The Arizona Fall League Begins
What do the current MLB players including Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Cody Bellinger, and Brandon Crawford—just to name a few—have in common? They all played in the Arizona Fall League at one time or another and the season starts this Wednesday.
What Is the AZ Fall League
The Arizona Fall League is an offseason league for the top players from the minor leagues to continue playing and refining their skills in-game settings in front of major and minor league baseball scouts. The league is owned and operated by MLB. The greater Phoenix area was chosen to host the league because of the climate and the Spring Training fields are top-notch and always MLB ready.
AZ Fall League Beginnings
The Arizona Fall League started in 1992. MLB wanted to create an offseason league in the USA because there was a concern that some of the best minor league players were leaving the country to play winter ball and there was no way to oversee or monitor their progress. When MLB decided to create the league, they said it would be organized and run according to MLB rules and regulations. For example, if a player is injured, proper care and treatment would be on hand at the stadium. Also, the league’s managers, coaches, scouts, and league officials could all participate.
Top Level Stadiums and Playing Fields
Games are played at four state-of-the-art Spring Training venues in the greater Phoenix area. This season two stadiums will be hosting two teams each. The teams include the Glendale Desert Dogs, the Mesa Solar Sox, the Peoria Javelinas, the Salt River Rafters, the Scottsdale Scorpions, and the Surprise Saguaros. The playing surfaces are outstanding, and the seating and concession areas are always fan-friendly. Another advantage for the Arizona Fall League is that all the stadiums are within a short driving distance of each other. Plus, the weather is always pleasant for games.
How the Teams get Players
Every August the MLB clubs hold a position draft to determine which players will continue their seasons. The teams are then divided into two divisions with each MLB team sending seven of their top prospects to Phoenix to create 35-man rosters. Most of the players are Double-A and Triple-A players; however, each club can also send two players below Double-A if they so choose. There are 180 players in all.
Changes for 2019
Since its inception in 1992, the league started in early October. This year, however, MLB decided to make some changes. Now the AFL Opening Day is scheduled for Wednesday, September 18, with the League concluding with the Championship Game on Saturday, October 26, which will be played at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The main reason for the change in the league’s schedule is to prevent downtime at the end of the Triple-A and Double-A seasons, and instead transition directly into the AFL schedule. The 14th annual “Fall Stars Game” will be held on Saturday, October 12, at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. That game is scheduled to be televised on the MLB channel.
Day and Night Games
AFL game times this year are slated to begin at either 12:30 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. In total, there will be 69-night games, the most ever, including all 36 September games. Additionally, clubs will play 10 home games against teams from the Mexican Pacific League. Prices are very affordable with tickets at $9 for adults and $7 for kids (3-17) and seniors (55+). You can sit anywhere you want.
The League is Unique
The Arizona Fall League also provides an opportunity for guys to get some managerial and coaching experience. Dusty Baker is an excellent example of a guy who had not had any managerial experience until he managed an AFL team in 1992. He then became the manager of the San Francisco Giants, a post he held for a decade. It also is great experience for umpires looking for additional experience and to improve their performance. AFL umpires come from the Umpire Development Program and the rules are MLB. Overall, 42 MLB managers and 56 MLB umpires have been in the AFL at one time or another.
Over 2900 of the nearly 5000 AFL players have reached the major leagues since the league began. This includes 296 MLB All-Stars and 19 MLB MVPs. Six Cy Young Award winners, 30 MLB Rookies of the Year, and 88 Gold Glove Award winners also had played in the league. The AFL also has its own Hall of Fame to which players, managers, coaches, and even umpires can be elected.
Up Close and Friendly
So, if you are in Phoenix or plan on visiting check out the top players from all the teams at an AFL game. It is a great way to get an autograph and learn more about a future MLB player today.