Tag Archives: AA baseball

Get ready for huge celebration at start of next baseball season

OK, so there won’t be an Amarillo-wide party for the city’s championship baseball team, the Sod Poodles.

The Sod Poodles won the Texas League Class AA championship over the Tulsa Drillers. They came from behind to win the fifth and final game of the championship series in the Sod Poodles first season in existence.

The city’s baseball fans went nuts. The city, though, chose not to stage a party.

Fine. I get it. I won’t belabor that point any longer.

Here is what ought to happen at the start of the 2020 Texas League season. The Sod Poodles need to stage a huge rally at Hodgetown at the start of the season home opener.

Present the championship trophy to the team that will take the field. Bring back as many of the players who won the championship for the Sod Poodles as you can get. Let the fans shower them with love, applause and plenty of cheers.

It remains a wide open question about the team that takes the field for the Sod Poodles next season. The San Diego Padres, the National League team affiliated with the Sod Poodles, likely will promote many of the championship-winning players to AAA baseball or, what the heck, maybe even to the Big League club.

Still, bring them back to Amarillo to soak up the love of the city’s baseball fans.

I won’t say any more about this until next season approaches.

The Elmore Group, the team owners, along with the City Council, the Convention and Visitors Council, the mayor’s office, the city manager’s office … all of ’em have time to plan a big-time blowout.

Get busy, folks.

First season winding down; looks like Sod Poodles will stick

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — We’re on the road, visiting briefly a city with a curious link to the Amarillo Sod Poodles, a AA minor-league baseball franchise that is completing its initial season.

You see, Colorado Springs used to be home to a AAA baseball franchise, but that franchise has moved to San Antonio; therefore, that meant the San Antonio Missions had to find a new place to play hardball.

They moved to Amarillo. The Texas Panhandle city had offered substantial financial and  tax inducements to bring the team there.

Then they had to build a ballpark. The city selected a site downtown, across the street from City Hall. The decision required the relocation of the Coca-Cola distribution center to a site near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

The Sod Poodles, which is the name chosen, won the Texas League’s South Division title in the season’s first half. They’re trying to wrap up the division’s second half title.

All told, I’d say the Sod Poodles have enjoyed a marvelous initial season. They’re playing before large crowds at a ballpark named Hodgetown in honor of former Mayor Jerry Hodge and his wife, Margaret; they are leading proponent of downtown revival and they lobbied hard for the Missions to move to the Panhandle. The postseason playoffs are just around the corner.

Not a bad start to a new era of baseball in Amarillo, Texas.

Sod Poodles’ winning ways become infectious lure

Let’s face it. Winning is a wonderful inducement for sports fans. It brings out those who might otherwise decide to stay home rather than go to the ballpark for an afternoon (or evening) of entertainment.

I present to you the Amarillo Sod Poodles, who entered the Texas League this year and — in some instances — have taken the league by storm. Why and how? They’re winning a good bit more of their games than they’re losing.

The Sod Poodles existed previously as the San Antonio Missions. Then the Alamo City landed a AAA minor-league franchise that played ball previously in Colorado Springs. The Missions needed a new home to play AA hardball. They looked around. Amarillo came calling. The powers that be in the Panhandle pledged to build a new ballpark. They offered the franchise some financial inducements.

Then the team decided to relocate. They needed a new name and a new brand. They came up with the Sod Poodles.

However, this wasn’t a team built from scratch. I mean, the franchise infrastructure already was in place. They had an organization backing them, the National League San Diego Padres.

The Sod Poodles won the first half South Division title this year. They’re in first place so far in the second half of the season. They’ll be in the playoffs once the regular season concludes.

They’re playing before full houses at Hodgetown. The cheers have been loud and throaty from what I understand.

It fills me with joy to know that Amarillo is turning out to support this team with shouts and cheers.

I won’t speculate how the fans would react if the Sod Poodles weren’t winning more than half of their games. I just know that winning does have a way of ginning up support.

This baseball franchise is off to a smashing start.

Sod Poodles on quite a streak

I just read something in the Amarillo Globe-News online edition that blows my mind.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles are on a 20-game sellout streak at Hodgetown, the baseball team’s shiny new ballpark in the middle of downtown Amarillo.

Twenty straight sellouts!

Wow, man!

I won’t repeat in detail what I’ve noted already, which is that some knowledgeable local baseball fans have proclaimed Amarillo to be a “baseball town” that would embrace the team once it set up shop in the Texas Panhandle.

Hodgetown’s initial “concept” was to seat about 4,500 fans, as I recall the discussion at the time. They ended up building a ballpark that seats nearly 7,000 … and the Sod Poodles are filling up those seats each game night.

I also understand that the term “sellout crowd” doesn’t necessarily mean that every seat in the venue has a posterior parked in it. Still, the idea that this first-year AA minor league baseball team is selling all the seats over an extended period of time is, well, quite the accomplishment.

Nice going.

Affiliated baseball has its highs and a few lows

This comes as no great flash for baseball fans, but communities that play host to minor-league baseball franchises face the reality of losing their biggest stars when they perform well on the field of play.

My friends in Amarillo, Texas, are learning that fact of baseball life as they follow the fortunes of the Sod Poodles, the AA team affiliated with the National League San Diego Padres.

The Padres recently called up two players to the Big Leagues. Why? Because the players earned their spots on the Padres roster.

The Sod Poodles currently are leading the South Division of the Texas League; they captured the first-half title. So the team is having a pretty stellar maiden season in the Texas League. They used to be known as the San Antonio Missions, but the Alamo City was rewarded with a AAA franchise that relocated from Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Sod Poodles will keep playing hardball at Hodgetown and at venues around the league. They will be without Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez, who got the call to suit up with the parent club.

This is what happens. The players who play a major part in a team’s success are so good at what they do that the team at the top of the heap wants to reap the reward, too.

The better Major League Baseball franchise management teams, though, know to replenish the “farm team” roster with players who can help the minor-league outfit keep winning, and winning does produce bigger crowds, which produce more revenue, which enables the team to afford to pay the better players, who keep the winning tradition alive.

Do you get my drift?

It wasn’t that way when Amarillo was home to “independent” baseball teams that played in that rathole/dump at the Tri-State Fairgrounds. It’s a new era for minor-league baseball in Amarillo. The fans are reaping a nice reward with a winning baseball team.

However, when the “parent club” calls the names of the players responsible for the winning, well … you know how it goes.

Get used to it, Sod Poodles fans.

Sod Poodles become the Soddies?

You perhaps recall that when the minor-league baseball franchise announced it was moving to Amarillo that it would leave the team-naming task to the fans.

The team released a list of five finalist names. Sod Poodles was one of the five names. My first reaction? I hated it! I mean, really hated the name.

Then I started thinking about it. I read something from the team owners — the Elmore Group — about what it intended to accomplish with whatever name it chose. They wanted the name to become a sort of brand for the team. They wanted fans in Amarillo and around the Texas League to talk about the name, whichever one they chose.

Then they announced the name: It would be the Sod Poodles. By the time the name announcement came, I had reversed my initial hatred of the name. It became my favorite among the finalist names.

It turns out the city has embraced the name, too. The Sod Poodles now have a nickname — if you want to call it that. They’re referred on occasion as the Soddies.

Sod Poodle is supposed to be some sort of old-time name identifying prairie dogs, the ubiquitous rodents that populate colonies throughout the High Plains region of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico — and all over God’s creation.

I lived in Amarillo for 23 years. It’s not as long as many residents have lived there. I never heard the term Sod Poodles used while mentioning the little critters. A lot of long-time residents said the same thing, that they’d never heard of the term, let alone used it.

However, the name of the AA baseball team has stuck. The team is pulling in big crowds to Hodgetown, the brand new ballpark they erected in the city’s downtown district.

It gladdens my heart to know that legitimate minor-league baseball is back in Amarillo.

Sod Poodles off to a sold-out start!

I am acutely aware that a single sold-out event does not constitute a successful season, let alone a successful sports/entertainment/business venture.

However, it tickles me giggly to read that the Amarillo Sod Poodles opening night at home has sold out. Yep. Hodgetown, the AA minor-league baseball team’s home field in downtown Amarillo has zero seats left for the April 8 date.

I believe that the sellout could bode well for the interest shown by the community for the Sod Poodles, the team affiliated with the National League’s San Diego Padres.

The Sod Poodles have relocated to the Texas Panhandle from San Antonio, where they played as the Missions in South Texas. They’ve moved out to make room in the Alamo City for a AAA franchise that is relocating there from Colorado Springs.

Hodgetown seats a little more than 7,000 spectators. All that’s left is standing room-only viewing. A ticket gets you into the ballpark; then you’ve got to find a place to stand and watch the Sod Poodles.

I remain a staunch supporter of this effort. To be candid, I had my doubts not too long ago that the city would bring this project to fruition. It did. My concern was misplaced. I am delighted to hear about this latest bit of positive news from my distant perch in Collin County.

The future remains to be determined. If this event — the selling out of the ballpark for opening night — can be relegated to the “most recent past,” then let us hope it serves as a prologue for a bright future for the Sod Poodles and for the city that has invested in this worthwhile project.

MPEV sprouts like a weed in downtown Amarillo

Holy cow! We haven’t been gone all that long  from Amarillo. We’re coming back for a quick visit and we’re going to see the change taking place at a rapid pace in the city’s downtown district.

A friend sent me this picture. It is of the multipurpose event venue — the “ballpark,” if you will — that’s under construction across the street from City Hall.

I am beginning to believe that, by golly, they’re going to be ready for the first pitch to be tossed in April 2019.

The ballpark will be home to an as-yet unnamed AA minor-league baseball team that’s affiliated officially with the San Diego Padres of the National League. I’m still pulling for Sod Poodles to be the new team’s name. So help me I don’t know why, but I have changed my initial opinion of that name that showed up on a list of finalists under consideration.

The ballpark continues to be very big deal for the city. It will cost an estimated $44 million. It will seat about 5,000 baseball fans. My hope — perhaps it’s even my hunch — is that the ballpark will be full of fans when someone throws the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day of the Texas League season in Amarillo.

I look forward to casting a gaze up close when we venture to Amarillo in a few days. We’ll be back just a few weeks later to attend a concert at the Civic Center.

I won’t be surprised to see that the ballpark/MPEV has sprouted even more dramatically as the city marches its downtown district to a bright future.

I hate wishing for a drought to continue in the Panhandle of Texas, but another dry winter — such as what the Panhandle experienced this past winter — will enable the contractor to finish the job on time.

Amarillo’s MPEV superstructure taking shape

I am going to send good vibes from the Metroplex back to Amarillo.

An Instagram picture posted by a friend of mine shows that the multipurpose event venue under construction in downtown Amarillo is taking shape, literally.

The digging and excavation must be essentially complete. They’re beginning now to erect the superstructure of this community-changing venue.

To which I say: woo hoo!!

When it’s done the city is going to have a 4,500-seat ballpark downtown. They’re going to play AA hardball beginning in April 2019. The San Antonio Missions are relocating to Amarillo. The name of the new team has yet to be announced. I’m still pulling for Sod Poodles, but that’s another story for another time.

Today, I want to express yet again my pride in Amarillo for the bold measures it has taken to reshape the personality and the character of its downtown district.

The MPEV is going to be the major player, the star of this extreme makeover.

I recently drove into downtown Amarillo to purchase some tickets at the Civic Center box office. I zipped past the parking garage and noticed that the retail venues are still vacant. I keep reading that tenants will start pouring into the storefronts when the MPEV gets much closer to completion. Let’s hope it happens.

Meantime, MPEV construction continues.

Gotta hurry, gang. April is just around the corner.

Texas AirHogs speak Chinese?

I saw a story in the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News and chuckled quietly as I pondered how I might respond to it.

You can read the story here.

It’s about an independent baseball team that plays its home games in Grand Prairie, near Dallas. They call themselves the Texas AirHogs. But here’s where the chuckle comes in: Its roster is populated by Chinese athletes who are getting some playing time while preparing for the Asian Games in 2020.

There’s more. This team used to play some of its home games in Amarillo. The team once was based exclusively in the Panhandle, then it decided to split its “home” schedule between Amarillo and Grand Prairie.

Over time, the team decided to move exclusively to Grand Prairie, where it now is a training ground unit for the Chinese national baseball team.

My head is spinning over this one.

And it damn sure makes me glad that Amarillo is on the verge of welcoming a AA major-league-affiliated minor-league team that next spring begins playing hardball at the downtown Amarillo ballpark that is now under construction.

There won’t be this kind of Mickey Mouse baseball going on with a team associated with a bona fide Major League outfit. They will play baseball in a shiny new park, ushering in a new era for the city’s profound image makeover.

Good luck, Grand Prairie. Amarillo’s fortunes have taken a significant turn for the better.