Salt River Rafters 2, Glendale Desert Dogs 11
Yes, that was, all told, a very pleasant evening. It began at the Crooked Pint, where I had the poutine Lucy. Which was delicious, except for the unexpected moment when I bit into the burger, and a jet of poutine squirted out the far side. Quite startled Mrs.. SnakePit. Emergency clean-up, table 6... But a couple of pints of That Strawberry Blonde soothed my shock. Then it was over to Camelback Ranch, where we eventually figured out that the VIP parking lot was the only parking lot. We got our tickets and went in, pausing only to mourn my lost youth. Yes, for the first time I was eligible for the senior AFL discount, so got in for $7 instead of $9.
We barely got inside, before we encountered Clan ish95. We then had to figure out which dugout was the Rafters' one. This was decided when we saw Superfan Susan, since we knew she'd be behind the D-backs' relevant one. There was something comforting about seeing her in full voice. Nature is healing, folks. No shortage of seats to be had, with the attendance on the night a hair under five hundred. So we were sat a few rows behind the Rafters on-deck circle. And, of course, had to remember that anything said much above a whisper could probably be heard on the field. I wonder what they thought of our rousing rendition of 'Sweet Caroline' in the late innings?
As for the baseball... Uh... Yeah... Did I mention the good company and generally entertaining nature of the evening? Because it was a damn sight better than the Salt River Rafters performance with runners in scoring position. They went a startling 0-for-16 there: I'm not sure I've ever seen such a startling inability in the clutch, at any level. Diamondbacks' prospect Buddy Kennedy left six men on base, and it would have been more, except he reached on an error in the ninth, allowing the Rafters' second run to score. He went 0-for-5, and seems to be having a bit of a rough AFL, batting just .156, with a .510 OPS.
The other Diamondback in the starting lineup was outfielder Dominic Canzone, who was batting lead-off for Salt River. After striking out to open the game, he rebounded to finish with a pair of singles. That boosted his average to .324, along with an .835 OPS. However, he had two misplaced in the Glendale eight-run fourth inning. He missed a dive to his left, allowing the game's first two runs to cross, on what was scored a triple. With two outs and four runs in, he then let a line-drive clank off his glove - that felt the more egregious of the misplays, but was scored an RBI double.
A walk and a three-run homer made it 8-0 after four innings - and that was the score, not a startled emoji. You'll understand that our attention in the game as a competitive enterprise somewhat waned after this point. [AZ prospect Mitchell Stumpo worked the eighth, allowing a run after a lead-off walk scored on a two-out hit] Discussion turned to other topics, such as the rule changes being tested out in the AFL. These include a 15-second pitch-clock, a ban on defensive shifts, limited pickoffs and larger bases. I think the clock probably has the most notable impact. Despite the two sides combining for 23 hits, 8 walks and 13 runs, it only took 2:43 to complete. For comparison, the median D-backs 9-inning game this year took 3:11. I'm on board with the clock getting implemented in the majors, as soon as possible, it simply cuts back on dead time.
Even though it wasn't much of a contest, it was almost a perfect night for baseball, and thanks to everyone who showed up. We're finally in the part of the year where it's a pleasure to live in Arizona again. Though by the end, Mrs. SnakePit was feeling a bit chilly, and bemoaning the lack of hot chocolate at the concession stand. But this was a minor complaint, and if you've never been to an Arizona Fall League game, I can only repeat my endorsement. It's one of the state's hidden gems, and one of the best nine bucks you can spend. Or seven, if you're an old fart... :)