AWL expanding into San Luis
Already with Major League Baseball players among its alumni, the Arizona Winter League is expanding its scope for the upcoming season, commissioner Kevin Outcalt announced Thursday.
The league - an offshoot of the Golden Baseball League - will feature eight teams in two divisions and play games in four sites: Yuma, Blythe, Palm Springs and new addition Joe Orduno Field in San Luis, Ariz.
"The new season is shaping up well," Outcalt said. "We are closed out at most positions. We have more players than we know what to do with."
The two division for 2008 will be the American Division (Yuma, Blythe, Palm Springs and San Diego) and the International Division (San Luis, Canada Miners, Team Canada and Saskatchewan).
"Two years ago, we announced this Nov. 15 and had four teams," said Yuma Scorpions manager and president Mike Marshall said. "It was kind of 'Who knows how this thing is going to work out?' Less than two years later, (we have) eight teams and half the players or more were signed to professional contracts."
After the 20-game regular season, the top two teams in each division will meet in the playoffs, with the winners advancing to a championship game likely at Desert Sun Stadium, Outcalt said.
Games will be played throughout the week at Desert Sun Stadium, with the other sites getting games on the weekends.
The season begins Friday, Jan. 30 - including games in San Luis that weekend, Outcalt said, but not Yuma. The first games at Desert Sun will be Tuesday, Feb. 3rd. Marshall said that San Luis will host about the same amount of games as Desert Sun.
Outcalt said the talent level should surpass what the AWL has featured in the past - which includes two current big leaguer pitchers that played in 2007 (when the league had just four teams.) Sergio Romo, also an Arizona Western grad, played with the Giants this season, while Scott Richmond - the AWL pitcher of the year in 2007 - got a late call-up from the Blue Jays.
Outcalt also said most of the managers will again be former big leaguers, including Marshall. Marshall said, however, that he had discussions about wether or not he will manage the Scorpions when the GBL starts up this summer to focus more on his general manager and president duties - although he said no descision has been made.
"Wether it was coincidence or not, when I didn't go on the road during August we seemed to have things a little better organized and we drew better," Marshall said. "It might serve us better for me to coach at home and be around the baseball side of it, but when the team goes on the road, just step aside a little bit and focus more on concession and sponsorship and promos and the team - more office duties. That's a possibility."
The Scorpions won the inaugural AWL crown, while the Blythe Heat after an 8-11 regular-season record, won the 2008 crown.
The last change Outcalt mentioned was a new concession company that will cut food prices at the game in half.
"Everyone will enjoy that," Outcalt said.