Diaz leads charge in Surprise's wild 6-5 win
Infielder one of three Cardinals prospects to contribute on Military Appreciation Night
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League is where top MLB prospects get to confirm their pedigrees, or learn new tricks. And those below the radar can come here to get discovered.
All three elements were in play Saturday night in the Surprise Saguaros' 6-5 victory in 10 innings over the Rafters on an emotional Military Appreciation Night at Salt River Fields.
A trio of St. Louis Cardinals prospects took care of most of the offense as the Saguaros (16-10) moved a big step closer to clinching the West Division title with as bizarre a finish as ever seen.
Four innings after doubling for a sixth-inning run, Mike Ohlman, the Cards' No. 27 prospect, was coaching first base in the top of the 10th when a wild throw to an unoccupied first base went for a two-base error that enabled pinch-runner Dustin Fowler to score the winning run from second base.
Fowler ran for Jurickson Profar after his one-out double. The Rafters meant to appeal that Profar had missed first base, but pitcher Carlos Estevez's throw sailed far over first baseman Rowdy Tellez's head.
"The umpire told me he would've called 'safe' even if the throw had been good," revealed Ohlman. "You kinda hate to win a game that way. You'd rather see someone get a big hit."
Third baseman Patrick Wisdom, the Cards' No. 12 prospect, and Ohlman had a couple of those big hits, but the biggest belonged to shortstop Aledmys Diaz, one of the lowest-profile Cuban players you've never heard of, with a three-run homer in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie.
Wisdom and Ohlman have heard of Diaz; the three shared the infield this season for Springfield in the Double-A Texas League.
"He's really been coming along," Ohlman said of Diaz. "The bat especially. He's become a real solid hitter, and when it all comes together for him, he is very productive."
Near the end of the '15 season, Diaz, 25, was the only one of the three promoted to Triple-A. He went on to hit .380 in 14 games at Memphis and hasn't missed a beat here, batting .305 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 59 at-bats. Ohlman made his first appearance at first base, having previously caught for Surprise, just as he has for most of his seven Minor League seasons. St. Louis is on the hunt for a first baseman after Matt Adams missed much of the '15 season with a strained right quad, and this could be part of its lookout.
"I definitely think I could do it," Ohlman said of playing first. "I've done it a little bit in the past and feel comfortable there. But I just go where they tell me to play. Getting experience at multiple positions only gets you more at-bats, and that always helps.":
The game was long ago designated as the AFL's annual Military Appreciation Night, but the event took on a more somber note in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris.
As a pregame salute to veterans flickered on the video board - "In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice..." - players on the field stopped their warmups to pay more rapt attention than perhaps they would have otherwise.
During a pre-national anthem moment of silence in memory of the Paris victims, the board displayed an image of the Eiffel Tower blended into the iconic international peace symbol superimposed over the French flag.
Retired Army Sergeant Meagan Charlie, honored to represent all veterans in attendance, waved from the field, Air National Guard Lt. Colonel Tami Buettgenbach delivered the first pitch and Navy Petty Officer Steven Powell delivered the anthem. Then time came for the Saguaros and Rafters to deliver an entertaining mid-November ballgame.
They did not disappoint. Entertaining, then, at the end, extraordinary.