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Arizona Fall League - Peoria at Salt River and Surprise

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Peoria at Salt River - 10-26-12

After Thursday's game at one of the older stadiums in the Arizona circuit, Friday's game took me to the newest, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Built on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale, Arizona, it's a state of the art facility that opened in the spring of 2011. The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies share the facility for spring training with the Rockies entrance in right field and the Diamondbacks in left. The Twins would do well to mirror some of the features here with the Hammond remodel, especially the outfield lawn viewing. If you're ever in Arizona for spring training, I'd recommend having it on your agenda. The practice and training areas seem to be designed with fans (or scouts) in mind as there are several observation areas.

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The only Minnesota Twin in the line-up on Friday was Evan Bigley playing left field batting seventh. I'd seen a few stories on how he'd been performing and seen that his stats weren't stellar, so I wasn't expecting too much, but he had a good day. He went 2-3 with a walk with one of the hits an RBI double.

Peoria rallied late but fell short. Final: Rafters 8, Peoria 7.

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Peoria at Surprise 10-27-12

Saturday's game was in the far northwestern part of the valley at Surprise Stadium. Surprise is also a newer facility. Open since 2003, it houses spring training for the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals. The architecture reminded me more of the facilities in Florida than the usual desert designs. They have an outfield lawn area along with nice wide concourses. It's also the first minor or spring training facility I recall being in where the upper level roof/canopy didn't appear to be metal. Foul balls to the roof were not accompanied by the usual metal clang. No auto-glass sponsor needed.

There were two Twins players in the starting line-up, Nate Roberts in left field leading off and Evan Bigley in center field batting seventh. Caleb Thielbar would also pitch in relief. While I was happy to see Evan in the line-up again, it meant Billy Hamilton was out, so my dream of seeing him steal a base was over for this trip. Guess I'll have to wait for him to make it to the majors.

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Nate Roberts (and his stellar mustache) continued with his best Joe Mauer impression with a 2-4 day to bring his AFL average to .522 (two singles). I'm not sure how his arm is supposed to rate but on the defensive side of things, he had a strong throw to the plate for a close play. Unfortunately the runner was safe, but it was closer than I thought it would be initially.

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Evan Bigley was 0-2 on the day with a walk and strikeout. The bottom five hitters in the Peoria line-up went hit-less on the day, so the Surprise pitchers must have eaten their Wheaties Saturday morning.

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Former St Paul Saint, Caleb Thielbar, replaced the Peoria starter with two outs in the 3rd inning. After a fly out to end the third he pitched a scoreless 4th inning with a fly out, two singles, then a line out double play. In 6.2 AFL innings he has a 10.80 ERA, so it was nice to see him get the double play to keep the inning scoreless.

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My uncle deflected a foul ball hit by Didi Gregorius which then landed under our seats. After the game, Michael Tonkin, Caleb, Evan and Nate were kind enough to sign it. I wish I could have stayed one day longer since I'm missing Kyle Gibson by a day, but I enjoyed seeing the rest of the Twins players while I've been here. The crowds are non-existent at these games so if you like watching prospects, head to the AFL.

Today's final was Surprise 4, Peoria 1

Full picture sets are available on Flickr - Salt River and Surprise

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