There are six teams, the Scottsdale Scorpions, Mesa Solar Sox, Salt River Rafters, Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas and Surprise Saguaros, playing in Scottsdale, Cubs Park, Surprise, Camelback Ranch and Salt River Fields. The roster for each is made up from five major-league franchises, who generally send six players per team to Arizona: our players are part of the Salt River Rafters, along with prospects sent by the Twins, Astros, Rockies and Marlins. During games, they wear the uniform of the parent team, so it's easy to identify "our" boys.
Most come from Double-A, and the quality of future prospects is very high. Last All-Star Game, the majority of participants had passed through the AFL, and in total, you could have seen 212 All-Stars, 12 MVPs, four Cy Young Award Winners and no less than 25 Rookies of the Year in previous years. There are two divisions, East and West, with the winner of each facing off in the AFL Championship Game, which will take place this year on November 15 at Scottsdale Stadium. There is also an Arizona Fall League All-Star Game, and that is going to happen at Salt River on November 1.
Single-game tickets are $8, and you can sit anywhere you want for that, making it extraordinary value - the crowds are rarely more than a few hundred, so if you want to perch behind the dugout, you can do so. Just bear in mind that you don't even need to shout your heckles for the players to hear them... The only down side is that most games start at 12:35pm, and there is no play on Sundays. However, every day has an evening game, starting at 6:35pm, so you can check the schedule for those. I'd strongly recommend over-dressing for those, however: I can tell you from personal experience, it can get surprisingly chilly late in the evenings...
Fall games, new rules
It is not just untried prospects who get tested out in the Arizona Fall League. it's also where baseball runs prospective changes to the rules through their paces. Last year, we saw the first trials of instant replay challenges and reviews, as MLB sought to iron out any bugs in the process [with mixes success, I'd say, going by how things went in the regular season!]. This year, we'll be seeing efforts to speed up the pace of play, with the following rules in place for the AFL:
- Stay in the box. With some exceptions, the batter must keep at least one foot in the batter's box throughout his at-bat. Exceptions a foul; "time" being granted; a wild pitch, etc.
- Zero-pitch intentional walk. The manager can just signal the home-plate umpire with four fingers, and the batter takes his base.
- Time limits between innings and for pitching changes. These can now take no longer than 2:05 and 2:30 respectively.
- Three "time outs" per game. These must be used for player, manager or coach conferences with the pitcher or batter. Conferences during pitching changes don't count.
And most interestingly, at Salt River Fields only, a 20-second "pitch clock" will be in effect. There are a few caveats, but the basic idea is as follows: "A clock will be displayed in both dugouts, behind home plate, and in the outfield. The clock will be operated by an independent operator, who is not a member of the umpire crew. A pitcher shall be allowed 20 seconds to throw each pitch. The batter must be in the box prepared for the pitch during the entire 20-second period. If the batter steps out of the box during the 20-second period, the pitcher may deliver the pitch and the umpire may call a strike, unless the batter was first granted time by the umpire."
I'm curious to see how this all works, and which of the rules will eventually make it into the major leagues. I suspect the pitch clock probably won't - it makes the game too much like basketball! - though anything which speeds up the glacial pace at which certain pitchers work, can only be appreciated!
SnakePit Get-Together: October 14th
As we've done numerous times before over the years, there's be a SnakePit Arizona Fall League get-together. Checking the schedule, and figuring out when our guys with the Salt River Rafters are playing in the evening, it looks like next Tuesday night is the best bet. That's a 6:35pm game at Talking Stick. It's very much a show-up and hang out kinda evening. Typically, we're usually located somewhere down behind one of the dugouts, but I'll be wearing my SnakePit shirt, and if you check Twitter, I'll post an update there as well. Typically, there are some concessions open, but I wouldn't rely on it. We'll be bringing snacks, put it that way. :)
We'll remind you about that nearer the tine, but for now, and to give you an idea of what to expect, take a look through the historical stories written on the Pit about trips to the ARizona Fall League.
Previous AFL Game Reports
- 2007: The Fall Guys
- 2008: The Boys of non-Summer: a trip to the Arizona Fall League
- 2009: Fall-ing Down: Halloween at the Arizona Fall League
- 2011: Arizona Fall League: Baseball In A Winter Wonderland
- 2012: Fall of the House of SnakePit
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the prospects from the Diamondbacks farm system, who are taking part in the Arizona Fall League this month.