Saturday, November 20, 2004

The REAL Fall Classic

For me, the baseball season that started in March, with a Spring Training game in Mesa, came to a close today with the Arizona Fall League Championship Game. The game featured the Scottsdale Scorpions and the Phoenix Desert Dogs playing in front of what looked to be a 75-percent full Scottsdale Stadium. The weather was a spectacular 75 degrees, and the fans were totally into the game. It really was an official game, which included a jerk-a-meyer heckler behind the Desert Dogs dugout. At least one fan moved as this loser (wearing a Dan Marino Dolphins jersey) made outrageous (but not crude) remarks at the players, umpires and anyone else who would listen. My wife, the Giants fan behind me and I all laughed at the fool.

Los Angeles Dodger rookies patiently sign autographs before the game

The Phoenix Desert Dogs are introduced

The game itself was very well played. A few errors, but strong pitching and a handful of solo homers dominated the majority of the game. D-backs farmhand Corey Myers hit a solo shot and his teammate Conor Jackson threw a bullet to the plate from left field nearly nailing an opposing runner trying to score. No doubt Jackson will make the Show for Arizona next year; he’s the real deal.

Tied at 2 in the bottom of the eighth, Reds secondbaseman Kevin Howard made a crucial error that loaded the bases. Up comes Royals young infielder Donnie Murphy and he promptly parks Steve Schmoll's (of the Dodgers) first pitch over the right field wall for a grand slam. The D-Dogs bench went wild. The rest was up to Oakland A’s first round draft pick Huston Street to close it out. Street, a star at the University of Texas, and son of former Texas QB Jim Street, made the Scorpions hitters look like little leaguers. He struck out four of the six batters he faced, giving up one hit. Street will move Octavio Dotel back to the set-up role. You must give him strong consideration for Rookie of the Year. I joked to my wife, a big Dennis Eckersely fan, that young Huston was the next Eck.

Huston Street talks to reporters after winning the game

The Desert Dogs celebrate with the championship banner

Phillies young star Ryan Howard--only Jim Thome stands in his way to greatness

After the game, AFL general manager Steve Cobb awarded the D-Dogs the championship banner and all the fans (including us) hung around just to absorb the milieu and take pictures, get autographs, etc… I got a few autographs, including the player I have been waiting all Fall League season to see—Phillies young slugger Ryan Howard.. I had Ryan sign the page with the stats from the Reading Phillies (the team on which he set the Phillies minor league home run record) in Baseball America’s season-ending issue. He’s a big dude and I’d sure love to see him in the lineup next year. How that will happen with Jim Thome standing in his way remains to be seen.

As we left Scottsdale Stadium, saying goodbye to baseball for the year, we say Huston Street kiss his mom and dad. I walked over and asked the gentleman if he was Huston’s father, and he said yes. I told him I remember him playing QB for the Longhorns and he smiled. He recognized my wife and I as ones cheering for his son and called his wife over to meet us.

After two grueling weeks of travel and many work calls, presentations and documents, I can say this made it all worthwhile. So, when does Spring Training start?