The grass is freshly cut. The crack of the bat fills the crisp air. Baseball is back in Arizona!
While it may not be Spring Training and a new season on the horizon, make no mistake that baseball in Arizona is just as important as baseball in March.
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The Arizona Fall League is an important training ground, and prospects and minor leaguers play more baseball against some tough competition working on their skills for next year. So far, Hunter Renfroe of the Padres is taking major advantage of the opportunity. He already won the AFL Hitting Challenge, now he is putting that work into real games.
Thursday night he slugged a two-run home run and went 2-for-4 with a walk to lead his Surprise (AZ) team to a 7-4 victory. In his three games so far with the club, he is hitting .385 with a .429 OBP. He says the weeks of no baseball following his first full professional season helped him to relax a little more and come back strong. Several other Padres prospects also pitched in the game to help lead the club to victory. Justin Hancock and Padres #19 prospect Tayron Guerrero also pitched in the game, with Hancock starting and going 2 innings, allowing only a run. Guerrero struck out the side in the fifth and only allowed one inconsequential hit.
The AFL season goes until mid-November, and it will interesting to see just what Renfroe and other Padres’ prospects can do in that time. It is a promising start to a great season for Renfroe, who was promoted already to Double-A and made both the Single-A All-Star Game and the MLB Futures Game.