Sunday, October 9, 2016

Phoenix in the Fall for Baseball: The Arizona Fall League

We all think of Spring Training as a reason to travel to Arizona. But did you know about fall baseball?  Baseball reporter Perry Van Hook lives in Surprise, Arizona and provides you with yet another reason to visit Arizona.

Courtesy: AFL
The Phoenix area is a great travel destination and in the fall has very nice (80’s day, 60’s night) weather for you to enjoy during your stay.

For six weeks in October and November the Phoenix area has the added benefit of having one of the best baseball leagues of the year.

The Arizona Fall League, AFL for short, is THE developmental league for major league baseball. Consider just a few of these numbers for the league’s 19-year history:
  • More than 59% of all players appearing in the AFL have reached the major leagues
  • 247 of those have been MLB All-Stars
  • Fifteen have been MLB MVPs
  • Six Cy Young Award winners
  • Four World Series MVPs
  • 26 MLB Rookies of the Year (not counting this years – both Corey Seager and Gary Sanchez the top candidates in their league played in the AFL

Here are the six AFL teams for 2016 with their home ballpark and the five MLB teams sending them players and some information about the areas near the stadium:

EAST Division
Mesa Solar Sox, Sloan Park – Cubs, Athletics, Blue Jays, Indians, and Marlins. Mesa is just East of Phoenix but very close. Plenty of hotels in the area from Days Inn and EconoLodge all the way up to the local Hyatt or Sheraton and the Westgate Painted Mountain Golf Resort. It is also a short easy drive to Talking Stick Resort in the East side of Scottsdale. Golf courses are plentiful in Mesa and surrounding area as they are in all of the Phoenix area. There are a lot of good restaurants in the area in all price ranges, but a couple of favorites would be D-vine Wine Bar & Bistro, and Dolce Vita Italian Grocer (save room for the gelatos)

Salt River Rafters, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick – Diamondbacks, Rockies, Braves, Brewers, and Tigers. Salt River Fields is in Scottsdale, west 101 (east) loop while Talking Stick Resort is just on the other side of the freeway and an excellent hotel with a top valley restaurant in Orange Sky. There are also plenty of hotels and restaurants in the Scottsdale area.

Scottsdale Scorpions, Scottsdale Stadium – Giants, Angels, Mets, Phillies, and Yankees. Scottsdale is a valley leader in golf resorts and destination hotels and restaurants. Scottsdale Stadium, spring training home of the San Francisco Giants is tucked into downtown and walking distance of many of those hotels and restaurants.

WEST Division
Glendale Desert Dogs, Camelback Ranch Stadium – Dodgers, White Sox, Astros, Cardinals, and Nationals. Camelback Ranch Stadium, the spring training home of the Dodgers and White Sox is just across the 101 (west) loop from Westgate Entertainment District which includes University of Phoenix Stadium home of the Arizona Cardinals (home games on 10/17, 10/23, and 11/13); Gila River Arena home of the Phoenix Coyotes; Westgate 20 theater complex; Tanger outlet stores; and several restaurants including an excellent Yard House.

Peoria Javelinas, Peoria Stadium – Mariners, Padres, Orioles, Rays, and Reds. Peoria Stadium is just off 83rd Avenue south of Bell Road and next to the 101 (west) loop. There are half a dozen restaurants and economy hotels just a block or two away off 83rd, and close to the Arrowhead Mall.

Surprise Saguaros, Surprise Stadium – Rangers, Royals, Pirates, Red Sox, and Twins. Surprise Stadium, the spring training home of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals is fifteen minutes West of the 101 (west) loop off Bell Road (with construction for the Bell/Grand overpass visitors coming from Phoenix or Mesa might be better off using the 303 highway to the West of the Stadium). Surprise is a residential community but there are several economy hotels close to the stadium (two just a block away) and plenty of restaurants in the area, notably Amuse Bouche and Vogue Bistro.

The AFL plays Monday through Saturday with (most) afternoon games starting at 12:30 PM Mountain Standard Time, and night games starting at 6:30 PM MST.

Play will begin on Tuesday, October 11 and continue through Thursday, November 17 with the one game league championship between the division winners on Saturday, November 19 at Scottsdale Stadium. That game and the Rising Stars All Star game which will be played on Saturday, November 5 at Surprise Stadium will likely both be televised on the MLB Network as they were last year.

About the writer: Perry Van Hook
Perry retired to Arizona to watch baseball all year long and lives less than a mile from Surprise Stadium. Writes about baseball and football at Mastersball.com