I got a Minolta Maxum 5 with 28-80mm lens(275 dollars) and have an additional 75-300mm lens (145 dollars).
I got a Minolta because it offers all the features of the Canon Rebel and Nikon something-or-other and also has 1/4000 shutter speed and eye-start focus, both of which are super nice for getting action shots. I first read reviews of the camera and lenses before buying and found that the only thing that people did not like about the Maxxum 5 is that it is very small and for some people, hard to hold, but I got used to it (and I have huge hands).
I also went to several stores and pretended that I wanted to buy a camera from them to see what they thought was best (I eventually bought online)
go to a store, ask questions, pick up the cameras and try em out. you cannot go wrong with a REBEL or Maxxum, they are both excellent lower-level cameras; though I found the maxxum to better suit my needs.
Critical Motion Films