A Fan's Guide to the Arizona Summer League
– OR –
"Why Am I Still Sweating at 10 o'clock at Night?"
Welcome to the 2012 Season of the Arizona Summer League (AZL)! The Rookie League is where newly signed draft picks, free agent signings, and rehabbing players from all classifications make up the majority of the rosters. As the season begins, here is an overview of this 13-team league.
First, the basics:
Tickets, Schedule, and Parking:
FREE and FREE
MILB.com has every minor league game schedule. Most have mobile phone versions of rosters/team sites. Game schedules have never been easier to find.
Tickets are not sold, attendance is not officially recorded, revenue is not generated
Who is in the AZL:
- EAST: Athletics, Angels, Cubs, Dbacks, Giants
- CENTRAL: Brewers, Dodgers, Indians, Reds
- WEST: Mariners, Padres, Rangers, Royals
13 of the 15 Cactus League participants have AZL teams – the Rockies and White Sox do not.
Where the games are played:
- Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium
- Brewers at Maryvale Stadium
- Giants at Scottsdale Stadium
- Mariners and Padres at Peoria Stadium
Games are played at the Spring Training/ Player Development home facilities of the respective clubs.
Those who attend AZL games include: Scouts, team officials/ executives (or, as I call them, "suits"), parents/friends of players, and true baseball addicts. Add them all together and it's usually fewer than 35 non-uniformed people in the stands.
Most of the AZL games are not played in the stadium, but on each clubs' #1, or Main practice field, which has some sort of seating, usually concrete or metal benches. In addition to the fact that the attendance at any of these games does not warrant the use of a large stadium, there is a bigger cost to operate the lights, scoreboards, stadium clean-up etc., and this is a non-revenue generating league.
However, there are a few teams that usually play AZL games in their stadiums. A benefit of these games is that the national anthem and mid-inning music are played on the sound system. Graphics will often being displayed on the scoreboard, too.
Teams who play their AZL games in stadiums:
Of course, all of this is subject to change without notice.
Regardless of where the games are played, the players who are not playing that evening sit together behind home plate. Home team stays until mid-way through the game, then they are free to leave.
NOTE: 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.
2012 AZL season returned to the 7PM first pitch for the full season – June 20 until August 29. In years' past, various combinations were utilized, including: 10:30AM for the first half of the season, and then 7PM for the second half.
The Arizona summers, aside from the consecutive 110+ degree days, include the Monsoon season that starts early July 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 bring:
Most important thing to bring is WATER…LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER!
Concessions are not sold and water fountains are few and far between. Coolers with food, non-alcoholic drinks are allowed. Seeds and nuts, too. Just be sure to pick-up after yourself before you leave!
A towel to sit on, or portable chair, is always a good thing to bring to a game. Always.
Some fans bring their baseball gloves, but they are disappointed to learn that the foul balls must be returned to the teams. There are usually 2-3 pitchers who are positioned in the stands to retrieve foul balls. These young men hate having to ask for the baseballs when a fan gets to it first, but again, this is a non-revenue generating league. Saving money is a priority and every baseball lost means one less to practice with.
Why attend these games:
To see the "babies", the rehabbing players, and to get your baseball "fix."
These young men are professional ballplayers; they are paid to play the game we love. You never know who will be the standout, and who will be the dud.
One sure thing is the fact that players will move through the AZL. Never know who will be moving up tomorrow, or the next day. But seeing them play today is the best reason to go to an AZL game.
…and that's just what I'm going to do, now.