Welcome to Arizona, where the heat is dry and the heat is dry and also relentless.
I wouldn’t know, though. Never been. My sister was once. She found a pistol in a cabin. True story. It wasn’t loaded.
But six men who can say they’ve been there – maybe more than once, at this point – are Cameron Rupp, Aaron Altherr, and a slew of young Phillies pitchers, the likes of whom I barely recognize. Kyle Simon is there. He used to have a cool mustache. I do know that.
It’s time for the Arizona Fall League, when the Phillies will send six of their more curious prospects to the Peoria Javelinas to join forces with some of the worst franchises in recent baseball history – the Mariners, Astros, Padres, and Royals – and do battle with other prospects doing the exact same thing, but with different teams.
The Phillies’ six could be standing next to some of the better prospects in the game, given the low-standing of their temporary Major League allies and therefore solid draft position over the years. Last year, the Phillies reps were playing on the same team as “Runnin'” Billy Hamilton, who once stole every base, then took off into the air and stole every star in the sky, too.
Today, things kicked off with a 12:35, Mountain Time match-up against the Surprise Saguaros, featuring Orioles, Red Sox, Rangers, Brewers, and Indians. The season will continue through November 14, when Christmas season starts, which is followed by The Dark Time when there is neither baseball or Christmas and everyone at work thinks you are too quiet and distant to not have killed cats as a child, and then you remember the Carribean Winter Leagues and try to get into them but by then it’s too late and you think whatever spring training starts in a few weeks anyway.
The Javelinas almost but then did triumph in their AFL opener against the Saguaros in Surprise, a town that does not require an exclamation point in its correct spelling. The Saguaros had two scoring deposits in the first and sixth innings that proved too much for the Javelinas, going up 2-0 early and 7-3 later. The Javelinas clawed to a 3-3 tie in sixth, only to see the Padres’ Adys Portillo give up a hit batsman and two walks before a grand slam from the Brewers’ Mitch Haniger. The Phillies’ Ken Giles pitched the seventh, striking out two (one looking, one flailing like an idiot) and giving up a hit but no runs.
The Javelinas came back to make it 7-6 before not coming back any more than that and losing 7-6. Aaron Altherr was the Phillies’ sole representative in the lineup, starting in center field and generally being in the middle of everything. He bat fifth, from where he went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks and RBI singles, at least one of which was heroic.
Altherr is a derfinitive AFL player; a guy who the Phillies like and has proven to be versatile and talented, but needs to be reworked a bit to a point that his fundamentals are more trustworthy. His improvements this year as a 22-year-old in the Florida State League with Clearwater were made visible by his cracking of the FSL Top 20 listing. He was #20. Though Kelly Dugan didn’t make the list after he went insane this year, so.
**grabs your laptop, smashes it to pieces on table**
I SAID GET EXCITED.
FUN FACT: Altherr’s fellow center fielder on the Javelinas is Delino DeShields, Jr.!
Huh. Well, that actually wasn’t very fun. But it will get better! Think of all that could happen! Aaron Altherr! Cameron Rupp!
**consults Javelinas roster**
Mike… Nesseth! And all the rest.