Category Archives: Sports news

Hoping for return of AA hardball in Amarillo

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I no longer live in Amarillo but I retain a deep and abiding attention and affection for my friends there and I wish them all the very best at every turn.

I wish them continued joy as they cheer for a baseball team that was supposed to defend its Texas League title this year but got sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles are still the champs. They’ll get to defend their title next year … right? Well, let us hope so.

I do not for a nano-second believe we’re about to get a vaccine that will kill the COVID-19 virus deader than a door nail. It’s still some time in the future.

However, I remain hopeful to the extreme that continued measures — such as mask wearing and social distancing — will enable activities to resume to something approaching “normal” in the new year.

Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark where the Sod Poodles play their home games, did play host to a college league this summer. Aspiring young hardballers got to play in front of government-mandated sparse crowds at the ballpark. It wasn’t exactly Class AA ball, which the Sod Poodles play, but it entertained the baseball faithful who were able to attend the games.

So, from some distance away, I want to extend a good word to my friends in Amarillo who are hoping to be able to swill a beverage or two and wolf down a hot dog at Hodgetown in 2021 while cheering for the Sod Poodles as they seek to defend their Texas League title.

Hey, I live near Frisco these days, where the Roughriders play ball in the same league as the Sod Poodles. If they play ball next year I intend fully to be in the Frisco stands cheering for the Soddies.

Get ready: no football

I believe football fans from coast to coast to coast need to steel themselves for some very bad news.

There might not be football this autumn. Two college conferences — the Lone Star and Mid-American — have “postponed” all football games until the spring. The Ivy League canceled its football season altogether.

The “power” conferences — such as the Big 12, the Pac 12, SEC, Big 10 — are set to play football. But wait! Are they really going to expose their student-athletes to the pandemic, to the coronavirus that continues to kill Americans?

I have this feeling in my gut, right along with my trick knee, that we aren’t likely to see college football this autumn. Or, perhaps, too the National Football League.

A lot of players are opting out of NFL play, citing concerns over the virus.

Am I dreading the thought of no football this fall? Yes. More so regarding intercollegiate football. I care less about the NFL than I care about NCAA football.

I care much more, though, for the well being of the student-athletes, their coaches, their family members, their friends and assorted loved ones who could be infected a potential killer that continues to ravage this nation.

Wait’ll next season

They’re done playing hardball at Hodgetown, the gleaming new baseball park in downtown Amarillo, Texas.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles were supposed to defend their Texas League title, but the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on their season. Instead, the team ownership came up with an idea that sold quite well with the Sod Poodles’ enthusiastic fan base.

They formed two teams comprising college athletes. They decided to sell about 3,000 tickets per game played in the 7,000-seat ballpark, enabling fans to “socially distance” themselves while cheering for the young men on the field.

From what I understand, the makeshift season went over well. The fans got a good dose of baseball just when their hopes were dashed that the Sod Poodles would be unable to play even part of a season.

I consider this to be an example of quick thinking on your feet. To that end, the Sod Poodles’ management earns a bouquet from this former Amarillo resident. Well done. As one of the Sod Poodles fans said on Facebook:

Thank you to the coaches and players who came to Amarillo this summer to play America’s game. You guys just simply rock!! This season, as the old saying goes, was short but sweet! I know the fans in Amarillo are already anticipating another fun filled and exciting season in 2021! Go Soddies!!

Why not just scrap the season?

A part of the Lone Star Conference decision to “postpone” certain athletic activities has me puzzled.

The LSC has decided to postpone intercollegiate football and other sports until the spring, meaning that the student-athletes can start blocking and tackling for real during, oh, baseball season.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rattled LSC officials. They aren’t comfortable letting the athletes participate in the fall when their regular sporting events occur. Who in the world can blame them?

Why not just scrap the entire season? Just call it good. Football, soccer, volleyball and basketball will be there next academic year. So, why not just tell the student-athletes they will have to wait. Perhaps there’s a way to extend their eligibility a year to enable them to play these sports even if they have completed their academic work at their schools.

The impact is going to disrupt a lot of activity in communities where these LSC’s 18 schools are located. I am saddened for those who like attending football games on Saturday afternoons and evenings.

There will be some economic impact as well on the schools that derive income from attendance at football contests.

The overarching issue is the safety of the student-athletes. Allowing them close contact with fellow competitors while the nation is fighting a deadly infectious virus exposes them to too great a risk.

Let’s just call it a season. Wait until the next academic year … and hope we have this virus contained a whole lot better than we do at this moment.

No football this fall

If you live in places like, oh, Commerce or Canyon or Kingsville or Wichita Falls in Texas, and you planned to attend a college football game on a Saturday afternoon or evening … I have some bad news.

You’ll have to wait. You might be able to attend a game in the spring. Or perhaps later in 2021.

The Lone Star Conference, with 18 colleges in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, has declared that most outdoor sports this fall have been delayed. Yep, it’s the pandemic doing its dirty work here.

The LSC has made the decision to allow football teams to practice, but just not play games for real.

In a press release issued today, the LSC said: Cross country will compete in the fall as scheduled. Additionally, golf and tennis are permitted to compete in their non-championship segments in the fall.  No other outside competition will be allowed.
 
After extensive discussion, which included a review of the requirements set by the NCAA Board of Governors earlier this week, the council made the difficult decision to postpone due to the challenges of COVID-19.

Football, soccer, volleyball and basketball, which are classified as high contact risk sports by the NCAA resocialization principles, can practice during the fall under all applicable NCAA Division II rules, but not compete until the spring.

Those “challenges,” indeed, are profound and must not be trifled with. Accordingly, I want to applaud the Lone Star Conference for putting the health of its student-athletes, its fans, the family members and friends of all those who would be exposed to potential infection at the top of their priority list.

The next season awaits, no matter when it begins.

They’re playing ball in Hodgetown!

I have to say good word or three to my friends up yonder in Amarillo.

Minor league baseball — the organized version of it affiliated with Major League Baseball — is on the shelf for this season. That dang pandemic has scuttled minor league ball in cities all across the nation.

But in Amarillo, they have cobbled together a “league” with college players suiting up to play in the city’s shiny new ballpark named Hodgetown.

Amarillo has a couple of teams: Sod Dogs and Sod Squad. The name of the city’s AA baseball team is the Sod Poodles, and are affiliated with the National League’s San Diego Padres. The Sod Poodles are on the bench this season, which denies the Sod Poodles the chance to defend the Texas League championship they won in 2019 … in their first year of existence!

Not to be denied baseball, they put together a season featuring these young men. What’s cool — and which might not be getting the attention it deserves — is that the college players are swinging wooden bats. Yep, they aren’t wielding those metal instruments when they stride to the plate to take their cuts.

The NCAA plays baseball with those metal bats, which makes that annoying tinny sound when players hit a baseball with them.

I presume they’re sitting at an appropriate “social distancing” fashion at Hodgetown. Keep it up, friends.

I’m glad and happy for you that you are enjoying some hardball at the downtown Amarillo ballpark.

COVID response turns U.S. into pariah nation

The world’s most powerful nation, the one that sees itself as “indispensable,” has become a pariah state.

How do I know this? Well, a story in the Sunday Dallas Morning News caught my attention. It says that with Major League Baseball about to start, the Toronto Blue Jays — the only MLB team headquartered in a foreign land — will not be allowed to play games at their home ballpark.

And why is that?

The Canadian government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does not want the Blue Jays players infecting anyone with the COVID-19 virus they might have acquired while playing hardball in the United States.

Roll that around for a just a moment.

The European Union has banned travel between the United States and all 27 countries that comprise the EU. The EU says travel also is banned from Russia and Brazil along with the United States because none of those nations has controlled the COVID virus sufficiently.

Now this from Canada.

Major League Baseball prides itself as being an international attraction. Indeed, many of its top players hail from places like the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Japan, Mexico and, yes, Canada. The Blue Jays are a premier MLB franchise.

And yet, the nation with the world’s greatest scientific researchers, the world’s pre-eminent medical establishments, the strongest military (by far!) in the history of the world cannot control a virus sufficiently for a neighboring country to allow its lone baseball franchise to play home games.

To think, therefore, that Donald John Trump calls his disastrous non-response to the pandemic a success. That he’s doing a fabulous job of controlling the virus. That the numbers of infection and death are the product of “fake news.”

My astute wife of nearly 49 years puts it in perspective. “I don’t care what the numbers say,” she told me. “I know that hospital workers are exhausted from the work they are doing to keep these patients alive.”

So, now we hear that a Major League Baseball team will be denied the chance to play baseball on its home field because its athletes will have traveled to the United States.

Is this how you “make America great again”?

Redskins’ name is gone

I want to make a couple of quick points about a pending announcement of a name change for Washington’s National Football League team.

First, I’ve never really gotten all that fired up about team nicknames depicting Native Americans … except for the Redskins.

Indians, Braves, Warriors, Chiefs, Black Hawks, Aztecs, Seminoles. They don’t bother me. Then again, I am of Southeast European heritage so I don’t have a particular dog in that fight, if you get my drift. About the closest name I can come up with that depicts my own heritage might be the Spartans, which is what they call teams associated with Michigan State University and San Jose State University. It doesn’t bother me in the least. OK, I digress.

The name Redskins, though, has annoyed me. I find the term to be one of those weird throwback terms you heard in 1940s Western films, when some toothless gunslinger would refer to “them redskins over yonder.” 

Then again, the Native Americans depicted in those films would mention doing battle with “pale faces,” or “white eyes” or whoever.

The name will change. As I write these words, I do not yet know what the NFL team will call itself. I’m glad Washington’s pro football franchise is moving on from that name.

As for the rest of those team nicknames, well, to be brutally candid, they don’t bother me.

Minor league baseball hits the showers

It’s official … there will be no minor league baseball in America this summer.

The dang pandemic has claimed a major casualty. I got word of the demise of minor league hardball in my morning newspaper, which reported that the myriad leagues around the country couldn’t pull it together in time to throw out first pitches.

I had hoped to attend a few games this summer in Frisco, where the Roughriders play ball. It won’t happen. What’s more, I had intended to cheer for the Amarillo Sod Poodles when they ventured to Collin County to play the Roughriders.

In fact, my heart hurts more for the Soddies’ fans than for the Roughrider fans. I mean, the Sod Poodles wanted to defend their Texas League championship, which they won in 2019 during their initial season in existence.

The Big Leagues are set to play a 60-game schedule that begins late this month. I hope they make the grade, although given current infection trends in many states I am not going to cash in my chips on it.

As for the minor league cities all across the nation that root hard for their Major League wannabes, let’s justsit tight and wait for next year to arrive.

No ‘hate crime,’ but the love should remain

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports 

Bubba Wallace quite suddenly has become NASCAR’s most visible driver. He is the only top-tier African-American driver in the racing circuit.

It was thought for a few days that someone had hung a noose in his garage at the track in Talledaga, Ala., spurring outrage among drivers, their owners, many fans and politicians. Then we hear from the FBI that the noose had been in the garage since October 2019, well before Wallace and his crew took up space in the garage stall.

He had made his mark by calling for the removal of Confederate flags at NASCAR events. NASCAR heard him and took down the flags, which themselves in the eyes of many of us are symbols of hate, oppression and treason.

No hate crime has been committed, said the FBI.

What now?

NASCAR showed its love and respect for Wallace prior to the race the other day in Talledaga. Drivers and their crews escorted Wallace’s No. 43 car to the front of the line. The race started and Wallace led several laps before finishing in 14th place.

Wallace said he won’t be silenced by any threats. This particular threat apparently has been deemed a non-starter. The outcome of the FBI probe into what they found in that garage stall doesn’t diminish the message that a single driver sought to deliver about his sport. Yes, it was born in the South. Yes, too, the Confederate flag has been a key symbol at NASCAR events. Bubba Wallace simply has told us what many of us have known all along, that the symbol represents a dark and evil chapter in our nation’s history.

The young man deserves the love that has poured forth from his colleagues and from fans around the country.