PHOENIX — The 2012 edition of the Arizona Fall League wound up recently with the championship game between the Salt River Rafters and the Peoria Javelinas played at Scottsdale Stadium.
As it turned out, there was not a great deal for us Bay Area baseball fans to be interested in. The Rafters team is made up of Double-A and Triple-A players from the Diamondbacks, the White Sox, the Rockies, the Blue Jays and the Nationals.
The Javelinas come from the Reds, the Twins, the Phillies, the Padres and the Mariners.
Giant minor leaguers are a part of the Scottsdale Scorpions along with players from the Indians, the Angels, the Yankees and the Pirates.
Athletic hopefuls play their home games in Phoenix as part of the Desert Dogs along with players from the Braves, the Marlins, the Brewers and the Rays.
None of the Bay Area players figured in the finish of this year’s 32-game season.
It just might be that the Athletics and the Giants organizations used up their miracles in the extraordinary postseason performances of their big teams.
If you’ve checked in with me before in the fall, you know that the Arizona Fall League is what Major League Baseball likes to call its “graduate school for top prospects.”
Seven excellent minor league players from each major league organization are combined into six teams that play in October and November in six spring training parks here in the Valley of the Sun.
Playing in Arizona in the fall is not a guarantee that young players on their way up are going to make it to the top.
However, half the players on major league rosters at the beginning of the season last spring had played at one time or another in the AFL.
Consequently, to be picked by your bosses to spend October and November in Phoenix makes for a really hopeful winter while you’re pumping iron and getting ready for spring training.
For most players, 32 AFL games is a one-time experience. There are a few, however, who somehow manage multiple appearances in this showcase for minor leaguers.
Oakland’s Grant Green is a case in point. I picked up my press credentials and 2012 Information Guide and immediately flipped to the Desert Dogs roster to see who I’d be watching this fall.
The first and only name I recognized was my old friend (not really, but you’ll see what I mean) — Grant Green.
Good Heavens! It’s his third trip. I interviewed him in 2010 when he was a really hot prospect, having just finished an excellent year in Stockton where he hit .318 in 131 games.
I interviewed him again in 2011 after 127 games with the A’s affiliate in Midland, Texas. At that time he told me he was back in Arizona to sharpen his outfield skills (he had been an infielder the year before).
And now here he was again, back with the Dogs for a very unusual third time.
We met in the dugout before an afternoon game between the Desert Dogs and the Scorpions.
“Mr. Green,” I said as he approached. “Mr. Miller,” he replied, extending his hand.
“Good to see you again.”
“What are you doing in Arizona?” I asked as we shook hands and sat down on the bench.
“Learning how to play second base again,” he said with a chuckle.
Turns out Grant had started the year in Sacramento playing in the outfield. Was moved to the infield for a while and then back to the outfield when the A’s sent Jemile Weeks down late in the season.
By the time the A’s finished their turn in the postseason, all sorts of personnel things began to happen, leaving the infield with a number of question marks.
When I ask Grant about this, he got very serious.
“I’m hoping that this spring, it will be a dog fight between me and Weeks and (Scott) Sizemore. Hopefully, it will be the best man for the job and they won’t already have their minds made up.”
It sounded as if a great deal was going to be riding on spring training for Grant.
I asked if that was going to make things harder than usual.
“It will be different,” he explained. “This will be the first spring training I have a chance of making the pros. In other years it has been more a matter of understanding what was going on. Of picking the minds of the big leaguers and learning as much as I could.
“I’m hoping to get a call sometime next year. If I don’t make it out of camp, then I’ll probably go back to Sacramento for a little more experience and hopefully get a call sometime during the year.”
I asked what his plans were for the winter.
He told me that he was headed for Anaheim to be the best man in his brother’s wedding. After that he planned to stay at home (in Anaheim), work out and get himself mentally and physically ready for spring training.
Grant is currently 25 years old. He had great careers in high school and college (USC) and three good years at three minor league levels.
Obviously, everything is pointing to “the Show,” as he called it, for professional year No. 4. Of course there are a great many other 25-year-olds in Arizona this fall with the same things on their minds.
I wished him well, told him I’d see him in March and hoped he’d be playing by the Bay before next year is out.
Happy footnote to my meeting with Grant: In the last few days the Athletics announced that they had added Grant to their 40-man roster.
That’s a foot in the door — a great big foot in the door. It means that if he doesn’t start the year in Oakland, he is on the list from which the A’s can pull players from immediately — as in, get a call in the morning and be in an Athletic uniform that afternoon.
That should make for an especially good winter for this three-time AFLer.