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Monday 18th Dec 2017

As another regular season of my baseball columns here at Mastersball nears its end, it seems the ideal time to look ahead to this fall and share an open invitation to a special conference held each year, First Pitch Arizona.

From November 2-5, the 2017 FPA event will run in Phoenix, Arizona. Founded by Ron Shandler and expertly run by the BaseballHQ team headed by Ray Murphy and Brent Hershey, FPA offers a mix of baseball forums with a fantasy focus in a classroom setting along with the opportunity to watch a number of Arizona Fall League games in the glorious desert outdoors.

Speakers include many prominent names in the fantasy baseball industry as well as selected outside baseball experts. Pretty much all the name-brand analysts you have followed for years participate as well as several professional scouts. The fare includes insight on which future stars to watch in AFL games as well as helping you get a head start on fantasy baseball preparation for 2018. There are main tent sessions as well as smaller group meetings enabling in-depth interaction, discussion and analysis.

Unlike many other events, in which speakers show up for their allotted time and leave, the vast majority of First Pitch speakers attend the entire three days and are available for questions and talk at breakfast, lunch, breaks and even during the games!

One annual special benefit is that the First Pitch schedule is aligned with the AFL’s Fall Stars Game, held this year on Saturday, November 4. This event, televised nationally on MLB Network, enables us to get up close with all the top prospects in the AFL in one contest.

First Pitch’s early bird fee is $399 (available through September 15 only), which includes the conference and AFL game admission. The enrollment does not include your hotel room, but special rates are offered. Next spring, attendees will also receive free copies of the 2018 Baseball Forecaster and Minor League Analyst, a $59 value.

During FPA, we hold the annual draft of the Xperts Fantasy League, or XFL. Not only does the 15-team keeper format league have the earliest industry draft each year, it is the manliest of settings. We conduct our fast-paced auction draft in front of a live and satellite radio audience completely without materials, other than standard 40-man rosters. That is a wonderful challenge, one that I have yet to master.

There is no doubt about my highlight of the Arizona trip - the AFL itself and the discussions with friends, old and new, that occur during the games themselves. Please join us this year at First Pitch Arizona. You will be glad you did.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

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