The Arizona Fall League opened its season Friday night with the annual Bowman Hitting Challenge, and one Mariner prospect made history.
The AFL, despite what headline-writers about Tim Tebow would have you believe, is less Starfleet Academy and a little more Police Academy, with a wacky side that makes itself most evident at the Bowman, where one prospect from each team competes to hit a series of targets that range from inflatable dinosaurs to interns in hamster balls. The exercise, while light-hearted, is also meant to display a prospect’s ability to spray the ball around the field. Bradley Zimmer, an AA/AAA infielder in the Indians’ system, took home the top honors.
Tyler O’Neill waited until the end of the evening to close his night with a bang. For their final swings, prospects hit a ball off a tee. If you are like me and not mathematically-minded, for a brief lesson in physics as to why a pitched ball will generally travel farther than a ball hit off a tee, check out the last comment here (tl;dr: it has to do with energy transference vs. energy being created by the batter). Last year, Tyler nudged the wall; this year, he felt confident he could get it over—390 feet to left center—a feat no one had ever accomplished off the tee.
Oh, and of course he finished it with an epic batflip, because Tyler O’Neill cares about your happiness, Mariners fan. Our new affiliate, the Modesto Nuts, had a brief chat with the Canadian about his performance:
Today, O’Neill was the only Mariner to make Baseball America’s list of Top 20 AA Prospects from the Southern League—the intro of which doesn’t even mention the league champion Jackson Generals until the last sentence. Dan Altavilla and Edwin Díaz, now both excelling in the majors, did not make the list. Ryan Yarbrough and Andrew Moore both were left off despite strong seasons in favor of players like Montgomery’s Chih-Wei Hu, who was ejected from both his last contests against the Generals for hitting players, the second ejection triggering one of the most epic managerial meltdowns ever. I love the minor leagues.
Hopefully, Tyler O’Neill and the rest of the crew can continue entertaining us over the cold, dreary fall. Things are certainly off to a good start.