We’re not even out of the league championship series yet, but I’m already looking for some baseball to watch during the post-postseason. Every year around this time I wistfully think of 1998 and the Maryland Fall League – a short-lived league of four teams in my state, including my hometown Bowie Nationals. But, alas, the MFL was not to be. MLB abandoned it for warmer locales after just one year. And, sadly, I’d only made it to one game.
So, what’s a baseball fan to do when the season comes to an abrupt end? To be honest, I’ve been trying to figure that out for quite some time now. Due to economics, the participation (or lack thereof) of Major League Baseball, poorly updated and/or poorly functioning websites, international time differences, and conflicting information, it’s often a little hard to figure out. According to baseball-reference.com, fall and winter leagues have come and gone. For example, after the one-year Maryland Fall League, MLB tried the California Fall League in 1999, with little success. Then, in 2006, MLB revived the Hawaii Winter League (previously in existence from 1993 to 1997), but it folded after the 2008 season.
Currently, the only winter league still operating in the United States (other than the Puerto Rican League, which I’ll leave for an upcoming post), is the Arizona Fall League which has been around since 1992. According to the MLB website, the AFL was created because “the Major Leagues wanted to create an easily accessed offseason league. A concern was that some of the best ballplayers left to play winter ball out of the country, such as in the Caribbean and there was no way to monitor them.”
The AFL began play last week and games run through November. There are six teams: the Scottsdale Scorpions, Mesa Solar Sox, Salt River Rafters, Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas, and Surprise Saguaros. It takes a while to figure out the full schedule on the MLB website (the link for buying stuff, however, is quite easy to find), but the AFL “Rising Stars All-Star Game” is scheduled for November 2 and the championship game will be held on November 16.
According to the website, each major league team can send six players to the AFL – usually Double-A or Triple-A players. A position draft is held each August. That said, it seems that the Orioles have sent eight players this year. O’s prospects listed on the roster for the Sunrise Saguaros are: pitchers Tim Berry, Jason Gurka, Branden Kline, and Eduardo Rodriguez; catcher Michael Ohlman; infielder Jonathan Schoop; and outfielders Dariel Alvarez and Henry Urrutia.
Just don’t try to Google the team. It will only frustrate you.