THE SETUP: Edbigghead
A few weeks ago Bobby asked if I would be available to help him with the setup and take-down of his equipment at the Fall League All Star Game. He seemed quite happy to have been invited to play by the folks at Salt River Fields, but would need assistance due to recovering from recent surgery on one of his legs. Of course I was down to give him a hand and Bobby offered tickets to the game as a thank you. I would be joined by Keegan and his wife at the game - courtesy of Bobby’s generosity.
The setup was pretty simple. Show up at Bobby’s house, load up the G-ride, drive to the park, unload and plug in. Bobby and I arrived at the park around 2:45 p.m. and had everything setup shortly after that. The hardest part was waiting for the gates to open. Jack was already inside the park but upstairs in the press box prepping for the game. Bobby’s equipment was ready and the good folks at SRF’s had brought down the organ and set it in place. Keegan arrived around 3:15 p.m. but was forced to wait outside the gates by the ushers until the gates officially opened at 3:45 p.m. I attempted to plead with security to allow him to enter but they shut that down.
While I waited, I bumped into Mike Ferrin. He is known for being the D-backs post game radio host up until the end of this last season. Catching up with him was cool - as you may recall he joined the Brutes for a chat during the 2021 season. After Mike and I talked, Jack was finally able to join us downstairs as we waited for the gates to open. It was me, Ferrin, Jack, and Bobby all chatting it up in a mostly empty concourse while batting practice was going on in the field. What a cool experience.
Then the gates opened and Keegan was finally allowed in. Jack, Keegan, and I enjoyed a beer, caught up with each other as Bobby began to get ready to play. We were having a blast talking baseball. All of the sudden Jack got serious and called for Super-fan Susan to join us. He introduced her to Keegan and I and we were able to get her to agree to join us for an upcoming Bruteside Chat, so keep a look out for that. Thanks Jack. The game was about to start, Jack retreated to the press box, and Keegan found us some sweet seats close to home but also close to the organ just incase Bobby needed us for anything. Right off the bat we found the player we would be rooting for: Lars Nootbaar, or NOOOOOOOOT, as we called him. What a name. Then there was future Dodger-evil, James OUTMAN to heckle. Keegan enjoyed himself too much with that. The heckling of Outman was quite simple. Hey, Man, Nice Outman (in reference to Filter- Hey, Man Nice Shot) each time Outman was called out. You should have seen the air-guitar...
THE GAME: Jack
It was a briskly played game, clocking in at 2:30. In fact the pitch clock helped keep things moving but you never noticed it was there. The game was more than half over before I mentioned to EBH and Keegan that there was a pitch clock. They hadn’t even noticed, but they had felt the quick pace of play nonetheless.
The West All Stars jumped on Cubs Starter Caleb Kilian in the first. (NOTE: All highlighted player names lead to player Fangraphs Page) After a walk and a single Bryson Stott ripped an rbi double down the line in right to score the games first run. A sac fly scored the 2nd, and the West had a short lived lead. Notably James Outman of the Dodgers struck out in this inning, More on him from Keegan later.
In the bottom half of the inning JJ Bleday of the Marlins hit a massive two run dong just to the right of the batters eye in center to tie it up. The East scored in the inning to take a 4-2 lead. The teams matched zeroes for a couple of innings. Owen White (Texas) stood out for the West with a 9 pitch 2nd. Bobby Miller of the Dodgers impressed with 99 MPH heat in his scoreless 3rd. He’s not going to be fun for Diamondbacks hitters to deal with. Oh yeah, the Diamondbacks, remember them ? They only had one player on the all star squad, reliever Shumpei Yoshikawa, and he didn’t get in the game, having just pitched on Thursday.
The action gets a bit fuzzy for me after this as I decided to leave the press box and go downstairs and hang out with the Brutes to continue our pregame libations. However some highlights included a majestic homer to right by Hunter Bishop (Giants) in the 4th. The ball soared high and deep into the night sky traveling 412 feet before landing half way up the right field bern for the 5th run for the East squad. Brett Baty of the Mets hit a 384 foot double to left, (that guy can rake) and later came around to score the 6th and final run for the East.
Gregory Santos of the Giants surrendered 3 runs back to the west in the 6th, despite topping out at 99.6 MPH and not walking anybody. He gave up 3 hits, including a two run triple by Nathan Eaton (Royals). But that was all the scoring for the night. The game actually ended in the top of the 9th Graham Spraker threw a perfect inning, striking out two batters. But they decided to let the East bat in the bottom of the 9th anyway, cuz why not, it’s the Fall League !
THE ATMOSPHERE: Keegan
Fairly certain this was my first ever Arizona Fall League game. As others have mentioned before, the lack of marketing and fan fare in comparison to Spring Training allows for a more intimate setting at an AFL game not to mention the AFL All Star Game at that. Reported attendance was 3,575 which consisted of the most die hard of baseball fans, scouts, families of players, and even younger future players in the stands.
What stood out to me almost immediately was having Bobby Freeman in attendance. He adds an element to any game that cannot be replicated by canned music over the stadium speakers. Bobby is one of the best at what he does and is beloved by the fans for a reason.
I did enjoy heckling James Outman probably a little more than I should have, but I am a simple man. I see a Dodger jersey, and I heckle the player in that jersey. The joke is on me though. He likely will be far more successful in anything than I can ever accomplish in life.
One of the topics we discussed at length was the brisk pace of the game. The addition of the pitch clock really makes a difference and puts the time of game at a manageable two and a half hours. That is even considering that they played a bottom of the ninth that was not even required.
After the game numerous fans and acquaintances came up to Bobby to express their joy at having him there last night. It was enlightening to see how people respond to him and the experience of an “old timey” organist at an Arizona Fall League game.