It’s been a running joke for over 25 years, though completely true.
The year was 1994. Rick Wilton, of Fantasy Baseball Journal (FBJ), organized a fantasy baseball conference in Phoenix, in tandem with the Arizona Fall League. Back then, the instructional league was a shadow of what it would become, but the big draw that year was a chance to see basketball superstar Michael Jordan try his hand at baseball.
Rick assembled some of the top names in the growing fantasy baseball industry to serve as speakers. USA Today Baseball Weekly’s John Hunt was there. I was there. But as luck would have it, MLB players went out on strike two months before the conference date, taking the wind out of the event. Undeterred, Rick persevered.
So… the first AFL conference had 13 speakers… and eight attendees. To add insult to injury, Jordan was a no-show, opting to attend a banquet in Chicago on the date that we were supposed to see him.
Six months later, FBJ became a victim of the strike, and I decided that the Arizona conference was too good of a concept to let die. I brought it back in 1996, rebranded it as First Pitch Arizona, and watched it grow into an industry-wide networking conference. In 2009, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association named it the Best Live Fantasy Event as its annual awards ceremony.
FPAZ now draws nearly 200 attendees, upwards of 50 speakers and has sprouted local forums as well as the new First Pitch Florida.