2018 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game Recap

2018 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game Recap

2018 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game Recap
Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona. Host of the 2018 Fall Stars Game

Year after year, the Arizona Fall League provides baseball fans with a perfect epilogue for the season. Each autumn, MLB teams send some of their best prospects to Arizona to refine their skills, perform for scouts and prepare for the next stage of their careers. It’s like a pre-graduate program of sorts for players ready to make the jump to higher levels. Over 60% of the players who appear in the Arizona Fall League will see time in the Major Leagues.

What makes the AFL so great is the access provided to fans who attend games. All seats are general admission. Buy a ticket and you can sit wherever you want at one of six spring training stadiums in the Phoenix area. Many games see attendance levels below 500, so you can get a great seat anywhere in the park. In the spring, these stadiums are filled with fans traveling from all over the country to get a look at their team before the start of the season. Don’t expect to see a bustling ballpark filled with food vendors, merchandise and other amenities when you’re at a Fall League game. The focus is on baseball.

2018 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game Recap
Carl Moesche & John Kazanas host the Bowman Scouting Seminar

The Fall Stars Game on the other hand is the one exception. Fans fill the stadium to see top prospects right on the cusp of the Majors. It’s also the only Fall League game to appear on television. This year’s game was at Surprise Stadium where 6,000+ fans attended the game. Festivities began early with the Bowman Scouting Seminar which takes place a couple hours before first pitch.

This year’s scouting seminar was hosted by two Major League scouts: Carl Moesche of the Boston Red Sox and John Kazanas of the Chicago White Sox. If you have even a passing interest in baseball scouting, this is a must-attend event. Carl and John provided attendees with an in-depth question and answer session that focused on all aspects of scouting.

2018 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game Recap
Bowman “Ultimate Scout Giveaway” winner Rich Conti

Major League Baseball is constantly changing. Now that every team has put a focus on analytics to drive a lot of their scouting, human evaluators must adapt to incorporate this data into their analysis. While all scouts have embraced analytics, there are still human elements of scouting that are very important. Character and make-up still go a long way, at least with this pair of scouts. Both men mentioned how important it is to get to know the player they’re evaluating. From how they carry themselves on and off the field, to how they spend time away from the game, all of this is important when it comes to assessing young talent. Carl and John went above and beyond to answer every question asked by the audience, even staying past the first pitch of the game to chat with anybody who had a question.

2018 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game Recap
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. showing off his favorite card

The Bowman Scouting Seminar also honored the Ultimate Scout Giveaway winner. This year’s winner was Rich Conti from Pennsylvania. Rich, a college baseball player with aspirations of working in baseball operations after he graduates, was picked from a group of entrants who provided a scouting report for one of three players. Entrants were given the choice of three minor league prospects and had to come up with a scouting report similar to what you would read on the back of a Bowman card. Rich chose Casey Mize of the Detroit Tigers, and his copy (with a few possible tweaks) will appear on Mize’s card in 2019 Bowman Baseball. This contest is a great opportunity for collectors and amateur scouts to show their knowledge and be a part of a player’s career on cardboard. Be sure to keep an eye out for next year’s opportunity!

Before the game, we were allowed onto the field to open Bowman packs with players. Fall Stars like Forrest Whitley, Peter Alonso, Buddy Reed, Khalil Lee, Jon Duplantier, Pavin Smith, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and many more took time away from pre-game batting practice to pal around and find some of their Fall League mates and favorite Major League stars on cardboard. Forrest Whitley went through each card in his pack, letting us know which players he admires and has interacted with in the past. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. pulled a Ronald Acuna Jr. card and couldn’t have been happier. Nobody had a chance of prying the Acuna card from Vlad Jr.

2018 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game Recap
Fall Stars Game MVP Buddy Reed gets a Gatorade bath during the trophy ceremony

Many players found themselves trading for cards of teammates or players within their own organization. Diamondbacks teammates Jon Duplantier and Pavin Smith playfully argued over the perfect trade so they could each walk away with cards of their favorite players. While opening packs with a group, one player found a card featuring Jahmai Jones of the Angles pictured with long flowing hair. Jones, who now has a much shorter haircut, laughed along with the other players at his old look.

The Fall Stars game itself had plenty of excitement. The West and East teams battled back and forth with three lead changes happening over the course of the night. Mets prospect Peter Alonso of the East All-Stars got things going with a first inning home run and finished the night with one RBI and three runs scored. With the West team leading 5-3 in the top of the eighth, Phillies prospect Austin Listi gave the East a lead with a three-run home run that fired up his team’s bench. We were ready to take the field and honor Listi with the game’s MVP award before the West stormed back in the bottom of the ninth. Buddy Reed of the Padres hit a game tying triple, and later scored on a walk-off base hit from Meibrys Viloria of the Royals.

After the exciting win, Buddy Reed was named MVP of the game and earned a well deserved Gatorade bath from his teammates during the award presentation. Will the picture I took of Reed receiving a Gatorade shower be used as a short print in next year’s Bowman Chrome release? Probably not, but it’s a great shot regardless.

All in all, the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game is a tremendous experience for baseball fans as they say goodbye to a great year of baseball and look towards the future. The intimacy of a spring training stadium gives fans a closer look at players who are about to embark on their Major League careers. With general admission seating (aside from two small sections behind home plate reserved for scouts) you can bounce between seats to get a great view of the game from (almost) any angle. If you’re on the fence, it’s worth it to take the plunge and experience the Arizona Fall League for yourself.

2018 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game Recap – Image Gallery

James Gale