The Arizona Fall League launches its first pitch Wednesday, September 18, but this season there are a few changes that will benefit the players and fans.
“We moved the league up a month,” says Daniel Kurish, who has been the Arizona Fall League media communications coordinator for three years.
“We went from playing from October to November to now September to October and that was for the players.”
The move gets rid of the downtime the players had between the end of the minor league season and the start of the Fall League. League officials felt the players would have to gear up again.
The Fall Stars Game is scheduled for Saturday, October 12, at Salt River Fields, and the championship game follows on October 26 at the same venue.
The Mexican Pacific League, a winter league featuring former MLB ballplayers, will play at the Peoria Sports Complex and Salt River Fields.
“The AFL clubs will play in 10 games against teams from the Mexican Pacific League while the Mesa Solar Sox will play two games in the Mexican Baseball Fiesta,” Kurish says.
The players will also benefit from an ease of restrictions on who can play in the AFL.
“We had restrictions on what players could play here that couldn’t exceed their rookie limits,” Kurish says. “If a player played in the Major Leagues long enough, they weren’t eligible to come back in a rehab situation. Now they can send low-level Major-League guys here.”
This season, six teams are playing at four stadiums, due to construction at Scottsdale and Surprise stadiums. They will reopen for the 2020 Spring Training season.
“The Scottsdale Scorpions are playing at Salt River Fields and the Surprise Saguaros are playing at Peoria Sports Complex for now,” Kurish says. “Everything should go back to normal next season.”
Kurish noted the Fall League is working on something great for fans — especially the younger generation.
“We are working on the kids having more access to the players,” Kurish says. “This year kids under 15 are free to all the games. We really wanted to get the kids involved because it is a kid’s game.”
As of recently, the motto for the MLB ballplayers has been “Let the kids play.” The AFL is encouraging children to attend games and to enjoy America’s pastime.
The changes don’t stop there. For 27 years, the league has been using the same logos for the six different teams.
“The new logos are just an update to the teams,” Kurish says. “The exception is the Rafters who went from waves to a bat and now back to the waves. Every team now has been issued two different hats.”
In years’ past, the players wore their Major League uniforms and the AFL hat. This year, they’ll be completely decked out in AFL gear.
“It’s been done in the past before, but we are bringing it back,” Kurish says.
The final 2019 roster was scheduled to be released at the end of August, but that’s subject to change.
“The ballplayers have played 142 games in a Minor League season,” Kurish says. “Late season injury could knock someone off the roster.”
“If they want to send guys who aren’t hurt and didn’t make the postseason roster, if they needed more time or get more at bats, they could send him here,” Kurish says. “If they are on the postseason roster, they can’t come down here to play. They would have to be off the roster.”
AFL veterans are Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cole Tucker, Andre Ethier, Buster Posey and Mike Trout.
“If you are into the Arizona Fall League, the players’ progression and their journey, it is a must see,” Kurish says. “You get to see the future MVPs, future Cy Young award winners even before anyone knows who they are.”