My visit to Scottsdale Stadium for an Arizona Fall League game started with a conversation with Phil Rizzo. Yep, Mike’s dad. He spotted our Nats gear, and called us over to chat before the game got started. He talked about working for the D-Backs, doing scouting for Mike, and the logistics of trying to live in Chicago and scout in Arizona for spring training and fall league. He doesn’t like traveling much anymore, since it’s become such a pain in the “rear.” Not sure if he’ll go through with it, but he took my business card, and promised us Nats tickets. He and his buddy sat behind home plate, definitely scouting. Plenty of radar guns in evidence. Phil also gave us permission to give Mike a hard time when we see him in Florida.
We weren’t the only fans wearing team gear: probably saw half of the teams’ logos on at least one fan. Took advantage of being senior enough to get discounted tickets: general admission for $6 instead of $8.
Caught a couple of photos of the Nats on the Solar Sox before the game. Several of the players were signing autographs before the game. Easy enough to score an autograph: the total attendance was only 796.
Taylor Gushue was catching for the Solar Sox. He did a reasonable job—didn’t throw out the one base stealer, but did block a number of pitches in the dirt. And there were a lot of pitches in the dirt: the AFL pitchers are a little rough around the edges, as you would expect.
Victor Robles caught the first three fly balls hit his way, but on the fourth one (on the first pitch from Williams) he dove–and missed it. He was swapped out of the game, for “non-medical reasons” per the Twitter, but I didn’t see anything specific that led to him being pulled.
Daniel Johnson lost a ball in the sun—or maybe just lost it. He did catch the next ball, though.
Kelvin Gutierrez got in the game, but didn’t do anything worth mentioning.
The hitters from both teams were in “swing” mode: there was only one called third strike. Daniel Johnson did make contact—but everything was caught.
At one point, the Scorpions manager came out to argue a call on a fair/foul ball . . . and won! Hey, the AFL is definitely casual.
In my personal opinion, the pitcher closest to major-league ready was one of the Scorpions’ pitchers, D.J. Snelton from the Giants. Zac Houston from Detroit may also be close: small sample size (one inning) but he looked like he knew what he was doing out there.
The Sox lost 3-0: surprising that it wasn’t a bigger margin given the Sox had exactly one hit to the Scorpions’ ten.
So afterwards, we went back to the hotel to have an early dinner (since we’d gotten up at 4 a.m. to fly to Phoenix). We ended up chatting with the guitar player in the bar, who turned out to know Dusty Baker from playing the Rod Beck Memorial fundraisers with him. Small world.