LIVE FROM THE AFL CONFERENCE — The end of the World Series didn’t signal the end of the baseball season to the 30 attendees at the third annual SABR Arizona Fall League Conference this weekend. They’re already looking ahead to 2012 and beyond, when the prized prospects on the fields at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and four other ballparks in the Phoenix area will likely begin their major league careers.
The SABR Arizona Fall League Conference is a chance for SABR members and friends to get together for some postseason baseball fun. It’s also exciting to check out talented up-and-comers such as Colorado Rockies third base prospect Nolan Arenado and other rising stars. Arenado, 20, is leading the fall league in RBI after driving in 122 runs for Class A Modesto this season. He went 4-for-5 with three doubles for the Salt River Rafters in Friday’s game against the Mesa Solar Sox. Before the game, stadium manager Mark Gallo led SABR conference attendees on a tour of Hohokam.
Conversations among the SABR crowd range from the serious — Barry Deutsch of Coral Springs, Florida, was overheard quizzing professional umpire and SABR member Perry Barber on umpire positioning and the rotation performed by Thursday night’s crew at Salt River — to the whimsical, as Flame Delhi Chapter president Rodney Johnson and others engaged in a spirited debate about which major league stadium had the best concession amenities.
The conference continues Friday night with a tour of “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience”, an exhibit at the Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tempe that puts Arizona’s rich spring training history on display. Guests will have an opportunity to bid on some great pieces of memorabilia at a silent auction and the proceeds will benefit the exhibit.
Afterward, SABR member Roland Hemond — who created the AFL more than two decades ago — will receive the Arizona Major League Alumni Legacy Award during a special dinner at the Arizona Historical Society Museum. AFL Director Steve Cobb will present the award to Hemond.
The keynote speaker for the event is Laurel Prieb, MLB’s Vice President of Western Operations and Special Projects. Other honorees include Boston Red Sox infielder Dustin Pedroia (Major League Player of the Year) and Arizona State softball coach Clint Meyers, who led the Sun Devils to the NCAA national championship. Also receiving awards will be Arizona’s top minor league, college and high school players.
On Saturday, the conference will conclude with a full day of activity. In the morning, SABR’s Flame Delhi Chapter will hold its seasonal meeting at 9 a.m. at the Hilton Phoenix East/Mesa. The meeting is open to the public, like most SABR gatherings are. The featured speaker for Saturday’s meeting is MLB.com senior writer Barry Bloom, who will share stories, insights and field questions from the group. Travis Katzenmeier, an umpire in the minor and major leagues for 13 years, and Rodney Johnson, an official scorer for the Diamondbacks since 2001 and president of the local SABR chapter, will discuss the rules on the field and from the scorer’s chair, and how their perspectives often differ.
After the chapter meeting, conference attendees will take a bus to Chase Field for a tour of the stadium that played host to the 2001 World Series and the 2011 All-Star Game. After the tour, we’ll have lunch overlooking the field at Friday’s Front Row, then head off to the AFL Rising Stars Game in Surprise.
Below, check out some early photos from the SABR AFL Conference. Hope to see you here next year!
— Jacob Pomrenke
Originally published: November 4, 2011. Last Updated: November 4, 2011.