SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Elvis Andrus wasn't even supposed to be playing regularly in the Arizona Fall League in 2007.
The Rangers, having acquired him a few months before in a July trade with the Braves, wanted him in instructional league. After all, Andrus had just turned 19 and had not played above Class A. The Arizona Fall League was for top Double-A and Triple-A players.
"I played because Joaquin Arias got hurt," Andrus said. "They needed another infielder."
It was also convenient. The Rangers' Spring Training home was the home of the Surprise Rafters in the 2007 AFL, so it was easy for Andrus to jump from one field to another. He was supposed to be the backup infielder behind Sean Rodriguez and German Duran.
But then Andrus started showing why he was a future All-Star, and the AFL remains a cherished memory for him and was a significant step in his development toward being the Rangers' starting shortstop by 2009.
"It was a great experience," Andrus said. "The Fall League is something that makes you feel you are really close to the big leagues. It was just like being in the big leagues. It was a great experience, it taught me a lot."
Despite being the youngest player in the league, Andrus hit .353 with a .411 on-base percentage and a .471 slugging percentage. He only played in 15 games because of his late start, but he still scored 10 runs and stole five bases.
"I didn't play much at the beginning, but then I got hot at the plate and started playing every day at the end," Andrus said. "Not to sound cocky, but every time they gave me a chance to play, I was getting two or three hits. It was a pretty magical time for me."
The Rafters, managed by former Cubs catcher Damon Berryhill, ended up in the championship game against Scottsdale. They lost, but Andrus had a big game.
"I had a couple of doubles and made a great catch," Andrus said. "It was a special day for me. We had a good team. We had Chris Davis and John Mayberry, but Scottsdale had an amazing team with guys like Andrew McCutchen and Nyjer Morgan.
"I really enjoyed playing in the Arizona Fall League," Andrus said. "It definitely is a great experience for young players. It's almost like you are in the big leagues. It was really fun and really cool."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.