By Josh (9 Inning Know It All):
In part one of my Arizona Fall League (AFL) mock trip I outlined what days and even what games I would attend. That for me, to be honest with you, is the easy part of planning a trip like this. The real challenge is trying to figure out what all I need to bring with me. This is where months of planning and research are essential in having a successful trip.
Now let me clarify one thing for people who maybe haven’t read my previous blog posts. I am an autograph seeker. I love not only meeting players but also being able to prove it by showing off the autographs I get with other baseball fans and autograph seekers.
The first part of research that needs to be done is figuring out who is going to be there. I know the casual fan shakes there head and says “Duh, just go look at the team rosters.” Thank you for that useful piece of information. That part, anyone can figure out, and although it is the players on the teams that I will spend most of my money to acquire cards, the real research is figuring out what former major league players will be there.
The first thing I look at is the coaching staffs. This season Matt Williams is coaching one of the teams and in previous seasons former major leaguers like Don Mattingly have coached teams. Finding out what coaches will be there is pretty easy so that isn’t the challenge.
The real challenge is researching each team to see who their scouts are, who their roving instructors are and even what front office personnel they have that might be there. The easiest way to do this type of research is to invest a little bit of money into Baseball America’s 2012 Directory. Get it early on in the year so that you have plenty of time to go through old cards to find specific people.
I also recommend bringing a card or two of former great players from each team just in case you happen to see them.
Having talked with a few people who have made it down for the Arizona Fall League in previous years, I am amazed at times about the people they have seen there just watching a game. Seeing people like Tommy Lasorda there to talk with the future Dodger’s, or seeing the great Willie Mays sitting in the stands are occurrences that are not unheard of. I’ve even heard stories of football players who have the day off coming over to catch a game.
Now I know that you can’t predict everyone that is going to be there so that is where the planning ahead of time comes so that you have back up items just in case.
Baseball cards are the obvious thing to bring to the AFL. If a player is in the AFL odds are they have at least one professional card and for some guys they may have a dozen or so. I recommend trying to get at least 2 to 4 cards of every player on the AFL rosters. Topps has been releasing there Minor League Heritage sets in mid September which is more than enough time to order packs or individual cards. I love these cards because they are the old school card board cards that are so much better than the glossy cards for autographs.
Balls and bats can be great to display but they take up a lot of space. Unless you’re driving to Arizona I would recommend only taking a few balls and no bats. The balls I would save in case you come across any significant individuals that you don’t have anything with you for them to sign. Had I gone down last year I would have brought maybe 8 balls. Two of those balls would have been used to try and get Bryce Harper and Mike Trout but the other 6 I would of saved incase a random Hall Of Famer was there catching a game.
Baseball Americas can be a great thing to bring with you because they can lie flat in a suitcase and if you bring the top prospects issues from the past year or two there is a good chance that quite a few of the guys in those issues would be playing in the AFL.
The items I’ve been getting autographs on a lot lately and been enjoying them more is photographs that I’ve taken and then had printed off at Wal-Mart or anywhere else’s one hour photo. With my mock schedule having me seeing all 6 teams in the first 3 games I would have time to run to Wal-Mart get 8×10’s and/or 4×6’s of all of the players that I wanted. I know not everyone is a photographer but if you are and you can’t find cards of specific players this might be a great alternative. Plus if you get the chance to take a picture with some different players they are often more willing to sign items like that, and even personalize it.
The main thing for a trip to the AFL is to have fun. If you are an autograph seeker, a diehard fan of a specific team, or just a baseball fan in general, the AFL is a place to just enjoy baseball and some nice Arizona fall weather.