Many baseball fans will tell you that if you love baseball, then you need to go to Spring Training. They aren’t wrong. Spring Training is pretty great and has become and annual tradition for us. It’s a great way to sit up closer to the action, potentially get better access to your favorite players, and enjoy some beautiful weather in the process.
But have you been to the Arizona Fall League?? Sure these guys aren’t big league players but many of them WILL be.
There are some details about the Fall League you should probably know. For instance, the players are almost all at the AA and AAA level. Only one player below AA is allowed per team and no player with more than 1 year of major league service time is eligible. There are 180 players total who participate - 30 players per team who are placed on 6 different teams.
While they don’t all make the big leagues, around 60% of AFL players WILL make it and among AFL alumni there have been 212 All Stars, 12 MVPs, 4 Cy Young winners, and more over the 27 year AFL history. Player like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Kris Bryant, Giancarlo Stanton all went through the AFL at some point in time.
Besides all that great talent - why should you go??
Arizona is in the fricking desert but October and November bring very pleasant weather. It won’t be too hot or too cold and you may spend your days in a tshirt and nights in a light jacket.
If you are a fan of autographs - you are in luck! Almost all these guys are willing to sign, even the big stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Sometimes you have to know where the players exit, or you can just line up on the first or third base line before and after a game. Don’t be like those annoying kids though who hang over into the dugout and ask for autographs during the game. Where are their parents??
Thanks to the smaller crowd size, you are much more like to pick up a free souvenir in the form of a foul ball (or even home run). There are better places than others to sit, but we even snagged one sitting directly behind home plate (and behind the net) when it was fouled up and over and rebounded almost right to us. The player who hit that foul ball was Angels prospect Jahmai Jones.
You aren’t going to get walk up songs or fancy scoreboard graphics. There is no pitch clock. There is usually just one line to get in to the stadium. One ticket taker, one open concession stand. This is simple baseball without all the other distractions. It’s laid back. It’s fun, it’s JUST baseball.
Up close and personal
We saw 3 games and all had an “official” attendance around 1,000. It felt like 500 people. Gates open 1 hour before the game starts but you can really show up at any time and still sit in the front row, behind home plate, right behind the dugout, etc. Pretty much wherever you want. For our second game (of 3), we sat right behind the dugout and before the game, Pirates #5 prospect Cole Tucker walked over to the dugout and said to me “hey, what’s up?”. When was the last time that happened to you at a baseball game? Incidentally, keep an eye on Tucker - he looked super impressive and polished in this game. Speaking of impressive and polished, we had front row seats to Vladdy Jr. for both games and you don’t get much more of a real deal than that dude. He knows his game, is mature beyond his years and is going to be mashing in MLB next year. Thanks Dipoto.
One game will set you back $9. Try to beat that price in spring training. Tickets go on sale 1 hour before the game starts and the line is pretty short. Season ticket options aren’t bad either if you plan on spending more time in Arizona and you can get a season family pass for only $120.
Here is a small picture gallery from our recent trip to the AFL.
We saw the Mesa Solar Sox play twice - it’s the team that holds all the Angels prospects playing in the AFL. We got to say hi to Jahmai Jones (and get him to sign a foul ball) and I also said hello and go an autograph from Brett Hanewich whom I interviewed last month.
Unfortunately, none of the Angels position players were in the lineup for the first game we saw, but they did all start in the second one.
Brett Hannewich looked strong. He didn’t strike anyone out and gave up a hit but allowed zero runs or walks over 1 inning of relief.
Jahmai Jones notched his second 2-hit game of the AFL, going 2 for 5 with 3 RBIs and two Ks. We didn’t get to see him play in the field as he was the DH for the night.
First baseman David MacKinnon had a walk, run, and hit in his 4 ABs. It’s the only hit he’s had in the AFL (so far).
8 million dollar man Roberto Baldoquin had a hit, RBI, and a run. His single was one of only two hits he’s had all fall.
Jesus Castillo started the Saturday game and did not look sharp at all. The Glendale Dessert Dogs were teeing off on him and knocked 7 hits and 5 run over Castillo’s 3 innings. Castillo’s stuff didn’t look real sharp and he couldn’t locate well.