Arizona Fall League Experience Puts Focus on Women

By Dawn Reiss, September 26, 2019

The Arizona Fall League is sometimes called one of baseball’s best kept secrets.

Hundreds of dollars are spent by fans visiting spring training events in Arizona. But tickets are much easier (and cheaper) to come by to see Major League Baseball prospects in the Arizona Fall League.

Alumni of the league include Los Angeles Angels centerfielder Mike Trout, Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper, catchers “Buster” Posey of the San Francisco Giants and Gary Sánchez of the New York Yankees, New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso and Ronald Acuña Jr., the Atlanta Braves outfielder who was the 2018 National League Rookie of the Year.

“It’s fascinating because spring training has become a massive business and most dates are sold out,” says Scott Bush, CEO for the Society for American Baseball Research. “With the fall league, you could probably attend a game for $5 and see a lot of great people.”

That’s why the Society for American Baseball Research and the International Women’s Baseball Center teamed up to create the 2019 SABR/IWBC Arizona Fall League Experience. The  two-and-half day conference, Oct. 10-12 at The Saguaro, a boutique hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, will offer insider tips about the world of professional baseball as well as game tickets and bus transportation to the Fall Stars Game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Here’s what you should know about the event.

1. Programing will focus on women in baseball.

Besides including a lot of baseball research, SABR and IWBC will focus this year’s conference on how women are changing the game and can get more involved.

“The industry needs to spend more time on diversity and inclusion,” Bush says. “So we took a hard look at our programming.”

Bush says if there is “significant appetite for this type of conference,” this will probably continue to make it a women-in-baseball conference. “We are always looking for ways to be more inclusive,” he says.

Panelists and presenters include: Debbie Castaldo, vice president of corporate and community Impact for the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation; Jennifer Blatt, the director of Women in Sports and Events and founder of the Women’s Sports School; Dr. Rebecca Herman, who co-authored the book, “Lead Me Out to the Ballgame”; as well as Meg Rowley, managing editor of FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, Eric Longenhagen, the lead prospect analyst of FanGraphs, and William Boor, a reporter and producer for MLB and MLB Pipeline.

See the full 2019 SABR/IWBC Arizona Fall League schedule here.

2. Event planning happens very quickly.

Unlike most conference planners that have at least six or more months to prepare, Bush says his team waits until they receive the MLB Fall League schedule to select a date for their annual conference.

The official announcement came in August for the October conference. That means, even with a professional courtesy call prior to public announcement, they’ve got approximately eight to 10 weeks to plan the entire event.

Given the tight turnaround, Bush says his team began reaching out to potential speakers and doing calls for research presentations several weeks prior to solidifying their conference dates.

3. Expect an intimate experience.

Despite being around for nearly a decade, the conference remains relatively unknown. Less than 50 people attended last year’s event and that means up close and personal discussions with panelists and attendees.

It’s typically a mix of baseball fans, students who are interested in networking and professionals looking for scouting information, Bush says.

4. Future stars will get the spotlight.

Players in the Fall Stars game on Oct. 12 are some of the hottest prospects in the country. On a typical minor league team, there are two or three elite prospects.

“To have all of these players in one place is a rare thing,” Bush says.

Bush’s players top watch are Jo Adell, an outfielder with the Los Angeles organization, as well as outfield Alex Kirilloff and shortstop Royce Lewis, both from the Minnesota Twins organization.

5. Deconstructed previous programming ideas and more diversity.

When it comes to adding diversity to event programming, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, Bush says. That’s why Bush and his team took a different approach this year, even though the conference has been held for nearly a decade.

“You can’t go wrong trying to meet people where they are,” Bush says. “Show them for who they are and how they want to be viewed.”

It means being willing to question some of the decisions you’ve made in the past, Bush says, instead of just using the old adage “this is just how we operate.”

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