Fall Ball – Day One
Trevor Bell pitched two shutout innings to start today’s 10-0 Angels romp at the A’s complex in Papago Park.
I’m in Tempe, Arizona at the Angels’ minor league complex for the first three days of the Arizona instructional league.
"Fall Ball," or “The Instructs,” is often confused with the Arizona Fall League. They’re two different things. The AFL is a six-week top prospect league organized by Major League Baseball, with six teams each having players from five organizations. Fall Ball lasts four weeks, with informal games played between minor league camps.
Statistics aren’t available, because the games aren’t formal. Although teams keep their own numbers, they’re not reported anywhere. You’ll see games with two DHs, you’ll see the bottom of the 9th played when the home team has already won, and other oddities.
They’re serious about that word "instructional" in the title. Each day, and each game, is heavy on instruction.
I’ve posted a video with clips from various instruction drills today. (The link is at the bottom of this article.) You’ll see pitchers and catchers being taught to communicate. You’ll see longtime pitching coach Zeke Zimmerman pass along some pickoff tips to young pitchers.
You’ll also see a drill that’s classic Angels "Contactball" preparing the players for the parent club. Two coaches go to center field, and set up cones in shallow center that are to the left and right of second base. The hitters are expected to drive a soft-toss ball between those two cones, then run as fast as possible to first base. They must do it twice, and their times are logged. The times ranged from under 4.0 to about 4.6 seconds. If you watch the parent club, you see how skilled they are at driving the ball up the middle and pressuring the defense. This is where they learn how to do it.
Today was the first game of the four-week schedule. The Tempe Angels were at the Phoenix A’s.
The A’s minor league complex is in Papago Park, north of the Phoenix Zoo and Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Just my opinion, but I think the A’s complex is the most beautiful of all the Arizona complexes. It’s blended into the nearby desert landscape, up against a butte. The facility is more like a campus. The trees and plants are all native xeriscape. and many bloom green-and-gold, the A’s colors.
The A’s bullpen pitchers relax beneath a tree that’s part of the bullpen.
There are many fields at this complex. The minor league games are usually played on the same field. I noticed this time that the A’s bullpen is on a slight hill behind the third-base dugout. The bullpen pitchers sit on a bench under a tree! I took a photo, which is to the right. Tough life, huh.
The visitors’ dugout is on the first base side, and their bullpen is down the line. (No tree.) Pitchers for both sides who have the day off sit on concrete steps behind home plate. Some pitchers chart or work the radar gun. The photo below shows both teams’ pitchers sitting side-by-side behind the backstop.
As for the game, the Angels romped 10-0. (So much for Moneyball.) It was classic Contactball. Singles, doubles, stolen bases, take the extra base, pressure the defense. You’ll see some of the highlights in the video.
Trevor Bell pitched the first two innings and was nails. I think he struck out something like four hitters, but I’ll post the video when I get home this weekend and we’ll get it right. For those of you who’ve seen Trevor before, he’s shorn his locks to a fine fuzz. I asked him about it afterwards; he said he’s just trying to change his luck. It worked today.
Both teams’ pitchers sit behind the backstop on concrete steps, all part of the unique design at Papago Park.
After Bell came the other Trevor, Trevor Reckling. You’ll see both Bell and Reckling strike out batters in the video.
The bad news is that Hank Conger injured his left leg running the bases. You’ll see that in the video too. Hank reached first on a single, then headed for second when Ryan Mount singled. Hank rounded second full-speed then applied the brakes, tweaking the leg above his knee. He was removed from the game. I’ll check with the Angels’ front office tomorrow morning to find out what I can tell you about the injury.
Tomorrow we have a 12:30 PM game at Fitch Park in Mesa against the Cubs. I’ll try to film more instruction. I’ve also tentatively scheduled a couple of interviews, but let’s see if they actually happen first.
Click Here to watch the Day One video. You need Windows Media Player and a high-speed Internet connection (cable modem, DSL) to watch.