Thursday, June 30, 2016

Arizona League

Not sure if many baseball fans even know, but there is an Arizona League as part of Minor League Baseball. It's the lowest level of pro ball out there and is sometimes referred to as the Arizona Rookie League.

It's designed for players that are in their first two years of professional ball. As a result, it's rosters are mostly filled with player from the Dominican Republic and high school players from the draft which takes place just prior to the start of the season, which is mid to late June. Sometimes major league players will take part in a game or two as part of a rehab assignment.

Games are played at the spring training stadiums or on one of the practice fields at the spring training complexes in front of only a handful of fans who pay nothing for a chance to watch players who they've never heard of play the game of baseball.

If you like baseball, you probably won't enjoy it. If you love baseball you might. I happen to love baseball and I love watching the Arizona League.

Games start around 7 pm each night in an effort to escape the harsh Arizona sun, but temperatures are still regularly over 100 degrees.

I happen to live in Goodyear, AZ which is the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians, so we get to watch those organizations Arizona League team compete almost every night. Occasionally the teams have a night off or are both playing away, so we did venture over to Camelback Ranch one night last week to watch the Dodgers, but I think we'll stick to Goodyear for the most part.

Not only is it fun to watch a free baseball game, but since the crowds are scarce, the odds of landing a baseball are greatly increased. I think we went to 5 games during the first week, usually staying anywhere from two - nine innings, and we ended up with 30 baseballs. My goals is to eventually create an American flag out of the baseballs.

You may have seen one at your local Red Robin restaurant. That's where I got the inspiration. With the 30 balls so far this year and the other various balls we've gotten at spring training, major league games, and from Arizona League games in years past, we have about 125 balls, so we're about halfway there.

Last Saturday we went to watch the Indians take on the San Francisco Giants. One of the Giants players hit a home run over the left field fence and my boys and I were able to take it down. When we got back to our seats the Giants were taking the field and the player warming up the left fielder was talking to the second baseman in Spanish. I couldn't understand much, but I did hear the word "primero" a couple of times and I knew what that meant. After they were done warming up the player who was playing catch with the left fielder came over and said that it was the players first home run and he'd like to trade us for it after the game. We agreed.

I checked my phone and quickly discovered that it was Mike Bernal that hit the home run. Mike was drafted in the 29th round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Giants after playing college ball at Arkansas. I found his Twitter handle and posted a picture of the ball congratulating him on his first home run as a pro.

Mike is the second orange dot from the left.

After the game we met him at the fence. He was really nice and thanked us for the ball. He gave us another ball and two batting gloves.

Luckily I had a sharpie in my bag so I asked if he'd sign them and he did. They turned out great!

The gloves are in pretty good shape, but you can tell that they are game-used. Mike pointed out the A on the back from his time at Arkansas. 

We will definitely be following Mike throughout his career and wish him well!

Like I said, the games are free and a lot of fun to watch for a baseball junkie like myself. Throw in some baseballs and my kids are hooked. The signed batting gloves are great, but it's spending time with my kids and the memories we make that are the best part of the Arizona League in my opinion.


  1. Free baseball games on a whim... That's my life's dream right there. Such a cool story!

  2. We have something similar in Florida called the Gulf Coast League. Unfortunately, all games here are at noon, with Saturday games starting at 10am. Way too hot to sit and enjoy free baseball. I've been to several GCL games, but I can't say that I ever watched all 9 innings of one.

  3. If you ever make it out to see the AZL Rangers, I would love to work out a deal for you to grab an AZL ball signed by the Rangers' Cole Ragans!

    1. I'd be happy to try to get an auto for you. We haven't really tried for autos but they also don't seem very willing for some reason. Not sure if they just aren't used to it or if they don't think anyone would want their autograph or what. We've seen the Rangers against the Indians and the Reds so if we see them again I'll try for you.

    2. I know why. My wife's cousin was drafted by the Rockies. He signed an exclusive auto deal with leaf right after the draft. As he understood it, at first, he didn't think he could sign autos for anyone at all because of it. It wasn't until he got placed in AA and the team asked him to sign for fans that he found out he could.

    3. That's really interesting! That could very well be the case with a lot of them.

  4. Very nice, it was fun following your HR ball episode on Twitter.

    I'd love to see these games on a frequent basis. I loves me some minor league baseball. Especially at the AZL/GCL level. Plus this is usually a great level to see some of the best prospects a system has to offer (before they go on to higher levels of competition).