Young: Three days in the desert at SABR AFL Conference, part 2

From SABR member Geoff Young at Baseball Prospectus on November 13, 2012:

Saturday, November 3
The morning begins with a meeting of the SABR Flame Delhi Chapter. Chapter president and AFL Conference coordinator Rodney Johnson offers a few introductory words before turning things over to Bernie Pleskoff, who tells us what to expect in tonight’s Rising Stars Game and generously answers our questions about players we may have seen (including mine about Rangers shortstop Luis Sardinas, who will not be playing but who impressed me on Friday).

Johnson then talks about his role as official scorer for the Arizona Diamondbacks and explains the name of Arizona’s SABR chapter. Lee William “Flame” Delhi was a right-handed pitcher who appeared in one game for the Chicago White Sox in 1912. He also enjoyed a distinguished minor-league career, winning more than 20 games in three of his seven seasons before retiring in 1915 at age 22.

What does all of this have to do with anything? Well, Delhi was the first player in major-league history to be born in Arizona (which was then still a territory). Johnson has written a fantastic biography of Delhi for SABR, and it’s well worth reading.

After we go our separate ways for lunch, the group reconvenes for the shuttle ride to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and an evening of baseball. The Rising Stars Game draws an extraordinary amount of attention relative to other AFL games, as well it should. The game pits top prospects from every organization against one another in a showcase attended by dozens of scouts and watched by fans everywhere on TV.

Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton leads off for the West Division team by walking after working a 3-2 count. Pleskoff earlier identified the 22-year-old as the fastest player in the league, and it doesn’t take long to see why. Hamilton gets a bad jump, Yankees catcher Austin Romine (age 23) throws a strike to second, and it still isn’t close. Hamilton then steals third on a return throw from Romine to the pitcher. If you blink, you miss it. Romine blinked.

In his next trip to the plate, Hamilton strikes out looking at a 1-2 curveball. It’s a seven-pitch at-bat mainly consisting of weak foul balls, which brings up a point Pleskoff made this morning: Hamilton has work to do from the left side of the plate.

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Originally published: November 13, 2012. Last Updated: November 13, 2012.