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Ahh, spring: The baseball, the fresh air, the cold beer

The first day of spring training was not just about baseball for seven guys on vacation from Philly.

It also was about beer, buddies, balmy weather and bachelorhood.

The Phillies-Pirates game was one stop in a five-day Florida bachelor party for Mike Moore, who is getting married March 19. Just a last fling of a rowdy, informal fraternity they called Phi Tappa Kegga.

"We're here for drinking, watching the Phillies, then drinking some more," said Kevin Flaherty as he and his friends listened to Don't Fear the Reaper blasting from their minivan outside Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater.

"We left 10 inches of snow for 10 inches of sand," added Mike's brother, Dan.

They were just seven among the thousands who attended the opening day in Pinellas County of Grapefruit League spring training games Friday.

Dunedin and Clearwater hosted games for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies. The St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles, Pinellas' other two major league teams in March, kick off their home games today.

It could hardly be a more perfect baseball day, a blistering sun made bearable by a light, cool breeze. Only fingers of clouds interrupted the blue sky.

"This is a fantastic day," said Nora Marks, an Ontario resident who was making her annual pilgrimage to Dunedin to see the Blue Jays begin their quest for a third straight world championship.

In the small Dunedin Stadium at Grant Field, where the best seats are a mere bunt away from the players, Marks sat six rows back and cheered her favorite players.

She and her husband, Arthur, have seen plenty of Blue Jays games in the SkyDome in Toronto but said nothing compares to spring training in Florida.

"That's why we come to see them here, because we can get to know them better," Nora Marks said.

Here are some snapshots of life at the two ballparks on the first day of spring training games 1994:

SOMEBODY SCRUFF KRUK UP A LITTLE BIT, PLEASE: Phillies first baseman John Kruk, famous for his dirty hat and disheveled appearance, took his first swings of spring with a slimmer physique and a new helmet. A fan shouted, "Hey John, you look too clean this year."

SOMETIMES YOU CAN'T GIVE 'EM AWAY: Mike Wilson, 16, figured he'd make a few bucks on the deal: trade a shagged game ball for two tickets to the Blue Jays-Orioles game, then sell the tickets. But as Wilson soon found out, there was an unusually low number of buyers Friday, and he found himself offering $8 seats for only $5.

Even at that price, he still had them in his hands five minutes before the first pitch was thrown.

"I can't get nothing for them," Wilson said.

Maybe he was the lucky one, though. Five scalpers who were seeking more than the face value were arrested by Dunedin police.

IT'S 12 DEGREES BACK HOME: For Fred Kirk of Springfield, Ohio, spring training in Clearwater's balmy climate is a 20-year tradition.

"We called home this morning and it was something like 12 degrees," he said. "I hated to tell the daughter it was going to be 75 here today."

Kirk spent part of the game helping his buddy, organist Wilbur Snapp, selling the keychains, cars, coat racks and other whatnots Snapp creates from broken bats. "He put me to work," Kirk said.

TIE ONE ON: There was no mistaking Jim Loughlin's allegiances.

He showed up Friday wearing a Phillies necktie over his white sports shirt. He and his wife, Joanne, who live in New Port Richey, have spring season tickets for his team.

He's a native New Yorker, but the Phillies offered him a tryout in 1950. He was in the Army in Korea and couldn't make it, and by the time he got home, it was too late, he said. But he hasn't forgotten.

"They've been my team since '50, '51," he said. "I expect them to do this year what they did last year . . . only a little better."

"ALL THE YOUNG GIRLS HERE": For four years, Harry Minervino has been tearing tickets at Grant Field for the Blue Jays. On Friday, he was at the media gate, which was empty compared with the other turnstiles as fans pushed into the game.

So he began calling: "All the young girls. All the young girls here. Fast lane, and all the young girls through here." He soon had his own line of fans. And since he is 79 years old, most any of the women in the crowd were young for him and jumped into his line.

THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK, TOO: Skip Conley, a retired teacher from Philadelphia, was basking in his second year as a Jack Russell usher.

"The good Lord was in our corner and gave us a super day," he said. But he had one question.

"How are all these school kids out here? What are they going to do, go in Monday with a tan and tell the teacher they had a bad cold today?"

DOES DAULTON HAVE TO LOOK AT THAT ALL SPRING?: One man nudged his buddy as he entered Jack Russell stadium and pointed to the billboard of Hooters spokesmodel Lynne Austin, estranged wife of Phillies catcher Darren Daulton. "There she is," the man said, "centerfield."

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