There's just something comfortable about this place. Maybe it's the olive-green carpet, which is worn but not ragged. Or perhaps it's the paneling or the mounted deer heads on the wall. Whatever the reason, Hollywood Billiards feels like the kind of joint where you can play a game or two even if you stink. Nobody laughs as you blow shot after shot. And if you're Minnesota Fats good, 18 tables allow you to show off. If you just like to sit around and drink beer, happy hour runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. So take a cue from us and head over.

They say hitting a Major League pitcher is the most difficult feat in sports. We sometimes wonder about that -- tackling, say, Earl Campbell head-on in his prime sounds pretty hard, too. But still, hitting breaking stuff from the Big Unit or El Duque must be damnably difficult, despite how easy Castillo makes it look. And he does it in so many ways: drag bunt singles, slap shots to no man's land, twisting line drives that tax the outfielders' knowledge of physics, and even the occasional home run. (OK, he had two last year anyway.) But as well as Luis puts the bat on the ball (.344 last year), hitting is only part of the remarkable package. What makes Castillo truly special are his speed (he had a Major League-leading 62 steals last year) and his play at second base. He credits his fielding ability in part to growing up poor in the Dominican Republic, where he fashioned gloves out of whatever he could find. (Legend has it he was partial to milk cartons.) All the hard work has paid off in incredible snags of hard-hit ground balls often followed by wheeling, acrobatic throws to first that belong in the ESPN highlight canon. Long live Luis.
White lights flicker on at dusk, like moons setting on the horizon. The stench of chlorine is oddly comforting. You'll have no parking problem here, encounter few spectators, and will have to do without even the comfort of a locker room. Rinse off under the trickle of the outdoor shower instead. Once in a while, the pool will close because of rain or a team meet, but otherwise, on weeknights from 5 to 8 p.m., it's yours for the swimming. On rare days the 25-yard lanes become crowded with lean and disciplined master swimmers in their fifties. You probably won't notice them, though. This blue-green world is blessedly quiet. We swim, as we dream, alone.

You love this part of the park for many reasons: lots of foul balls, great sight lines, and best of all you're within point-blank heckling range of the enemy bullpen. And when those stinkin' Braves are in town, the fireballing, immigrant-bashing, racist homophobe nincompoop every baseball fan loves to hate is sitting right in front of you. His thick, red neck is just waiting for you to heap invective upon it. Problem is, he's been heckled so darn much the past year or so, your barb will have to be really cutting to penetrate his callused hide -- to say nothing of that dense, bony skull and walnut-size brain. What to say, what to say....

Hello, what's this piece of paper that just fell at your feet from two rows up? Why, it's a photo of the reviled reliever himself (in which his mouth is agape, as always). You search your pockets for a writing implement, debating whether to go with (a) devil's horns, (b) Hitler mustache, (c) hayseed between the teeth, or (d) all of the above.

"Excuse me, did my picture fall down there?" You look over your shoulder at a mousy, bespectacled woman in a Braves T-shirt. Silently you hand her the snapshot, and watch in bemusement as the woman strides down the steps, leans over the bullpen wall, then returns with her hero's autograph.

Another spectator asks her why she's such a fan of the big fella. "Because he's honest and he speaks his mind," she declares in a slight drawl.

You look back down into the 'pen, where the paragon of homespun, folksy wisdom is about to sit back down. It's now or never. You take your best shot:

"Hey Rocker, you suck!"

Ooh. Stung him with that one. Definitely.

For a tennis scene devoid of tea-party etiquette, Hardy Park is the place to go. The four hard courts, lit until 9:45 p.m., attract scrappy players who don't wear white and who don't need well-manicured courts. And best of all, they're free.

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