This is what we wrote udring our visit to the Arizona Fall League in 2004.
Thursday 14 October
After breakfast we take a refreshing dip in the pool. We will be taking in doubleheaders over the next three days.
The day game is at Phoenix Memorial Stadium. Rock formations just above the stadium make for appealing sight lines. The flight path to the airport is just south of us and some of the kids enjoy watching the planes. The A’s play their spring training games here. There is ample parking just across the road.
The crowd is sparse no stat sheet today.
Game #117 Peoria Saguaros vs. Phoenix Devil Dogs
1:05 PM 84 Degrees blue skies
Attendance: 225 EST
Former Red Sox prospect, now Pirate, Freddy Sanchez leads the hitting attack for the visiting Saguaros as they pound out a 7 to 0 victory. Sanchez accounts for three of the eleven hits including a two-run home run in the eighth inning.
Tommy Murphy (Angels) had the Desert Dogs only hits, going two for four. Murphy has gotten lost in the Angels talent rich group of infield prospects. He is a good defensive fielder and this is our first look at him.
The game takes just over two hours to complete.
We head to Old Town for some shopping then back to the hotel. From our inn Peoria isn’t too bad a drive, unless it is during the rush hour then all bets are off. We take the interstate through town then over to the stadium.
Mesa Solar Sox vs. Peoria Javelinas
7:05 PM 88 Degrees blue skies
Attendance: 225 EST
Today is the first time in 33 years that we have seen players representing Washington play a baseball game. We take time to greet each player on the field and welcome them to Washington. We are the only ones wearing our red Nats caps. They have general questions about the Washington area and the stadium.
We sit down the first base line. Mesa Solar Sox beat the Peoria Javelinas 8-5 in a hitting duel that featured 26 hits. Devil Rays prospects Joey Gathright and Delmon Young each had three hits in the win. Javelinas leadoff hitter Ben Johnson (Padres) is 3-for-5 in the losing effort.
The Solar Sox feature the lightning/thunder combo of Delmon Young and Joey Gathright. Young is the powerful 6-03 230 slugging outfielder. In the talent rich Tampa farm system he is not even their top prospect. Selected by the Devil Rays first in the 2003 draft, he has come a long way since we watched him in Delmarva earlier in the year.
The lightning is provided by Gathright. He is the Rays’ 2003 minor league player of the year, before a dislocated shoulder ended his season. Considered to be one of the fastest players in baseball, he exhibits some good judgment at the plate.
After a Solar Sox run on an RBI single by Brian Anderson (White Sox), the Javelinas came back to take the lead in the bottom of the first. A triple off the center field wall by Greg Dobbs (Mariners) tied the game. Dobbs would score on a sacrifice fly by Kevin Kouzmanoff (Indians) to give the Javelinas an early 2-1 lead.
Two tape measure home runs in the top of the third brought noise from the fans and gave the lead back to the Mesa Solar Sox. The first was an opposite field shot off the bat of Young (Devil Rays). The two-run shot gave Mesa a 3-2 lead.
Two batters later Brian Dopirak (Cubs) hit a two-run home run to the top of the berm in left field to give Mesa a 5-2 lead.
Single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings for the Javelinas tie the game at five. The Solar Sox would add three more runs for a comeback win on the road.
Play-offs, Cardinals score two in the 8th to win another game from Houston.
Saturday 16 October
Another great Southwest morning. Walking to breakfast we can feel the warm morning air and watch the sun slowly climb against a dark blue sky.
Two tour buses are getting ready to head out.
Our friend Jerry drops by and we chill at the hotel. He has just driven up from Tucson where he has been working the Rockies Instructional camp.
Jerry rides with us to Phoenix to see the game. He spends time with us but has nervous energy to burn off and walks down to talk to some of the players and two young interns he knew from Albuquerque. He also knows one of the trainers.
It is another wonderful sunny day. Temperatures are in the low 90s under scattered clouds. Jets fly in two separate columns south of the stadium to Sky Harbor.
Grand Canyon Rafters vs. Phoenix Desert Dogs
1:05 PM 87 Degrees blue skies with some clouds
Attendance: 225 EST
We have great seats behind first base near the concourse, and thanks to being on the pass list (Thanks again to Michael McNutt). We finally get a stat sheet. The long saga is over, Karen holds up our prize and smiles brightly.
The Desert Dogs are managed by Dean Treanor. Dean is one of the best pitching coaches in baseball. He is an intense person with a short fuse. There have been many outbursts over the years and he has been tossed several times this season. Dean served as the pitching coach with Jerry at Albuquerque. Needless the umpires are on the lookout and Dean gets tossed today.
Unhappy with some of the calls, Dean is once again on edge. The first base umpire looks into the dugout and gives Dean the thumb. Dean races out and gets into the umpires face. With a sparse crowd we can hear every word. “Am I calm enough,” he yells. Behind us Gerric Waller, AFL Co-Director of Baseball Operations is on his cell phone, “We have another incident with Dean.”
The Grand Canyon Rafters and the Phoenix Desert Dogs matched each other run for run until the bottom of the ninth inning when Eric Reed (Marlins) scores on a passed ball to give the Desert Dogs a 4-3 win.
Relief pitcher Randy Messenger (Marlins) earns his second win of the season.
David Aardsma (Giants) gets the loss, his first. Aardsma is another in the long line of good pitchers from Rice; he has a 95+ fastball and good breaking stuff.
The Desert Dogs offense was led by Mark Teahan (Royals) who is a perfect 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Teahan was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. Chris Roberson (Phillies) and Jeremy Hermida (Marlins) also contributed to the win with two hits apiece.
For the Rafters, Marland Williams (D’backs) was 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored. Chris Shelton (Tigers) also had two hits for Grand Canyon including a double and two RBIs.
Keith Bucktrot (Phillies) started for the Desert Dogs and was superb. Bucktrot pitched four innings and allowed no runs on three hits. We have been able to watch Keith come up through the system. He is better now thanks to improved mechanics. He has the makings of being a power pitcher. I read that he reported to the AFL with arm problems.
Grand Canyon’s starting pitcher Scott Baker (Twins) also had a solid day on the mound allowing only one earned run, in four innings of work, with three strikeouts.
We take Jerry to dinner at nice Mexican restaurant in Old Town. Food and company are great. Jerry is off to return to Albuquerque while we head over to Scottsdale and a ball game.
Peoria Javelinas vs. Scottsdale Scorpions
7:05 PM 87 Degrees blue skies with some clouds
Attendance: 225 EST
Javelinas 9, Scorpions 6
Most of the spectators are gathered around home plate. A smaller crowd is out on the grassy knoll past the outfield fence. Greg Dobbs (Mariners) is 4-for-6 in the win for Peoria. Corey Myers (D’Backs) is 3-for-5 with a home run and two doubles in the losing effort.
The Javelinas score four runs in the top of the fourth, the first three coming on a bases loaded double by Dobbs. The Javelinas’ designated hitter scores on a wild pitch to give Peoria a 6-2 lead.
Scottsdale put runs on the scoreboard on the fourth, fifth, and sixth to tie the game at six, but run themselves out of the seventh inning. With two out runner James Loney (Dodgers) tries to steal home but was thrown out by a considerable margin.
Some time back we were making a swing through Montana. We watched the Great Falls team play until a violent storm forced us under the stands. With water pouring through the bottom of the exit door we stood next to Loney and got the opportunity to talk to him while he ate a hot dog with mayo on it.
The big hit in the three run ninth is a single to right field off the bat of Dobbs. Two runs scored on the hit and Peoria would add an insurance run on a Ryan Garko (Indians) single up the middle to seal the 9-6 win.
Yankees win big tonight. The game is carried on the TV in the concession area. Walking to the car Karen says the Yankees have not won it yet. I pause to say yes they have but something holds me back. After the Sox win the next game Karen predicts they will win the series.
I close up the scorebook. It has been a long year since we first watched Army at UMBC.
The move of the Expos franchise to DC is approved by a vote of 28-1. Peter Angelos will be the only vote against. In a fitting oddity the Orioles voted against the relocation of the Senators to Texas in the 70s on the grounds that they did not want a National League team in the District.