Maynard: MLB becomes year-round business with Arizona Fall League

From SABR member Micki Maynard at the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism on November 5, 2014:

The World Series ended on Wednesday night, and on Thursday afternoon, I was attending a Major League Baseball game. Not one involving a big-league team, but rather, a game involving two teams in the Arizona Fall League.

I’ll admit that before I moved to Phoenix, I thought of the AFL as the old football league. Now, I know the AFL as one of a growing number of extensions of the major league system. Along with the AFL, there is the Arizona Summer Rookie League, held here in June after the annual MLB draft, the Florida Instructional League, where many of those newcomers end up, and of course, the various minor leagues of A, AA and AAA.

It all adds up to enjoyment for the fans, especially diehard baseball lovers, and a source of revenue for the teams. Parks in Arizona, which might go unused between April and February, get some business. Vendors sell some hot dogs and t-shirts. And scouts and other team personnel get an advance look at the next round of stars.

Here’s how the AFL works. At the end of each season, major league baseball teams contribute players to six teams that play at what are normally Cactus League spring training sites. The teams are divided into two divisions, East (because they play in stadiums on the east side of Phoenix) and West (those from the West valley).


To be sure, AFL games are not the draws that spring training games have become. There were only a few thousand fans on hand at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale last Saturday night for the Fall Star Game, pitting players from West teams against those from the East, even though the game was televised on and attended by a flock of scouts.

There was a similar sized mini-crowd in Mesa last Thursday, when I sat at Cubs Park with other members of the Society of American Baseball Research, or SABR, which held its AFL conference this past weekend.

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Originally published: November 5, 2014. Last Updated: November 5, 2014.