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ArizonaFallLeagueSnakePitFest 2019

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a.k.a. “Never mind the score, we’re here for player development...”

The 11th somewhat annual SnakePitFest at the Arizona Fall League took place last night at Salt River Fields. In attendance were myself and Mrs. SnakePit, Jack Sommers and Mrs Sommers, megnetic and Mr megnetic, ish95 and ish95 minor. In contrast to certain previous years, the weather was just about perfect: high 60’s at first pitch, and almost no wind to chill the bones. There was a surprisingly large crowd in attendance, whether due to Military Appreciation Night or for other reasons. We arrived to find ourselves parking in the second overflow parking lot at SRF. though it was a nice night for a walk. The official attendance was 2,667, which is far higher then expected.

As a result, there was a line at both the ticket-office and the gates [where, sadly, there were now metal detectors in place, just like at Chase Field - with the inevitable impact on entrance]. However, they paled in comparison to the concession stand lines: it looked very much as if the AFL had been caught unaware by the crowd, with only one concession stand and one beer stand open. I will forever be haunted by the face of Mrs. SnakePit when she realized her hopes of hot chocolate at the ballpark were going to remain unfulfilled. I can only apologize.

As a result we missed the one triple off the D-backs’ Bo Takahashi, who was the starting pitcher, which led to the Mesa Solar Sox’s first run. Looking at the box-score, it was a rough night for most of the Arizona pitchers. Takahashi was charged with three runs in 2.2 innings, on three hits and a walk, with three strikeouts. But the last batter he faced hit a ball to third which seemed extremely playable, but went right past the fielder and was scored a rather hitter-friendly double. Instead of being out of the inning with one run over three frames, there were men on second and third with two outs; Takahashi was lifted, and the reliever who replaced him allowed both inherited runners to score. #PitchingLineRuined

Tyler Mark, who took the mound with one out and a man on in the top of the fourth, fared worse still. He loaded the bases on a pair of singles, although was able to escape that jam, starting a nifty 1-2-3 double-play on a comebacker to the mound. There was no such luck in the fifth, where he faced four batters, all of whom reached on two hits and two walks, though again, the final line was not helped by his replacement allowing two inherited runners to cross the plate. The final Arizona pitcher to appear was Kevin Ginkel in the eighth, and he did toss a scoreless eighth with a K. That improved his K:BB ratio to an impressive 17:1, over just 9.2 innings.

There were also better things from Jazz Chisholm, ranked #5 on Michael’s prospect list. who was the starting shortstop for the Rafters. He went 1-for-3 with a very nice line-drive double and a walk, also making some excellent plays in the field and showed good awareness in taking third-base when he realized no-one was guarding it. On the downside, he did strike out in his other two at-bats, and clearly seems to have an issue handling any decent off-speed stuff. This is hardly surprising considering he’s only 20, and in terms of overall play, there’s a lot to be excited about for Chisholm. We just need to be patient at this point.

But, as ever, AFLSPF is as much about the non-baseball stuff. We arrived early enough that we were able to wander round the classic car show at the shopping center next door (above). This was much more Mrs. SnakePit’s thing: she was all, “Wow, a V-8 super-induction hemi with supercharged woofers!” [I am vague on the technicals], while I was more “Ooh! That’s a nice shade of blue...” Went to YC’s Mongolian barbecue for dinner with the Sommers’ before the game, where I loaded up on the highly-spicey meats and noodles. A decision which, it must be admitted, has me shuffling incomfortably in my seat this morning...

Even at the game, the chit-chat was as much random as baseball related, though Jack did provide a stream of info about the prospects we were watching. We also gained great amusement from a Facebook post Mrs. SnakePit found, which declared that your life was defined by the song that was #1 in the charts on your 14th birthday. In my case, that would be the Detroit Spinners’ Working My Way Back To You. I’m not happy with that. [helpful links for US or UK readers, if you want to play along] And after the game, we went over to Zipps Sports Grill for a nightcap - and so Mrs. SnakePit could finally get her hot chocolate!

Thanks to everyone who came out to the event... Oh, the score? The Rafters lost 7-2, but as Jack’s comment at the top suggests, it didn’t really “matter” in any meaningful sense. Checking the standings, the Rafters are 112 up on the Solar Sox, with five to play, so have a good shot at making it to the championship game, which takes place Saturday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium. If you have never been to an AFL game, I can only continue to recommend the experience: for $9 you get to sit anywhere you want in the park, and see some of the top prospects in action, in an atmosphere best described as “relaxed”. It’s truly one of Arizona’s hidden gems, and the last chance to see pro-ball here until next spring.