(Originally published 06/20/15 on OaklandClubhouse)
Happy Opening Night of the 2015 Arizona Summer Rookie League (AZL)! It’s been two-and-a-half months since MLB started their season, and a little less for all full-season minor league teams. The short-season leagues began this week, and now, it’s time for the AZL and its Florida counterpart the Gulf Coast League. Hundreds of young men who, less than a month ago, were playing on their high school or college teams, will make their professional debuts. Such an exciting time!
As a full-time Arizona resident, I’ve spent more than 13 years with three organizations (Mariners, Dodgers and A’s,) and while each organization and facility has their own idiosyncrasies, I’ve found it helps to address the basics of the league, and tweak as needed.
While the information is for all, my goal is to make things a little easier for the friends and families of the newest Oakland A’s.
Ok, let’s get started:
WHAT IS THE AZL?
A NON-REVENUE GENERATING Rookie-level league played at the spring training and player development homes of Cactus League teams.
Each regular season consists of 56 games beginning June 20th – and ending August 29th.
This is an official league within Minor League Baseball, meaning all statistics and accomplishments will be recorded and live on forever. This is opposite from Extended Spring Training or the Fall Instructional League.
What does NON-REVENUE GENERATING mean? There are no ticket sales, no concession stands, nothing.
It is also the answer to most questions or suggestions you may have once you arrive. Anything that begins with, “Why don’t they have? Why don’t they do…?” can usually be traced to the fact that this is a non-revenue generating league. If there’s no money coming in (ticket sales, advertising, etc.) there won’t be any money going out. It is a business. Keep that in mind.
WHY IS IT ALSO CALLED “THE FIRE LEAGUE”
Because the temperature at first pitch is always triple digits, and usually doesn’t dip much more than a few degrees by the end of the game. What defines HOT more than Phoenix in the summer?
WHEN AND WHERE ARE GAMES PLAYED?
Unless otherwise noted, games start at 7:00pm.
Each of the 14 teams play at their spring training/ player development facilities, with one exception: the Royals, who share a facility in Surprise, Arizona with the Rangers, will use the complex at Papago Park, the longtime, former home of the Oakland A’s, for the summer.
In addition to the Royals location change, there are two additional location changes:
1) All of the AZL Giants games will be played at their player development complex in Scottsdale and not at the spring training stadium. I’ll be honest with you when I say this is the worst place for fans/ spectators to watch a game. The designated viewing area is distanced from the fields. It is also the worst parking (almost none) because it shares the small location, and even smaller parking lot with a fitness center. I will attend those games, only if I have to.
2) The AZL Athletics, will play their home games on Field 4 at Fitch Park, rather than at Hohokam Stadium.
All addresses and where to park will be listed at the end of this piece.
Games are free to attend, and FREE to park.
Follow this link to the AZL Athletics’ schedule http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_sch&cid=405
WHO IS ON THESE TEAMS?
• Recent Draft picks
• Players promoted from the Dominican Summer League
• Rehabbing players from all levels
• Newly signed minor league free agents
• Returning players who need more playing time
Roster changes are often made quickly and without notice.
The games are not broadcast/ streamed online, nothing. Why? (See above.) But, we, at Oakland Clubhouse, understand the importance of having first-hand information, so as part of the Scout.com network and always a cut-above-the-rest, Oakland Clubhouse took the proactive approach to not only have a correspondent in Arizona, but one who also live tweets the games, often with pictures, whenever possible.
That would be my job.
I cover most AZL A’s games, but when I’m not able to, or if you are simply interested to follow along, the information is available on the MiLB.com site:
Click “Today” to update the day’s scores.
This is updated when the onsite official scorekeeper phones the activity of the past half-inning into the MiLB headquarters.
**Unfortunately, the Arizona League and the Gulf Coast League are not included on the First Pitch app.**
WHO ATTENDS AZL GAMES?
Usually, it’s a few friends or family members of the players, a few scouts or organizational staff, and me. There are always a few who see the lights on the field and they want to see what’s taking place.
SEATING: Whether it’s stadium seating or metal benches, there’s always some seating for spectators. Keep in mind that even stadium seating is not cleaned / wiped down throughout the summer. Why? (See above.) In addition to my portable chair, I always keep extra towels in my car to sit on whether for bleachers or on dirty stadium seats. I recommend you do the same.
Restrooms are usually open. If not, ask someone, usually someone on the grounds crew will have a key to unlock.
KEEP IN MIND
PLAYERS AND TEAM PERSONNEL ARE WORKING EVEN IF THEY’RE SITTING IN THE STANDS. PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB THEM
• Regardless of where the games are played, the players who are not in the game will sit together behind home plate. Home team stays until mid-way through the game, and then they are free to leave. Though they’re not playing in the game, they are still working and are to conduct themselves as such. This means no interaction with the public once the game begins.
BE RESPECTFUL OF OTHERS. IF YOU NEED TO USE YOUR PHONE, PLEASE STEP AWAY FROM THE AREA TO DO SO
• The game setting is quite intimate, please take that into consideration when talking on the phone – or talking with others around you. This environment is not like attending a spring training game where fans will socialize and then periodically check to see there is a game being played. Respectful, considerate behavior makes the hot summer nights even more enjoyable.
BRING YOUR OWN ROSTER OR REFER TO MILB.COM FOR ONLINE ROSTER
• In this league, rosters can and often do change on a daily basis. There are a handful of teams that have names on the backs of the jerseys, most do not, including the Athletics. Why? See above. Generally speaking, the only way to know who’s who is to refer to MiLB.com and search for the team’s roster. This will be the most accurate and updated.
SURROUNDING FIELDS, BATTING CAGES, OBSERVATION AREAS (TOWERS) ETC. ARE FOR TEAM PERSONNEL ONLY
• Please stay in the public use area, ONLY.
BEWARE OF FOUL BALLS
• Just as at Chase Field or any other large stadium, foul balls are a risk to each and every person in attendance.
• Please watch children so that they do not wander on to the field. It is a relaxed environment, but it is as important to those playing and observing the game as Game 7 of the World Series.
BE AWARE OF THE SURROUNDINGS – BE SAFE
• Unlike all other revenue generating games, where staff is in place to ensure all guests are gone before locking up for the night – or other guest service related issues – you are on your own. Gates will be locked with you inside. I’ve seen it happen more a few times.
DO NOT HECKLE. PERIOD.
WEATHER CONDITIONS / WHAT TO WEAR
Arizona summers, aside from the consecutive 110+ degree days, include the Monsoon season that starts in late June (now) and continues through the month of August. Evening dust storms (“haboobs” = dust only, no rain) and thunderstorms (rain-producing or not) are a nightly threat. However, the number of games that are cancelled postponed, or cut-short is minimal. Storms usually pass quickly, but they also can do damage in a short period of time. Just be prepared.
The one constant of the games played in the Arizona Summer League? An average temp of 108 at the time of first pitch, which means: YOU WILL SWEAT, NO MATTER WHAT TIME THE GAMES END.
WHAT TO WEAR: You will be sitting outside, for 3 hours, in triple digit temps, on dirty, uncomfortable metal bleachers or dirty, concrete theater style seating.
This means: if you’re going to wear something cute and light colored, bring something to sit on. You should bring a towel to sit on anyway, no matter what you’re wearing.
The best materials to wear are those are not 100% cotton. My kids like to say that while other women buy their work clothes at Nordstrom or Macy’s, I get mine from the women’s golf and tennis area at Dick’s Sporting Goods. They have a point. Makes it more comfortable when your shirts aren’t wet and sticking against you.
WHAT TO BRING/ NOT BRING
1. Most important thing to bring is WATER…LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER! Frozen water bottles will thaw and warm before you know it.
2. Bring snacks if you think you’ll be hungry. There are no concession stands, and only a few water fountains to be found. Please plan ahead. You’re welcome to bring coolers with food, and only non-alcoholic drinks. Seeds and nuts are allowed, too. Just be sure to pick-up after yourself before you leave!
3. A towel to sit on, or portable chair. Both are always good to bring to a game. Always.
4. If you bring your glove to catch a foul ball, be prepared to return the ball. There will be a member of the team whose job it is for that game to return all foul balls. These young men hate having to ask for the baseballs when a fan gets to it first, but again, because this is a non-revenue generating league, saving money is a priority and every lost baseball means one less for practice.
5. Don’t come thinking you’ll play catch during the game. Usually, the only area that has proper lighting is the playing field. The rest of the fields are dark or poorly lit; not safe at all.
WHERE TO GO/ WHERE TO PARK
Fitch Park Baseball Complex
160 E. 6th Place
Mesa, AZ 85201
Tempe Diablo Stadium
2200 W Alameda Dr, Tempe, AZ 85282
Played inside the stadium
Cubs Park – Field 1 (not stadium)
2330 W Rio Salado Pkwy, Mesa, AZ 85201
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick – usually on the Dbacks practice fields (north side of the facility)
7555 N. Pima Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85258
8045 E. Camelback Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
(Hayden & Camelback, behind Club SAR)
3805 N. 53rd Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85031
Camelback Ranch Glendale
10710 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ 85037
(Follow signs to minor league side)
Camelback Ranch Glendale – Practice Field
10710 W. Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85037
Minor league fields (closest to the stadium)
1933 S. Ballpark Way
Goodyear, AZ 85338
Minor league fields (south; farthest away from the stadium)
3125 S. Wood Blvd.
Goodyear, AZ 85338
(Though the Reds and Indians share a facility, it is quite spread out.)
Off of 83rd avenue (runs north and south)
15707 N. 83rd Avenue
Peoria, AZ 85382
Around the corner (and stadium) from Mariners. Paradise Lane runs east and west.
8131 W. Paradise Lane
Peoria, AZ 85382
Mariners and Padres share the Peoria Stadium where games are usually played. However, if both teams have a home game, Mariners will usually move to their practice field, which has no scoreboard.
Surprise Complex – usually on practice fields
15754 N. Bullard Avenue
Surprise, AZ 85374
Papago Baseball Complex – yes, that place!
1802 N. 64th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85008
64th street, north of McDowell – aka: longtime home of the Oakland A’s
HOME (Fitch Park): Park in the lot just before gated and secure private entry. Enter through the main opened gate to the fields. Be sure to lock your cars and do not leaven any valuables in sight.
AWAY: If you arrive close to game time, look for the white vans or large luxury bus from the visiting team. For safety reasons, don’t park where there are no other cars.