11/20/2004 9:07 AM ET
Nov. 20: Championship game notes
TODAY'S CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
|AFL Media Relations
Desert Dogs vs. Scorpions 1:05 p.m.
RHP Keith Bucktrot vs. RHP Mike Schultz
Championship Chatter: Today marks the final day of the Arizona Fall League's 13th season...The Phoenix Desert Dogs and the Scottsdale Scorpions meet in the Arizona Fall League Championship Game at Scottsdale Stadium...The game begins at 1:15 p.m., with pre-game festivities starting at 12:45 p.m... The winner of the Joe Black MVP Award, as well as, the winner of the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award will be presented in a pre-game ceremony. The Desert Dogs won the National Division by 2.5 games over the Rafters and the Scorpions won the National Division by three games over the Saguaros. Scottsdale and Phoenix both beat each other four times in 2004. Both teams finished with the same overall record...The Desert Dogs won the coin-flip and is the designated home team for the game.
On the Mound: Right-hander Keith Bucktrot (Phillies) will take the ball for the Desert Dogs in the Championship Game, while right-hander Mike Schultz (Diamondbacks) will throw for the Scorpions. During the regular season, Bucktrot finished with a 1-2 record and a 4.40 earned run average in eight starts. He pitched 30.2 innings, fourth highest in the league. Bucktrot earned Pitcher of the Week honors the week of October 11- October 17th. He finished the week with a 1.28 ERA in two starts with seven innings of work. Schultz worked in 12 games, once as a starter, for the Scorpions. Schultz finished the regular season with one win, a save and a 3.94 ERA in 16 innings. He struck out 12 and only walked six batters.
Batting Champ: Grand Canyon Rafters Chris Shelton (Tigers) won the league batting championship. Shelton finished with 114 plate appearances, 15 more than the minimum needed to qualify. He led the league in Average (.404), RBI (33), Hits (46), On-Base Percentage (.470) and Slugging Percentage (.667).
Heavy Hitters: The Scorpions Corey Myers (Diamondbacks) ranks second in the league batting average with .400 and the Desert Dogs Mark Teahen (Royals) and Omar Quintanilla (Athletics) rank third and fourth. Teahen's average is .385 in 109 plate appearance and Quintanilla finished with a .374 average in 91 at-bats.
AFL All-Prospect Team: The Arizona Fall League is pleased to announce the 2004 AFL All-Prospect Team as voted on by managers and coaches:
Catcher: Chris Shelton (Tigers) and Ryan Garko (Indians) tied. Other consideration: Russ Martin (Dodgers)
First baseman: Ryan Howard (Phillies); Brian Dopirak (Cubs), Chris Shelton (Tigers), James Loney (Dodgers) tied. Other consideration: Vito Chiaravalloti (Blue Jays) and Mitch Jones (Yankees) tied.
Second baseman: Rickie Weeks (Brewers), Freddy Sanchez (Pirates). Other consideration: Aaron Herr (Braves).
Third baseman: Mark Teahen (Royals), John Hattig (Blue Jays). Other consideration: Kevin Kouzmanoff (Indians) and Josh Barfield (Padres) tied.
Shortstop: Omar Quintanilla (Athletics), Aaron Hill (Blue Jays). Other consideration: Josh Bartlett (Twins).
Utility: Aaron Hill (Blue Jays), Casey Smith (Angels), Ian Kinsler (Rangers), Chris Shelton (Tigers) and Corey Myers (Diamondbacks) tied.
Left fielder: Conor Jackson (Diamondbacks), Kevin Thompson (Yankees). Other consideration: Jason Botts (Rangers) and Kevin West (Twins).
Center fielder: Joey Gathright (Devil Rays); Curtis Granderson (Tigers) and Wayne Lydon (Mets) tied. Other consderation: Reid Gorecki (Cardinals).
Right fielder: Jeremy Hermida (Marlins); Jason Repko (Dodgers), Ben Johnson (Padres) and Conor Jackson (Diamondbacks) tied. Other consideration: Jeff Francouer (Braves).
Right-handed starting pitcher: J.D. Durbin (Twins), Dennis Sarfate (Brewers). Other consideration: Francisco Rosario (Blue Jays), Scott Baker (Twins), Steve Obenchain (Athletics) and Keith Bucktrot (Phillies) tied.
Left-handed starting pitcher: Jeff Housman (Brewers), Sean Marshall (Cubs). Other Consideration: Mike Stadolka (Royals).
Right-handed reliever: Huston Street (Athletics), Jesse Crain (Twins). Other consideration: Todd Coffey (Reds), Wes Wilkerson (Royals) and Jeff Miller (Pirates) tied.
Left-handed reliever: Billy Keppinger (Royals), Russ Rohlicek (Cubs). Other consideration: Mike Johnston (Pirates).
Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award: The first annual MLB.com AFL Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award will be given out in an on-field ceremony on Saturday before the championship game. On Tuesday, the six finalists for the award were announced. The manager, coaches and players from each team were asked to nominate one player. The AFL, in conjunction with MLB.com, will then select one winner from the six nominees.
This year the six finalists are: Curtis Granderson (Detroit), Grand Canyon Rafters; Ben Johnson (San Diego), Peoria Javelinas; Pedro Lopez (White Sox), Mesa Solar Sox; Freddy Sanchez (Pittsburgh), Pirates; Mark Teahen (Kansas City), Phoenix Desert Dogs; Rickie Weeks (Milwaukee), Scottsdale Scorpions.
The six were chosen not because of their stats or on-field performances, but rather because their peers and coaches believed they best demonstrated the qualities Stenson brought to the ballpark every day; these prospects were unselfish, hard working and they displayed tremendous leadership, either by example or vocally, or both.
Stenson, a former member of the Reds organization, was tragically murdered last November while in the midst of a terrific AFL season.
The winner will be presented with a plaque in a special on-field presentation on Saturday. In addition, MLB.com will make a donation to the charity of the winner's choosing.
The AFL has donated a one-of-a-kind AFL jersey worn by Mike Piazza in 1993 that was later autographed by the Mets' All-Star catcher, which will be be auctioned off on MLB.com. The auction will run until Wednesday at noon ET and the proceeds will be used for the charitable donation.
To get a better appreciation for what these players stand for, lets hear what their AFL teammates had to say about what made them stand out.
Curtis Granderson, Rafters
"'Grandi' is a terrific athlete with a huge heart," Twins pitching prospect J.D. Durbin said. "His abilities extend on the field and off of it. He not only cares about your career, but about your family and their well-being. Our conversations in the outfield are about everything, not just baseball."
Ben Johnson, Javelinas
"I'd say he fits the criteria," fellow Padres product Chris Oxspring said. "He's very professional. He always wants to do all the work put in front of him. He's definitely someone I would consider for the award if I were deciding.
"I've played with B.J. a few different years on different clubs. He was telling me he had 51 line drive outs during the year. He's had something like 20 more here in the AFL. Yet he still comes back to the dugout with a smile on his face, laughing about how he hit another one hard right at someone. Things like that don't seem to get him down."
Pedro Lopez, Solar Sox
"One of the best things about playing with Pedro Lopez, not having known him for a long time, is you can tell how hard he works," Cubs catcher Jake Fox said. "He's always the first one in the locker room and he's always the last one out. And he always has a smile on his face. You can tell he's having fun. That's one of the best teammates to have, a guy who has fun. It helps you have fun doing what you do. A lot of the time this job has a lot of hard things to deal with, so a guy that works hard like that and has fun helps you enjoy your time a lot more.
"He's a great teammate to have and great to have around. That's what's going to get you to the top: working hard, having fun and getting people on your side because they love to play with you."
Freddy Sanchez, Saguaros
"As far as the game, he's just a scrappy player all-around," Rangers prospect Ian Kinsler said. "They think of a scrappy player as one who doesn't have the skills or tools, but he's got the skills. Sometimes when guys are toolsy, they don't think they have to play hard, but he has the tools and he plays hard. I think that's special.
"As far as pregame stuff, he just goes about everything the right way. He keeps everyone loose. He works hard in BP. I'm trying to learn a new position at second and he's helped me a lot. I would think a guy who's been in the big leagues wouldn't want to help someone like me learn how to turn two, but he did."
Mark Teahen, Desert Dogs
"I hit fungoes to him during BP," Phillies pitcher Keith Bucktrot said. "I get work done with him. The whole time during BP, he's taking ground balls. He goes about his business calm and collected. He's a no hassle kind of guy. He doesn't take anything for granted. I was at the MLB.com prospect panel discussion with him and everything he had to say was very professional and wasn't cocky. He's a very stand-up guy. That's why he got my vote. Day in and day out, he did everything right."
Rickie Weeks, Scorpions
"He's one of the strongest guys, mentally, I've ever seen," said Tony Gwynn Jr., Weeks' teammate in Double-A Huntsville and in Scottsdale this fall. "Nothing ever bothers him. He's very even-keeled, never getting too up or too down. That's what sets him apart.
"Not everybody is willing to put in the extra work when they have that much natural athletic ability. He still works on his tools. The more and more work he puts in, the better he's going to get.
Officials: Umpires for today's game is Dusty Dellinger (1st), Todd Tichenor (2nd), Adrian Johnson (3rd) and Peter Durfee will be calling the shots behind home plate.
Pinstripes: Fourteen Rafters' hits led them to a 9-0 win over the Peoria Saguaros. Eric Schmitt (NYY) pitched five shutout innings and picked up his second win on the final day of the Arizona Fall League season. Both teams finish the 2004 season in second place in their respective divisions. Grand Canyon's Mitch Jones (NYY) was 3-for-4 with four RBIs in the win. Jones hit a bases loaded triple in the sixth inning to cap off a four-run inning for the Rafters. His solo home run in the eighth gave Grand Canyon an 8-0 lead at the time.
Javs Howl: The Peoria Javelinas were able to end a losing season on a high note with a 10-9 extra-inning win over the Phoenix Desert Dogs. The Javelinas led the game at one point 8-2, but Phoenix scored six runs in the final three frames to force extra innings. Jason Cooper (CLE) had the game winning RBI in the tenth inning. The Javelinas' offense pounded out 17 hits in the win. Shin-Soo Choo (SEA) was 3-for-5, and Greg Dobbs (SEA) was 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Josh Barfield (SD) finished his strong season with two RBIs, going 3-for-4.
In the Stars: Astros' prospect Michael Burns pitched five solid innings leading the Scorpions to a 5-2 win. Burns allowed only two runs while striking out six Solar Sox batters. Astros' teammate Tommy Whiteman drove in the go ahead runs with a two-RBI double in the third inning. Brian Peterson (CIN) was perfect at the plate with two hits, two walks and a run scored for Scottsdale. Jason Bulger (AZ) earned his fifth save of the season.
A LOOK BACK AT THE 2004 AFL SEASON
Phoenix Desert Dogs
The Phoenix Desert Dogs finished with a 21-15 record, tied for the best in the Arizona Fall League with the team they are playing in the Championship game, the Scottsdale Scorpions. Phoenix led the National Division throughout the season. The nearest any division rival came to knocking off Phoenix was Grand Canyon, who got within 1.5 games of first place.
The Desert Dogs' bullpen was the best in the Arizona Fall League in 2004. The league's top two pitchers in ERA, Huston Street of Oakland and Wes Wilkerson of Kansas City, both are Phoenix relievers. Street led the league in saves with seven, and Wilkerson had 10 strikeouts compared to just three walks. Both pitchers had an ERA of .98 for Phoenix. Street earned Pitcher of the Week Honors October 18 - October 23rd behind a 0.90 ERA.
The Desert Dogs are also in the championship game because of a strong offense. Phoenix had two hitters, Omar Quintanilla and Mark Teahen, that finished in the top four in batting average. The Oakland shortstop Quintanilla finished fourth in the league in hitting with a .374 average. Quntanilla earned Player of the Week honors November 1 - November 6th finishing the week 10-for-18 with a double, three runs scored and five RBIs. Royals' prospect Mark Teahen was third in the league with a .385 average and had 35 RBIs for the first-place Desert Dogs.
The American Division entry in the Arizona Fall League championship game led their division from the beginning. Scottsdale's .305 batting average was second in the league, one point behind Grand Canyon's .306 team average. The Scorpions had seven players hit over .300.
Two players in the Arizona Fall League had as many as eight home runs, and both play for the Scorpions. Diamondbacks' prospect Conor Jackson had eight home runs along with 33 RBIs, good for fifth in the league. Jackson earned Player of the Week honors October 18 - October 23rd hitting .400 (10-for-25) with a double, four home runs, eight RBIs and five runs scored. Making a late-season surge was Jason Repko. The Dodgers' catcher tied Jackson for the league lead in home runs with eight.
Steve Schmoll led the way for the Scorpions bullpen. In 15 appearances Schmoll had a 1.42 ERA with 12 strikeouts and four walks. The Dodgers' right hander allowed only three earned runs in 19 innings of work.
Grand Canyon Rafters
The Grand Canyon Rafters were one of four teams to finish the 2004 season over .500. Grand Canyon competed for a playoff spot in the National Division from start to finish, but ended up 2.5 games behind the Phoenix Desert Dogs. The Rafters were the best offensive club in 2004, leading the league with a .306 team batting average.
Grand Canyon was led offensively by Tigers' prospect Chris Shelton. The 24-year-old led the league in hitting at .404, had the most hits in the league with 46 and his 33 RBIs was also most in the Fall League. Shelton earned both Player of the Week (October 11 - October 17) and Player of the Month (October) honors. Shelton played with Detroit in 2004. He hails from Salt Lake City, UT.
The pitching staff for the Rafters led the league in strikeouts with 273. Their 4.97 ERA was third best out of the six teams in the Arizona Fall League. The Rafters had numerous pitchers excel, including Minnesota prospect Jesse Crain, who held opponents to a .208 batting average in 11 appearances.
The late-season run by the Peoria Saguaros was enough to get them into playoff contention, but not enough for them to pass the first place Scottsdale Scorpions. Peoria spent much of the first half of 2004 in last place, but finished just three games behind Scottsdale in the American Division.
Peoria's pitching was tied with Scottsdale's for tops in the Arizona Fall League. Both teams had an ERA of 4.58. The Saguaros' three shutouts were more than any other team in 2004. Pittsburgh's Jeff Miller led the Saguaros' bullpen. Miller had a 1.86 ERA, fourth in the league, in 14 appearances, striking out 16 and walking only two in 19.1 innings. Miller earned Pitcher of the Month honors for October when he led the league with a 0.00 ERA, no walks and 11 strikeouts for the Saguaros.
The Saguaros' offense was led by two Rangers' prospects. Infielder Ian Kinsler had four home runs and 16 RBIs in the middle of the Peoria lineup. Outfielder Jason Botts was a big part of the Saguaros late-season run, hitting safely in his last 15 games. Botts finished with a .355 average, second on his team only to the Pirates' Freddy Sanchez, who hit .364.
Mesa Solar Sox
The Mesa Solar Sox finished the season with a 14-22 record and in last place out of the three teams in the American Division. Mesa began the year looking like they would threaten in the American Division, starting off 7-7. Down the stretch the Solar Sox struggled with a lack of offense. Mesa had a league-low .260 batting average.
One of the bright spots for the Solar Sox was leadoff hitter Joey Gathright. The Tampa Bay outfielder came to the Fall League after stints in AAA Durham and a big league call up to the Devil Rays. Gathright did not disappoint, stealing a league leading 15 bases before leaving the AFL with an injury in late October.
Reid Gorecki has also been stellar for the Solar Sox. The Cardinals' prospect hit .363 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 26 games. Gorecki had less experience than other Fall League players, coming to Arizona from single-A Palm Beach, while most Fall League players played in AA or AAA in 2004. Gorecki has also shown good speed, stealing four bases in five attempts.
While the Solar Sox struggled with a lack of hitting, the Peoria Javelinas were the first team eliminated from the Arizona Fall League playoff race because of inconsistent pitching. The Javelinas had a league-high 6.45 ERA and did not have a pitcher listed in the top ten in ERA.
Ryan Garko has been the Javelinas' best hitter with a .348 average, five home runs and 30 RBIs. The Cleveland Indians' prospect has split time defensively at first base and catcher.
San Diego pitching prospect Brad Baker has led the Javelinas' bullpen. Baker has only allowed two earned runs in 11 innings, striking out 14 hitters and only walking three.
AFL's 13th Season: 2004 has proven to be the AFL's most offensive year in their 13-year history. Batters dominated the Fall League this season. Teams combined to score almost a run more per game than any other season. In addition, the league batting average was the highest ever. Here is a list of some of the AFL team records broken this season as compiled by Mike Holden of Baseball, Az:
Teams combined for an average of 12.07 runs per game (1328 runs in 110 games), the most in Fall League history. The old record of 11.15 runs per game was set in 2003.
The league batting average was .292, dwarfing the previous record of .285 established last year.
Teams combined to average 20.46 hits per game, almost ½ of a hit per game higher than in any past season (clubs averaged 19.88 hits per game in 2003).
The league slugging percentage of .444 was .0001 higher than the previous record set in 2001.
The overall league ERA was 5.32, setting a new mark for pitching futility. The old mark-5.18-was set in 1999.
There were six shutouts in 2004, tying the fewest in league history (there were also six whitewashes in 2001).
Promotion Corner: Saturday, November 20th the Arizona Fall League will be giving fans a chance to win autographed baseball's from the AFL class of 1994. Autographs include: Jason Giambi, Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Grudzielanek, Joe Randa, Bobby Higginson, Brian Giles, Phil Nevin, Trot Nixon and Jason Kendall. All fans in attendance will have an equal chance of winning. Winner's will be selected via lucky numbers.
Dolan on MLB.com Radio: Today Brett Dolan will call the action of the Desert Dogs vs. Scorpions Championship game at Scottsdale Stadium. The game will be heard live 1:05 p.m. (MST) on MLB.com.
MLB.com: Log on to MLB.com for the latest news on the Arizona Fall League. Click on the Minors tab to access the Fall League website where you will find player journals, stories and more. You can sign up for an Arizona Fall League weekly newsletter emailed directly to your inbox.
Hall of Fame: The Arizona Fall League continues its tradition of honoring former player and managers by inducting them into the Hall of Fame. This years inductees are Garret Anderson (Rafters), Albert Pujols (Scorpions) and Tony Peña Sr. (Saguaros). Anderson's ceremony (10/29) and Peña's ceremony (11/3) were both completed at Scottsdale Stadium. The ceremony for Albert Pujols will be postponed until the 2005 Arizona Fall League season. Due to Pujols' extended season participating in the World Series and his prior commitment to the Nike Tour, there was not sufficient time to schedule for the 2004 AFL season. We look forward to honoring him next year.
Thank you for your support during the 2004 Arizona Fall League season. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season. See you at the ballpark!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.