What an interesting year it was in the Arizona Fall League! The intrigue surrounding Tim Tebow and the fact that although he struggled at the plate, he made steady progress and actually finished with a batting average 10 points higher (though an OPS 92 points lower) than Scorpions teammate Aaron Brown.
A pleasant reunion with fellow baseball junkie and SABR devotee Don Thompson, descendent of Phillies Hall of Famer Sam Thompson, and a lovely dinner shared with the the Thompson and our Fall League buddies The Coopers.
Nothing of course beats the drama of having Kyle Schwarber show up for a brief rehab stint on his way to helping the Cubs win the World Series, and the adrenaline shot it gave to fellow Cubbie Ian Happ and his championship teammates on the Mesa Solar Sox.
Speaking of Ian, it was a special treat watching him compete together with Aunt Pam, Mary Beth, and Chris. What a lovely family, and a privileged insight into the human factors behind the quest to succeed at this level. Contrast Ian’s first round draft status and name recognition to the Phillies 14th round draft pick the same year, Austin Bossart. A local catcher from the University of Pennsylvania, Bossart was a late entry to the Scottsdale Scorpions and only managed a single in 11 ABs, but never stopped smiling during the game in which he got into his first action.
And then there were some unexpected surprises. Seeing old Phillie legend Aaron Rowand as manager and 3rd base coach for the Glendale Desert Dogs, for example.
And please, Dear Lord, if I ever get involved with the game of baseball any further, let it be something higher than at the Ding-Batt Level.
Although for 98% of the players in the Arizona Fall League it is a one and done affair on their hopeful ascent to the major leagues, there are select notable repeats. Such was the case this year with the Yankee’s Greg Bird, injured for much of the year after a promising start in the Bronx and trying to recapture his form in the Fall League.
Speaking of Bird, it’s impressive and bodes well for the Yankees’ future to realize that they boast the last three consecutive MVP’s of the AFL. Greg Bird in 2014. The emergent power-hitting catcher for the Bronx Bombers Gary Sanchez in 2015. (So dominant in his debut last year that the Yanks jettisoned last year’s opening day catcher, Brian McCann, to the Astros for two pitching prospects.) And this year’s AFL MVP? None other than Ian Happ’s old Myrtle Beach Pelicans teammate, Gleyber Torres – the centerpiece of the trade the Cubs made to obtain another key piece of their World Championship Team when they procured Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees.