Image credit: Forrest Whitley (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
The Arizona Fall League announced its 2019 schedule on Tuesday, with a few notable changes.
The most prominent difference is the considerably earlier start date. The league will open this season on Sept. 18, just one day after the Triple-A national championship game, and will conclude on Oct. 26. The portion of the schedule played before October will feature solely night games. Part of the driver for the earlier start involved teams wanting to avoid the typical long layoff between the end of regular season and the beginning of the AFL.
The AFL, which has always featured a steering committee comprised of general managers from around the league, added a 10-person player-development committee before last season. That group worked to come up with a series of suggestions to take to the steering committee, and one of their ideas involved shifting the start date.
“The two thoughts they had to bring the most utility to the league for them were to move the season to coincide better with the minor league season, to start when the minor league season ends,” first-year AFL commissioner Bill Bavasi said. “and have it end at a time when most of the rest of the organizations are shutting down. So the teams that have instructional league liked it because it coincided more closely with their instructional league … it gave them some versatility to have it run along with their camp.
“And then some clubs don’t have an instructional league or they’ve reallocated their resources to another program at another time of the year, and those clubs really wanted to move things up because they really didn’t have a camp going on to get their players back in shape after they’ve gone home from the minor league season. The (committee) thought that was a good idea.”
The league will also be played two fewer sites. Scottsdale Stadium and Surprise Stadium are each out of commission for the fall, meaning the entirety of the league will play in Glendale, Mesa, Salt River and Peoria. The Scottsdale Scorpions will play at Salt River and the Surprise Saguaros will play at Peoria Sports Complex.
Beyond the six normal clubs, there will be 10 games with teams from the Mexican Pacific League mixed in, and the Mesa Solar Sox will play two games as part of the annual Mexican Baseball Fiesta. The statistics and results of those games will be official and count toward the league’s standings.
Both the league’s annual Fall Stars game, which will be played on Oct. 12, and the championship game will be played at Salt River Fields.
The breakdown of which teams’ prospects will play on which clubs goes as follows:
Mesa Solar Sox: Angels, Athletics, Cubs, Indians, Tigers
Salt River Rafters: Diamondbacks, Marlins, Rays, Rockies, Twins
Scottsdale Scorpions: Blue Jays, Braves, Giants, Mets, Phillies
Glendale Desert Dogs: Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Reds, White Sox
Peoria Javelinas: Astros, Mariners, Padres, Pirates, Red Sox
Surprise Saguaros: Orioles, Nationals, Rangers, Royals, Yankees