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Out of the Park

If you can take a few extra days, the Nationals will be at Los Angeles's Dodger Stadium (1962) earlier that week (May 2-4), and in Phoenix at Bank One Ballpark (1998) the following week (May 9-11).

TICKETS: The biggest problem is getting tickets. This park is so beautiful, and the Giants are so good, that season-ticket holders have bought nearly every seat. Try an online ticket broker: At www.tickets-mlb-baseball.com, tickets for the Nats series are $40 and up; at www.tickco.com, $45 and up.

Spring training 2004 at Holman Stadium, Vero Beach, Fla. (Vero Beach Dodgers)

A limited number of bleacher seats (500) are sold each game day for $12 to $17, starting three hours before game time at the King Street ticket window. Some $10 standing-room tickets also are sold, depending on crowd size. If you can't get in, you can watch the game free through the knotholes in the right-field wall. There are spaces for three dozen fans, and ushers rotate the crowd every half-inning. Info: 415-972-2000, www.sfgiants.com.

WHAT ELSE TO DO: Take a ferry to Sausalito to see the art galleries and smart shops, or tour Alcatraz. Visit some of the city's famous neighborhoods, such as Haight-Ashbury, Chinatown, the Mission District and the Presidio. Check out the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market at Green Street, where you can buy heirloom veggies, wild trout and vegan tamales, and eat at outdoor tables. Admire the bay views from the 180-foot-tall Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, or enjoy the sea lions and surf on Ocean Beach, near the Cliff House, where you can toast the Nationals with a cocktail. Info: San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, 415-391-2000, www.sfvisitor.org.

GETTING THERE: Flights on any of the major airlines to San Francisco start at about $225 round trip. To reach the stadium, take the Muni Metro N line/inbound (or specially marked Metro trains on game days); the Second and King Muni Metro station is next to the ballpark. Many Muni buses also stop within one block of the park.

May 27-29: St. Louis

Help the Nationals celebrate Memorial Day weekend and the final year of baseball in St. Louis's Busch Stadium (built in 1966). By next season, the Cardinals will be playing in a new downtown park.

Busch Stadium is one of those 1960s concrete doughnuts we have come to hate, but this one is somewhat loveable. Its rooftop design replicates the Gateway Arch with a series of miniature arches. The plastic grass was replaced with the real thing in 1996. There is a statue of Hall of Fame slugging outfielder Stan "The Man" Musial outside. If you don't like to stand out in a crowd, wear red!

The food is ordinary in this park, with none of St. Louis's famed toasted ravioli to be found. But the peanuts are just-roasted and, of course, the home-brewed beer is fresh.

TICKETS: The Cardinals haven't announced this year's ticket prices yet but last year's were $12 to $40. Info: 314-421-2400, www.stlcardinals.com.

WHAT ELSE TO DO: Take a tram ride to the top of the Gateway Arch and check out the Museum of Westward Expansion below the arch. Cruise the Mississippi River on a riverboat, or check out St. Louis's famed zoo. The city's impressive art museum is housed in an original 1904 World's Fair structure. Just north of downtown is the Black World History Museum, with a replica of slave ship quarters. And no visit to St. Louis is complete without a stop at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on old Route 66 at 6726 Chippewa Ave. Info: St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, 800-916-8938, www.explorestlouis.com.

GETTING THERE: Most major airlines offer flights to St. Louis, starting at $240 round trip (for nonstop, fly American or United). Metrolink light rail has a Busch Stadium stop, at 400 S. Eighth St.

June 20-22: Pittsburgh

It's a weekday series but, hey, school's out. Jump into the van and head for Pittsburgh's glorious new PNC Park (2001), about a four-hour drive from D.C. The intimate downtown park seats only 38,365 and every fan has a fine view of the field and the city skyline, as well as the Roberto Clemente Bridge and the three rivers.

Sit in the cheap seats high in right field and you might see a player power a ball into the Allegheny River. Stroll along the outfield concourse river walk for a great panorama of rivers and bridges.

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