Most people know to come to Phoenix for Spring Training baseball, but while the Cactus League gets all the attention, the Arizona Fall League is a lot of fun for baseball fans. It’s what Spring Training used to be – great baseball, small crowds and cheap tickets.
This post has what you need to know, from the history of the league to practical stadium, ticket and schedule information, along with things to do and where to eat, drink and stay.
A visitor’s guide to Arizona Fall League baseball
Arizona Fall League overview
MLB’s fall league in Arizona is where prospects come to prove they can make it in the big leagues. So you can see players hoping to make teams all across the league. There are six teams in the league, playing in six stadiums, and each team is affiliated with five MLB teams. The Fall League is where Michael Jordan and Tim Tebow had their forays into baseball.
Games are played over six weeks from the end of September through November and mostly attended by scouts and team executives. But fans can attend too.
The league was created in 1992 as a developmental tool to prepare Minor League players for the big leagues (they’ve called it like a fall “finishing school”). It was started to create a closer offseason league (many players go to play winter ball out of the country when the Minor League season is over). It is also designed to develop managers and umpires. Umps come from the Umpire Development Program and it gives managers a chance to get seasoning.
In 2019, the league has moved the schedule a few weeks earlier to more directly follow the minor league season. They have also lifted the restrictions on which players teams can send to the league.
Notable players include Buster Posey, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Max Scherzer, Nomar Garciaparra, Todd Helton and so many more. If you want to get deep into the history of the league and each team, you can read more here. Players from the fall league have made a splash in the MLB: 278 all-star selections, 17 MVPs, 6 Cy Youngs, 4 World Series MVPs, 9 All-Star MVPs, 29 rookies-of-the-year, 95 Silver Sluggers and 83 Gold Gloves. So this is definitely high-level baseball to be seen.
Unique rules to Fall Ball games
While the league is operated by MLB, a few adjustments have been made. First, the requirement that a pitcher go 5 innings to be scored for a win is waived. The winning pitcher is named at the discretion of the official scorer. This was implemented because during Fall Ball pitchers get a limited number of innings and had little opportunity to get wins.
The “Robinson Rule” keeps games from going too long – all games end in a tie after 11 innings. Extra innings also begin with a runner on second base (as with the MLB).
Pace of play rules are in place. This includes a 15-second pitch timer, 30-second timer between batters, 30-second mound visit timer, mound visit limits (6/each).
Arizona Fall League tickets
Tickets for all games are $9.00 ($7.00 for seniors and youth); all tickets are general admission and they cannot be purchased in advance. The box office and gates for each game open one hour prior to first pitch.
2019 AFL schedule
The downloadable full Arizona Fall League schedule for all teams can be found here. All teams play every day, except Sunday and other events. Traditionally the games have been the six weeks before Thanksgiving, but the MLB has adjusted the schedule earlier for 2019.
The important dates to note are:
- Opening Day: Tuesday, Sep. 17
- Fall Stars Game: Saturday, Oct. 12
- End of regular season: Saturday, Oct. 26
- Championship Game: Sunday, Oct. 27
Most games are day games and start at 12:35 pm. Though you will notice a fair amount of night games as well (6:35 pm). For the super fans, you can use these to create your own double-headers, but make sure the stadiums are close to each other to miss cross-town rush hour traffic.
Arizona Fall League map
This map has all of the Arizona Fall League (and Cactus League) stadiums, nearby parking, accommodation options and a few fun things to do in the metro area. Note, many of the newer stadiums have plenty of parking on-site, while others are in neighborhoods or the city and you’ll need to look around for parking.
Arizona Fall League teams and ballparks
There are six teams in the Arizona Fall League, each associated with five Major League clubs. Each MLB team has seven prospects in the league. Traditionally, there have been a lot of restrictions around which players each club can send (only one international player, certain length of time clear of the IL, etc.), but those have been lifted for 2019, to be evaluated at the end of the season.
AFL teams are typically made up of Triple-A and Double-A players as their prep to move to the next step of their baseball careers. This is additional to the Minor League season, as a kind of polishing camp. Teams can send additional “taxi squad” players, who are only eligible to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Arizona Fall League stadiums (update for 2019)
You can find interesting tidbits or practical stadium-specific information on the spring training Cactus League website or on the stadium links below. You can learn more about the history of each park here.
Salt River Fields is the only facility on Native American land (Salt River Indian Community). Sloan Park is the newest and the biggest, with a capacity of 13,000 (opened in 2014). Peoria Sports Complex became the first two-team facility for spring training in 1994 (built for the Padres and Mariners).
Stadiums for 2019: Scottsdale and Surprise stadiums will be in renovation during the 2019 Fall League season, which will move the Scottsdale Scorpions to Salt River Fields and the Surprise Saguaros to Peoria Sports Complex.
Important note: many facilities in Arizona will only allow small purses (we’re talking tiny) or clear bags for security reasons. Be sure to plan ahead.
Things to do in Arizona when you’re not watching baseball
Fall ball isn’t the only reason Arizona is ideal to visit in October, it’s finally starting to cool off, which means it’s a great time of year to head outside.
There are over 200 golf courses if you want to have a few hours on the links, or you could head to one of several Topgolf locations. South Mountain and Camelback Mountain are great hiking areas, both of which are right in Phoenix (bring water and plan for heat when hiking in AZ).
There are several First Friday events around the valley worth checking out, but even if you aren’t here for it, there are a ton of galleries and shops in downtown Phoenix.
If you are planning ahead, you should think about heading out of town to get in some hikes. The best ones require advanced planning because the permits are hard to get your hands on (which means they’re worth it). Coyote Buttes North (home to the Wave) and Coyote Buttes South are two incredible hikes all the way North on the border with Utah, known for incredible colors and formations (be sure to check the weather before you decide to drive up).
You can also look at tours for in, and out of town:
Restaurants, bars and breweries to visit during Fall Ball
Where you’ll head out on the town will, of course, depend on where you’re staying and which parks you’re headed to, but there are a few Arizona staples worth checking out. Most are marked on the map (above) so you can see what’s near where you’re staying.
Dos Gringos is a classic Arizona bar and restaurant with multiple locations around the valley. Oregano’s is another great option with several locations and great pizza, but expect a wait in Tempe. Arizona also has a few of the only Mellow Mushroom locations in the west, and they have a great menu and beer list.
Rustler’s Rooste can feel a bit cheesy, but it’s a very Western steakhouse, with a live band, sawdust on the floor and you can even take a slide down to the dining room.
Arizona is home to a bounty of craft breweries worth visiting. Four Peaks is probably the most famous; it has several locations and you’ll see it for sale in most of the stadiums. State 48 (named after AZ being the 48th state) also has several locations. San Tan Brewing is in Chandler (not super close to any of the parks), but is worth a visit.
If you’re looking for a larger, walkable area to head out and hop around, try Roosevelt Row in Phoenix, Mill Ave. in Tempe or Old Town Scottsdale.
Accommodation for baseball in Arizona
Planning accommodation for a spring visit can be tough – the stadiums are widely spread across the valley and it is in Arizona’s peak travel season, so accommodation can be tight. I recommend you decide which stadiums and teams you want to see first, then think about where you want to stay nearby.
Unless you want to be near a specific stadium, I recommend looking for somewhere in Tempe, downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale. Not only will this put you centrally located and near the freeway, but you’ll also be closer to more things to do when you’re not out at a park.
Because it’s peak season, prices go up and availability goes down. You should also consider Airbnb, especially if you’re staying longer.
- Tempe: Tempe is home to Arizona State University, which means you will find a lot of options of things to do, bars and restaurants in this area. The Tempe Mission Palms is a mainstay right near Mill Ave. or AC Hotel is right on the Salt River.
- Downtown Phoenix: the downtown area has become increasingly interesting over the years. If you want to stay in a cool neighborhood, look near Roosevelt Row or the Arizona Center. Most downtown hotels are chains, but the FOUND:RE is a unique option.
- Scottsdale: Valley Ho is a local classic and the Saguaro is a great option right in Old Town. Talking Stick Resort is a great option if you’re headed to Salt River Fields.
The Saguaro (Scottsdale)
Tempe Mission Palms
Other options to stay in Arizona:
- Airbnb: Airbnb is a great option, especially for groups or longer stays. Save $40 on your first booking with this link.
- Booking: There are a few hundred options on Booking; save $20 on your first booking with this link.
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