By Jason Stone, INDEPENDENT NEWSMEDIA
Surprise baseball fans will have to drive a little bit further to see future Major League players in action in the Arizona Fall League this season.
“This is similar to the arrangement with the Peoria Javelinas in 2013 when their home games were played in Surprise while Peoria underwent stadium renovations,” said Sports and Tourism Director Kendra Pettis.
Peoria will host both the Javelinas and Saguaros at the Sports Complex this fall. But Pettis said AFL action will be back in Surprise in 2020.
AFL Administrator Darlene Emert said Scottsdale Stadium is also undergoing planned renovations, meaning two of the six stadiums in the league won’t be in use this fall.
The Fall League draws the top minor talent from the 30 Major League clubs. Each year Surprise gets players from five new teams that rotate amongst the six Fall League teams – which includes the Mesa Solar Sox, Salt River Rafters, Scottsdale Scorpions and Glendale Desert Dogs.
Surprise has fielded a Fall League team since 2007. Players who have suited up during that time included eventual Major League stars Mookie Betts, Mike Moustakas, Elvis Andrus, Eric Hosmer, Matt Wieters, Kolten Wong and Trea Turner.
The teams in Surprise have been competitive over the years, too, with only four losing seasons among the 12 played and even a league championship in 2013.
The Surprise Rafters were the first team to play at Surprise Stadium between 2007 and 2010.
A year later, the Peoria Saguaros moved to Surprise, leaving Peoria with just the Javelinas. The Saguaros replaced the Rafters, who left for Salt River Fields when that stadium opened for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“The partnership between the Arizona Fall League and the City of Surprise has evolved over the past 14 years, and we are excited to continue working together in the future and specifically here at Surprise Stadium in 2020,” Pettis said.
Other notable players who have come through the AFL include Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols and even NBA legend Michael Jordan.
The Fall League is undergoing a series of changes this year that won’t affect Surprise until 2020. The season has been moved up about three weeks to run from mid-September until the end of October.
“When the minor league season is over (at the end of August), the players in the past have sat around for a month before they come to the Fall League,” Ms. Emert said. “They do not want to do that. They want them to stay hot, fired up and continue on.”
The MLB Commissioner’s Office also changed the rules for player eligibility. Previously, a player had to be at Double A or Triple A by Aug. 1, but this fall teams can send any players.
Restrictions for a minimum of one lower-level player and no players with one year of major league service as of Aug. 31 have also been lifted.
SURPRISE IN FALL LEAGUE
- 2007: Rafters, 19-13-0*
- 2008: Rafters, 12-26-0
- 2009: Rafters, 16-16-0
- 2010: Rafters, 17-12-0
- 2011: Saguaros, 26-10-0
- 2012: Saguaros, 17-14-1
- 2013: Saguaros, 18-12-1*
- 2013: Javelinas, 12-19-0**
- 2014: Saguaros, 16-15-1*
- 2015: Saguaros, 19-11-1*
- 2016: Saguaros, 17-14-1*
- 2017: Saguaros, 13-17-0
- 2018: Saguaros, 11-19-0
* 1st in Division
** Javelinas team played home games in Surprise