Arizona League logo
|No. of teams||18|
|Arizona League Cubs (2017)|
|Most titles||Arizona League Athletics (6)|
|Official website||Official Website|
The Arizona League is a rookie-level Minor League Baseball league that operates in and around Phoenix, Arizona, United States, run by Major League Baseball since 1988. Along with the Gulf Coast League, it forms the lowest rung of the North American minor league system. Games are not marketed to the general public, and spectators may attend for free.
Games are played at the spring training complexes of the teams' parent organizations from mid-June until the end of August. Every Cactus League team fields an Arizona League team with the exception of the Colorado Rockies. Night games are commonly played in the spring training stadium, though games may be played at the team's practice fields.
The regular season is 56 games, with a 35-player roster limit. Players must not have more than three years of previous minor league experience to be eligible to play. Major league players on rehabilitation assignments have also appeared in the league.
Teams primarily consist of players signed from countries such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela along with recently drafted high school and college players primarily from the United States and Puerto Rico, and are owned by their parent clubs. Most of the players have just been selected in that year's entry draft, two to three weeks before the league begins its season. The league is also where major league players often go for their first rehab assignments. No official attendance records are kept as there is no paid admittance fee, and no concessions are sold.
The league began play in 1988 on an experimental basis with four teams playing a 60-game schedule. Games were scheduled in the morning in order to make sure the league did not compete with the Phoenix Firebirds AAA-level team.
The Phoenix Diamondbacks debuted in 1996, the first affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks to start playing professional baseball, two years before their parent club joined the major leagues. A crowd of 6,124 attended the Diamondbacks' first game on June 25, 1996, a 15-7 loss to the Phoenix Athletics. A number of local dignitaries were at the game, including Buck Showalter and Jerry Colangelo.
The Colorado Rockies started their rookie league team a year before starting major league play as well in 1992, sharing a team with the Cubs. The team, composed of the Rockies' first-ever draft picks, received a different level of notoriety than the Diamondbacks for their first rookie league game: as the players wore either Rockies jerseys or Cubs jerseys, the team did not have their uniform pants ready at the start of the season, and had to borrow pants from the Cubs.
Between 1998 and 2000 an unaffiliated team composed of young players from the Mexican League played out of the Tucson Electric Park spring training complex, in part to add a fourth team to a southern division. Three Tucson-based teams (the Mexican All-Stars, the Diamondbacks, and the Rockies) would leave the league after the 2000 season, largely due to travel concerns, followed by the White Sox two years later. All three teams have since relocated their spring training complexes to the Phoenix metropolitan area and the Diamondbacks and White Sox have reinstated their rookie league team.
Prior to 1998, the league champion was the team with best record over the course of the season. Since 1998 the season has been split into two half-seasons. From 1998 to 2008, the teams with the best records in each half faced off to decide the league champion. If the same team won both halves, they were automatically crowned champions (only one team accomplished this, the 2005 Arizona League Giants).
In 2009, the league split into two divisions, an alignment that was used through the 2012 season. The two teams in each division with the best record in each half-season played off for the division championship, and the winners advanced to the final. If the same team won their division in both halves, they advanced directly to the final.
The league's current playoff format has been used since the league realigned into three divisions in 2013. The six teams who win their division in the first and second half of the season qualify for the playoffs. If a team wins both halves, the next best team in that division by overall record qualifies for the playoffs. The top two teams by overall record receive a bye to the semifinals. All playoff games are single elimination, with the exception of a best-of-3 final.
Arizona League teams are not referred to by their home city, but instead are assigned a generic prefix by minor league baseball. Historical league directories, team dictionaries, and newspaper articles show city names have been used previously instead of a prefix.
- Arizona League Cardinals (1989–1994; became Gulf Coast League Cardinals and moved to Gulf Coast League, 1995–present)
- Arizona League Mariners/Red Sox (1988; split into two teams: Arizona League Mariners, 1989–present, and Gulf Coast League Red Sox in the Gulf Coast League, 1989–present)
- Tucson Mexican All-Stars (1998–2000)
- Arizona League Rockies (1993–2000)
- Arizona League Rockies/Cubs (1992; split into two teams: Arizona League Rockies, 1993–2000, and Gulf Coast League Cubs of the Gulf Coast League, 1993–1996)
- Arizona League Royals 1 and Arizona League Royals 2 (2003; Arizona League Royals operated as two teams for one season, then as one team from 2004–present)
Finals opponent in parentheses, if applicable.
- 1988: AZL Brewers
- 1989: AZL Brewers
- 1990: AZL Brewers
- 1991: AZL Athletics
- 1992: AZL Athletics
- 1993: AZL Athletics
- 1994: AZL Cardinals
- 1995: AZL Athletics
- 1996: AZL Padres
- 1997: AZL Cubs
- 1998: AZL Rockies
- 1999: AZL Athletics (def. AZL Mexico)
- 2000: AZL Mariners (def. AZL Rockies)
- 2001: AZL Athletics (def. AZL Mariners)
- 2002: AZL Cubs (def. AZL Giants)
- 2003: AZL Royals 1 (def. AZL Rangers)
- 2004: AZL Giants (def. AZL Athletics)
- 2005: AZL Giants (won both halves)
- 2006: AZL Padres (def. AZL Angels)
- 2007: AZL Mariners (def. AZL Angels)
- 2008: AZL Giants (def. AZL Angels)
- 2009: AZL Mariners (def. AZL Giants)
- 2010: AZL Brewers (def. AZL Reds)
- 2011: AZL Dodgers (def. AZL Giants)
- 2012: AZL Rangers (def. AZL Athletics)
- 2013: AZL Giants (def. AZL Dodgers)
- 2014: AZL Indians (def. AZL Giants)
- 2015: AZL White Sox (def. AZL Mariners)
- 2016: AZL Mariners (def. AZL Angels)
- 2017: AZL Cubs (def. AZL Giants)
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- Sherman, Len. Big League, Big Time. p. 125-132.
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