Tom Lohr is an avid baseball fan and has visited every Major League Baseball park . . . twice.
The Arizona Fall League
When the baseball postseason starts, it typically means the end of attending a game for most fans. Tickets to the playoffs and the World Series are fiscally out of reach for all but the affluent. For most of America, watching baseball in the fall is relegated to the living room. But there is still plenty of high-caliber action to be seen on the diamond and in person. All it takes is a road trip to Arizona to take in games in Major League Baseball's best-kept secret: the Arizona Fall League (AFL).
Spring Training in Phoenix
Baseball fans know the Phoenix area for its role as the western site for Spring Training. While half of the teams in the MLB get geared up for the upcoming season in the Grapefruit League at various Florida locations, Phoenix plays host to the Cactus League. In March, watching players shake off the rust of winter is a spring ritual for many ardent fans.
Most of the ballparks in the Cactus League are relatively new or renovated, and they're very slick. Some of MLB's stadiums are not nearly as nice as the likes of Sloan Park in Mesa or Salt River at Talking Stick. The greater Phoenix area is home to some very swanky baseball digs. But alas, Spring Training games are crowded and expensive, and tickets are often hard to get. This is where the Arizona Fall League rescues fans that have to stick to a budget.
What Is the AFL?
The AFL is basically an advanced minor league system that offers MLB teams' top prospects a chance to extend play past baseball's regular schedule. There are six teams in the AFL, and each team is comprised of the top farm club players from five teams. Getting to see the equivalent of teams made up of minor league all-stars would be enticing enough, but wait—there's more.
The six teams play in MLB Spring Training ballparks. Still not enough to get you on the road west? Tickets are $8 ($6 for seniors and fans under the age of 17), and you can sit anywhere you like. With about 100 other fans per game, it's like your own private ballgame. STILL not enough? The weather in Phoenix in the fall is near perfect. It is the perfect budget baseball vacation.
Quick Facts About the Games
- Players wear the uniforms of the parent clubs and the cap of their AFL team.
- The teams are in two divisions: East and West.
- Most games start at 12:35pm or 6:35pm, with it being possible to catch two games in one day on many days. Sundays are off days for all teams.
- Only one concession stand is usually open, and they sell the basics, but you can still get a dog and a beer to accompany your game.
What Teams Are in the Arizona Fall League?
1. Salt River Rafters
The Rafters are comprised of players from the Brewers, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Orioles, and Rockies farms clubs. They play in what many consider the nicest of all of the MLB Spring Training facilities, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The ballpark is also the only MLB-affiliated stadium built on tribal land.
2. Scottsdale Scorpions
The Scorpions are made up of prospects from the Angels, Giants, Mets, Reds, and Yankees. Their ballpark, Scottsdale Stadium, is located in downtown Scottsdale and offers an array of activities to do before and after the game. The Scorpions gave the AFL some much-needed publicity last year when Tim Tebow broke into the Met's organization by suiting up for the Fall League.
3. Mesa Solar Sox
The Sox play in the newest of the Spring Training stadiums at Sloan Park. This beauty of a ballpark hosts players from the Athletics, Astros, Cubs, Nationals, and Tigers system. The main concourse has a mini replica of the marquee outside of Wrigley Field.
4. Glendale Desert Dogs
My personal favorite, Camelback Ranch has a true western feel with its stone structures, desert flora, and arid color scheme. Be sure to take a look outside of the ballpark for the giant-sized bobblehead of Tommy Lasorda. When you are finished watching Tommy's head nod, catch the best of the the Dodgers, Indians, Phillies, Pirates, and White Sox organizations take the field.
5. Peoria Javelinas
A javelina is a small, wild-boar-like animal that roams the west and is notorious for breaking into campers' tents to look for food. Think of it as a desert pig. The Javelinas employ players from the Blue Jays, Braves, Mariners, Padres, and Red Sox. There are no oinkers on the field, though; these are all top-notch prospects and play at the Peoria Sports Complex.
6. Surprise Saguaros
The saguaro cactus is probably the most recognizable symbol of the west, and it adorns the caps of the AFL's most western team. The Saguaros consist of the best of a young crop of Cardinals, Rangers, Rays, Royals, and Twins.
Head West, Young Man
The AFL season starts on October 10 and runs through November 18, when it concludes with the league championship. Like its MLB counterpart, the AFL has an all-star game called the “Fall Stars Game” on November 4 at Salt River. It also offers a hitting contest at Sloan Park on October 21.
Arizona Fall League Stadiums
© 2017 Tom Lohr