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Arizona Fall League a sweet setting for prospects

Players benefit from extra time on field performing in front of coaches and scouts @BerniePleskoff

Other than the first day of the Major League season, for this scout, Opening Day of the Arizona Fall League season is a most favored time of the baseball calendar.

The Fall League season is a time when the 30 Major League clubs work in harmony to help some of their best prospects fine-tune their skills. For many players, it is the last stop on their journeys to the big leagues.

Veteran baseball executive Roland Hemond has proven to be a visionary in many aspects of professional baseball. He is the architect, construction foreman and resident historian of the Arizona Fall League.

It was Hemond's foresight and creativity that sparked the concept of teams working together to get good looks at valued prospects in the beautiful climate Arizona provides in the fall.

In 1992, baseball executives Mike Port, Tim Purpura and Joan McGrath, along with others, helped Hemond make his vision a reality. They were able to weave bits and pieces from each Major League club into a tapestry of cooperation, a caring environment and a tools refinery for some of the game's best prospects.

Today, as they did then, each organization sends seven players to the league. Six composite Fall League teams are created, with each team comprised of players from five organizations.

Games are played Monday through Saturday, this year spanning from Opening Day on Tuesday, Oct. 8, through the Championship Game on Saturday, Nov. 16 at Scottsdale Stadium this year. A Fall Stars Game is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 2 at Surprise Stadium.

With few exceptions, game times are 12:35 p.m. and 6:35 p.m. MST.

Games are played at Camelback Ranch-Glendale, Surprise Stadium, Mesa Hohokam Stadium, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and Scottsdale Stadium.

Of the 3,700 players who have participated in the Arizona Fall League through the years, more than 2,300 -- about 60 percent -- have reached the Major Leagues. Of those, 198 All-Stars, 11 Most Valuable Players and three Cy Young Award winners have played in the league.

The AFL also provides development opportunities for umpires and administrators.

Without question, the Arizona Fall League is a tremendous "extra season" bonus for baseball fans.

Beautiful fall weather, the sounds of the bats and the baseballs hitting the catchers' gloves, along with the opportunity to see future stars of the game, are all available in relaxed and peaceful settings.

Single-game tickets are available for $7 ($6 for seniors over 55 and youngsters 17 and under). Tickets are available at every venue the day of the game.

Here are the team and venue assignments for 2013:

Mesa Solar Sox: Angels, Athletics, Cubs, Nationals, Tigers
Salt River Rafters: Blue Jays, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rays, Rockies
Scottsdale Scorpions: Braves, Giants, Mets, Pirates, Yankees

Glendale Desert Dogs: Dodgers, Marlins, Reds, Twins, White Sox
Peoria Javelinas*: Astros, Mariners, Padres, Phillies, Royals
Surprise Saguaros: Brewers, Indians, Orioles, Rangers, Red Sox

* Home games will be played at Surprise Stadium.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff; on Twitter.