Arizona Winter League

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Arizona Winter League
Arizona Winter League 2012 Logo.png
Arizona Winter League logo
Sport Baseball
Founded 2007
No. of teams 10 (as of 2011)
Country USA
Ceased 2013
Last champion(s) San Luis Atleticos
Official website www.arizonawinterleague.com

The Arizona Winter League was the short-season independent winter professional baseball league affiliated with the independent North American League. Announced on November 15, 2006, and headquartered in Yuma, Arizona [1] by the Golden Baseball League, which was the predecessor to the North American League, it is an independent baseball league which consists of ten teams based out of the San Diego Padres former spring training complex in Yuma. All Winter League games are played at Desert Sun Stadium in Yuma, Arizona. The league is utilized by free agent players looking to get signed and by players currently under pro contracts that want a competitive advantage and a month's headstart on spring training. It is the oldest, largest, and most successful winter development league in getting players signed to pro contracts.

The league, along with the companion Arizona Summer League, ceased operations for good in 2013.

League format[edit]

The inaugural season consisted of a 21-game regular season, with the first and second place teams facing off in a one game playoff for the championship. All teams are based in the Yuma, Arizona area playing all games at Desert Sun Stadium and utilizing the Ray Kroc Complex which used to house the San Diego Padres and Yakult Swallows spring training operations. The league is for players out of college or university and other players who are looking for professional contracts either from independent leagues, Minor League Baseball or Major League Baseball. It is an instructional winter league that includes a number of ex-major league stars as managers and instructors including Mike Marshall, Garry Templeton, Ozzie Virgil Jr., Les Lancaster, Darrell Evans, and Cory Snyder, most of whom manage independent league teams in the North American, American Association, and Frontier Leagues or are coaches in the minor league system for big league clubs. All the managers draft and sign players to pro contracts at the end of the AWL for their leagues and teams.

At the conclusion of each Arizona Winter League, the top players are drafted and signed to professional contracts for the upcoming summer season. In the first five years, over 225 players have left the AWL with professional contracts. Many with independent teams, but several with major league teams, European professional teams, and teams in Latin America and Asia. Two pitchers from the 2007 Arizona Winter League, Scott Richmond and Sergio Romo have reached the major leagues pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants respectively in 2008.

2007: Debut season[edit]

The Arizona Winter League debuted January 19, 2007, with four charter teams: the Canada Miners, Yuma Scorpions, Snow Falcons, and Sonora Surf Dawgs, under GBL team management. These respective teams began using the logos, caps and uniforms of past GBL teams such as the San Diego Surf Dawgs (Sonora), Mesa Miners (Canada) and the Surprise Fightin' Falcons (Snow) with the lone exception of the Scorpions, whose identity is the same as their GBL brethren.[2]

The league was a surprising source of players for the GBL and major league organizations in its first season as 37 players were signed by independent pro teams and the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Red Sox also signed players out of the AWL as well.

2008 Season[edit]

AWL logo (2008-2010)

For the 2008 season, the league added two expansion teams, the Blythe Heat and Palm Springs Chill, the Sonora Surf Dawgs reverted to the previously-known San Diego Surf Dawgs and the Snow Falcons were renamed the Sonora Pilots. The Heat and Chill play their home games at respective California ballparks. In addition, the league expanded beyond its affiliation with the Golden Baseball League and had Can-Am League, Frontier League, Northern League, and American Association teams represented in the instructor ranks and eligible to draft players at the end of the AWL. Over 40 players were drafted and signed by independent, foreign professional, and major league organizations.

2009 Season: Format Change[edit]

For the 2009 season, the league expanded once again and added two more teams, the San Luis Atleticos and the Saskatchewan Silver Sox. In addition, the Sonora Pilots did not return in 2009 and were replaced by Team Canada. The 2009 AWL started a new format with two divisions: The International Division had Team Canada, Western Canada, Saskatchewan, and San Luis, while the American Division comprised Palm Springs, San Diego, Blythe (defending champions), and Yuma. The 20-game season finished up on February 27 and then had a single-elimination semi-final between the top two teams from each Division. A championship game the next night, which is the winter highlight event in Yuma each year and heavily attended, pitted the semi-final winners in a winner-take-all game. A record 47 players were drafted and signed out of the 2009 AWL.

2010 Season -- Record Player Signings and MLB Teams Take Notice[edit]

For the 2010 season, eight teams return once again to the AWL. With the Golden Baseball League's Calgary Vipers replacing the Palm Springs Chill, who were dropped. The league will now feature an American Division consisting of the Yuma Scorpions, Blythe Heat, San Luis Atleticos, and San Diego Surf Dawgs. In addition, a full Canadian Division will feature the Vipers, Team Canada, the Western Canada Miners, and the Saskatchewan Silver Sox. The El Centro Imperials were also dropped.[3]

More heavily stocked than ever with pro team instructors and managers who will be signing players, the AWL in 2010 coaches from the Golden Baseball League, the Frontier League, the American Association, the Can-Am League, the Mexican Liga Del Norte, the Northern League, the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers. Recognizable major league alumni working as instructors and player placement consultants include Mike Marshall, Garry Templeton, Cory Snyder, Tim Johnson, Boots Day, Les Lancaster, Brooks Carey, Brent Bowers, Ozzie Virgil and many more. Boston Red Sox scout Nick Belmonte and Detroit Tigers' hitting coordinator Dave Marcon will be running the spring training section of the league the first week.

On December 15 it was announced that Japanese female pitching sensation Eri Yoshida, who became the first female professional pitcher in her home country last summer, will bring her sidearm knuckleball and participate in the 2010 AWL in hopes of attracting the attention of U.S. teams. This should be a tremendous benefit for all the players as the media attention and scout attendance should increase greatly.

On February 10, 2010 the New York Mets signed San Luis Atleticos shortstop Rylan Sandoval at the Arizona Winter League and the following week, the Mexico City Red Devils of the top Mexican League signed Yuma Scorpions catcher Ivan Villaescusa. On February 27, the Calgary Vipers became the first team in history to win both the Golden Baseball League Championship and the Arizona Winter League Championship by beating San Luis, 8-1, in the championship game shortened to eight innings by rain. More impressive is that the team did this within one year.

A record number of 59 players were signed to contracts (not just invited to spring training) by 18 teams from independent, European, and Latin American professional leagues. In addition four players were signed by major league baseball organizations—Rylan Sandoval (Mets), Brandon Fowler (Padres), Jay Broughton (Red Sox), Matthew Wedge (Oxbridge) and Andrew Snowdon (Phillies). During the summer of 2010 an additional 32 2010 AWL players that weren't drafted and signed at the AWL took advantage of the post-league AWL Placement Program and were signed and played professional baseball.

The smaller AWL sister league called the Arizona Summer League had all 52 players signed and played for professional teams this season.

2011: New teams arrive and league expands to 10[edit]

AWL logo (2011)

The AWL announced on January 5, 2011, their upcoming season schedule which shows that league expanding to ten teams as the Texas Winter League was folded into the AWL, adding three new teams and bringing one back. The Sonora Pilots returned after a two-year absence while the Long Beach Armada moved from the Golden Baseball League and two new teams, the Arizona RoadRunners and Team Mexico, were added to replace the Calgary Vipers and San Luis Atleticos respectively.[4] The Yuma Scorpions captured their third AWL title since the league's inception, continuing their run as the only team to win more than one championship.

The 2011 Arizona Winter League saw 57 players signed to professional contracts in the North American League, American Association, Can-AM, Frontier, and Pecos Leagues in the U.S. In addition, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox signed players out of the league and the Dutch, Italian, Liga Del Norte, Mexican League, and Japan Challenge League all signed players as well.

However due to money problems the league has ceased operations as of 2013. They are being replaced by the American West Baseball League which has its own Winter league.

2012 Arizona Winter League teams[5][edit]

Arizona Winter League
Division Team Founded City Winter Stadium
American Arizona RoadRunners 2011 Yuma, Arizona Desert Sun Stadium
Blythe Heat 2008 Blythe, California Alexander Field
Long Beach Armada 2005 (with GBL) Long Beach, California Desert Sun Stadium (Yuma)
Somerton Stingers 2012 Somerton, Arizona Desert Sun Stadium (Yuma)
Yuma Scorpions 2005 (with GBL) Yuma, Arizona Desert Sun Stadium
Division Team Founded City Winter Stadium
International Calexico Outlaws 2012 Calexico, California Desert Sun Stadium (Yuma)
San Diego Surf Dawgs 2005 (with GBL) San Diego, California Desert Sun Stadium (Yuma)
San Luis Atleticos 2009 San Luis, Arizona Desert Sun Stadium (Yuma)
Saskatchewan Silver Sox 2009 Saskatchewan Desert Sun Stadium (Yuma)
Team Canada 2009 Canada Desert Sun Stadium (Yuma)

Defunct/Inactive Teams[edit]

League Alumni[edit]

In five seasons over 220 AWL players have been signed to professional contracts. They have been signed by every independent pro league in the U.S.; foreign leagues in Mexico, Italy, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Holland, and Denmark; and by major league organizations including the Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Phillies, Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Mets and Royals. Two AWL players have made it all the way to the major leagues, they were both from the 2007 AWL:

Draft[edit]

Pro Independent League teams that will be participating in the Arizona Winter League draft this year include:

More may be added once the season begins.

Season-by-season standings[edit]

2007[edit]

Final Standings

Winter League Team W L Win % GB
Arizona Winter League 2008 Logo.png
*Yuma Scorpions 13 8 .619 ---
*Canada Miners 13 8 .619 ---
Sonora Surf Dawgs 10 11 .476 3
Snow Falcons 6 15 .286 7

* Clinched championship game spot

Championship

Yuma Scorpions 7, Canada Miners 6

2008[edit]

Final Standings

Winter League Team W L Win % GB
Arizona Winter League 2008 Logo.png
*Palm Springs Chill 15 4 .789 ---
*Canada Miners 11 8 .579 4
*San Diego Surf Dawgs 10 9 .526 5
*Blythe Heat 8 11 .421 11
Yuma Scorpions 8 11 .421 11
Sonora Pilots 5 14 .263 14

* Clinched playoff game spot

Playoffs

Semi-Finals Finals
           
1 Palm Springs Chill 3
4 Blythe Heat 13
Canada Miners 5
Blythe Heat 10
3 Canada Miners 10
2 San Diego Surf Dawgs 6

2009[edit]

Final Standings

American Division Team W L Win % GB
Flag of the United States.svg
*Yuma Scorpions 15 5 .750 ---
*Palm Springs Chill 12 8 .600 1.5
Blythe Heat 8 12 .400 3.5
San Diego Surf Dawgs 7 13 .350 4
International Division Team W L Win % GB
World Map flat Mercator.png
*San Luis Atleticos 14 6 .700 ---
*Saskatchewan Silver Sox 10 10 .500 2
Team Canada 8 12 .400 3
Western Canada Miners 6 14 .300 4

* Clinched playoff game spot

2010[edit]

Final Standings [6]

American Division Team W L Win % GB
Flag of the United States.svg
*Yuma Scorpions 12 8 .595 ---
*San Luis Atleticos 13 9 .591 ---
San Diego Surf Dawgs 10 9 .525 1.5
Blythe Heat 10 10 .500 2
Canadian Division Team W L Win % GB
Flag of Canada.svg
*Calgary Vipers 13 9 .591 ---
*Saskatchewan Silver Sox 9 12 .429 3.5
Western Canada Miners 8 12 .400 4
Team Canada 7 13 .350 5

* Clinched playoff game spot

2011[edit]

Final Standings [7]

American Division Team W L Win % GB
Flag of the United States.svg
*Yuma Scorpions 11 6 .647 ---
*Blythe Heat 7 9 .438 3.5
Long Beach Armada 6 9 .400 4
Arizona Roadrunners 4 11 .267 6
San Diego Surf Dawgs 4 11 .267 6
International Division Team W L Win % GB
World Map flat Mercator.png
*Saskatchewan Silver Sox 11 5 .688 ---
*Team Canada 12 6 .667 ---
Western Canada Miners 10 6 .625 1
Sonora Pilots 9 8 .529 1.5
Team Mexico 6 9 .450 4.5

* Clinched playoff game spot

AWL Champions[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]