. Learn the basics from watching those around you. Ask advice from your local tackle shop. Or look for local updates each morning in the daily fishing report published on the Times' For The Record page.

Chartering a guide is another option. The bay area sports a large roster of veteran anglers who have made their passion their paycheck. Most offer trips for two to six anglers that range from $100 to $250 for a half-day excursion and up to $450 for an all-day outing on the Gulf. When choosing a guide, check local directory listings, listen for word-of-mouth advice around the tackle shop or take a trip to one of our local ports and talk with the captain yourself. You'll also find large "party boats" at several local ports. These boats take as many as 100 anglers at a time deep-sea fishing. Costs range from $15 for a half-day to $100 for overnight giant grouper and snapper trips.

_ JON WEST

FOOTBALL

Arena League's Tampa Bay Storm occupies the Florida Suncoast Dome from mid-May until early August. The Storm has four regular-season home games left in its third season: Saturday against Orlando; July 2 against Cincinnati; July 17 against Miami; and July 24 against Albany. Games begin at 7:40 p.m.

The Storm has guaranteed its season-ticket holders a 20-percent refund if it doesn't win at least 10 games. Possible playoff dates are Aug. 6-7 (first round), Aug. 13-14 (semifinals), and Aug. 21 (Arena Bowl).

Storm ticket prices, excluding service charges, are: $7 general admission, $10 end zone, $15 sideline, $25 gridiron (includes program, pregame meal), or $50 front-row gridiron. Call 825-3334 or Ticketmaster at 287-8844.

When the Storm starts dispersing, the Tampa Bay Bucs' season heats up. Tampa Bay opens training camp at the University of Tampa July 26. Workouts at UT's Pepin-Rood Stadium are open to the public. The practice schedule can vary, but most days include a late morning workout and an early evening session.

Tampa Bay will break camp Aug. 12 or 13, preceding its second preseason game, Aug. 14 at Atlanta. Other preseason games are: Aug. 7, home against Denver (7:30 p.m.); Aug. 21 vs. Buffalo at Orlando's Citrus Bowl (7 p.m.); Aug. 27 home against Cleveland (7:30 p.m.).

Tickets to Bucs home games are $30, $25 and $18. Season ticket packages (10 games) are on sale at $300, $250 and $180 and can be purchased at the Tampa Stadium ticket office, (813) 879-BUCS, and all Ticketmaster outlets. Single-game tickets go on sale in mid-July at the ticket office, but mail-order applications are being accepted.

_ DON BANKS

GOLF

The temperature and humidity have been rising slowly, which means winter Florida residents have flocked to the North, leaving the golf courses virtually empty.

Yeah, it's hot, but congestion is minimal, prices are way down and you can get on some of the area's finer layouts.

For example, Bloomingdale Golfers Club in Valrico, considered one of the best courses in Florida, is open to the public during the summer months. So is Isla del Sol in St. Petersburg, which is private in the winter.

Even the public courses become benevolent. Looking for business, virtually all have lowered their rates or are accepting coupons or cards that allow access for sometimes little more than a cart fee.

Golf Coast Magazine (522-4147) offers listings of courses in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Manatee and Sarasota counties, along with phone numbers and course information.

_ BOB HARIG

SOCCER

The Tampa Bay Rowdies' season continues at Tampa Stadium. The American Professional Soccer League team traditionally hosts its games on weekend evenings, well after the Florida sun has reached its peak.

Tickets run $10 (adults) and $6 (youths 15-and-under) for reserved seats and $8 (adults) and $4 (youths) for general admission. Tickets are available at One Rowdy Place (across from One Buc Place in Tampa), at Tampa Stadium or through Ticketmaster.

Remaining home games for the Rowdies: Saturday vs. Montreal, July 3 vs. Los Angeles, July 25 vs. Vancouver, July 31 vs. Toronto, Aug. 21 vs. Colorado, Aug. 29 vs. Fort Lauderdale, Sept. 5 vs. Montreal and Sept. 11 vs. Los Angeles.

For more information call the Rowdies at 877-7800.

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