Tag Archives: Amarillo Sod Poodles

Will there be a fan-less baseball season? Well … probably

At the risk of being called a Dickey Downer, or a Negative Ned, I need to suggest what is looking patently obvious to this baseball fan.

If the Major Leagues suit up for the 2020 season while we are fighting a deadly worldwide viral pandemic, the athletes will play in front of themselves and each other. No fans in the stands. No cheering from behind the dugout. No curtain calls after dramatic home runs.

MLB is considering an 82-game schedule to begin around the Fourth of July. I understand that the team owners have signed off on it, but need approval by the players union to close the deal.

Yes, we have all these beautiful baseball venues around the country that will be devoid of fans. Why? The answer is obvious: Social distancing requirements — which are essential to stemming the infection rate — will not allow fans to be crammed into the stadiums next to each other.

Am I OK with that, with playing these games before tens of thousands of empty seats? Absolutely. I want to see baseball return.

Now … I want to speak briefly to my friends in Amarillo, who have been awaiting the start of the Texas League AA season featuring their beloved Amarillo Sod Poodles. The last time I commented on the team’s immediate future, a sorehead among the Sod Poodles fan club accused me of being Mr. Negativity.

I hate to say this, but Hodgetown — the shiny new ballpark built along Buchanan Street in downtown Amarillo — should remain empty, too, even if the Sod Poodles take the field for some hardball.

Yes, this pains me terribly. The ballpark came into being with considerable fanfare and much-deserved hype. It’s a first-class venue. The Sod Poodles’ fans packed the place for virtually every home game in 2019.

For the sake of community health — which at this moment appears to be teetering with a rash of outbreaks — the Sod Poodles should play their games before no one.

Baseball fans all across this great country are going to suffer the same withdrawal. If that’s what must happen, well, there’s always next season … or we can hope.

Pandemic stalls these fans’ enjoyment

I feel fairly confident in presuming that my many friends and acquaintances in Amarillo, Texas, are about to lose their baseball-loving minds these days.

The season of their beloved Amarillo Sod Poodles has been delayed indefinitely while the nation wages war against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sod Poodles are supposed to be playing hardball by now. They had their home opener planned for next Thursday. They were supposed to open the defense of their Texas League championship. The home opener was slated to allow the team to have a trophy presentation and the team was going to take a bow for winning the AA league championship in their initial season playing ball in Amarillo.

The ceremony ain’t gonna happen … at least not just yet!

The coronavirus requires what’s been called “an abundance of caution.” There’s no way to stuff 7,000 cheering fans safely into Hodgetown, the Sod Poodles’ home ballpark in downtown Amarillo. I’m not sure when Americans will get the all clear from the federal government, or from the state or from cities and counties.

Indeed, there might not even be an “all clear” coming from the government. There could be a “partially clear” or a “conditional clear” issued at some point in the reasonably near future.

As I’ve been doing for some time now, I will continue to root for the Sod Poodles from afar. I hope to attend a game — or more — in nearby Frisco when the Sod Poodles come here to play the Roughriders.

I’ll just have to preach the mantra of patience. As the saying goes: This, too, shall pass.

Bring on the Texas League all-stars!

Success brings many things to a city and an athletic franchise that carries the city’s name. For example, it brings added recognition in the form of what is going to happen to Amarillo next June.

The Texas League is going to stage its annual all-star game at Hodgetown, Amarillo’s shiny new home for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the team that won the Texas League championship in its first year of existence.

This is big deal, folks!

Amarillo already has embarked on a massive downtown rehabilitation program that along the way has brought us that brand new ballpark called Hodgetown, named in honor former Mayor Jerry Hodge and his wife, Margaret.

Now the best of the Texas League’s AA baseball talent is coming to the city to show off its collective skill in front a sold-out crowd of Sod Poodles fans, who by the time the all-star game rolls around will have continued to celebrate the team’s league title.

The Convention and Visitors Council has been handed a huge marketing and promotional opportunity that I trust it will not squander as the city prepares for the June 23 contest.

What might that opportunity produce? Oh, let’s see. Maybe it will enable the city to showcase the added downtown amenities it is able to offer visitors from around the league. My best guess is that the city should — and hopefully will — ensure that it cleans up thoroughly in advance of the visitors’ arrival. They have some first-class lodging just across the street from Hodgetown. The influx of visitors will pump sales tax revenue into the city coffers as well.

As for the game itself, well, no one can predict how it will turn out. No one can know in advance whether it’ll be a thriller or a blowout. Indeed, all-star games by their very nature occasionally produce performances in which the athletes do not go all out … despite at least one notable exception. That would be Pete Rose’s collision with catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 Major League Baseball all-star game that effectively ruined Fosse’s career.

Aww, but what the heck. The Texas League all-stars are going to Amarillo. They’ll throw out the first pitch on June 23. The fans will be jammed into the stands. They will have a great time and the city will reap the reward.

As Sod Poodles general manager Tony Ensor said, the game will be a “celebration for the entire West Texas community.”

Play ball!

Expect the Sod Poodles’ fan base to hold up during off season

Teams that take cities by storm, which is what happened with the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ minor-league baseball franchise, can be expected to develop a loyal fan base during the season of play.

Now the season is over. The Sod Poodles won the Texas League pennant with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the league’s defending champs. The team dispersed; the players, manager, coaches and team staffers all went home.

The fans who flocked to Hodgetown by the thousands for every home game have remained in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle. My hunch is that they’re still feeling all warm and fuzzy over the championship their team won in their first season in existence.

I get the sense, seeing some of the fans’ social media posts, that they’re going to remain ardent supporters of the team as they await the start of the 2020 Texas League season.

They’re talking about meeting on occasion at a local eatery in southwest Amarillo. The Home Plate Diner — where I had a meal or three during my years in Amarillo — serves meals in an establishment with a baseball theme. There happens to be a fantastic portrait of Mickey Mantle on the wall … but I digress. The restaurant management plans to cater to the Sod Poodles fans who gather to talk about this or that about the season just passed and the future seasons that await them.

I am thrilled at the response the community delivered to the Sod Poodles. I am impressed with the venue built on Buchanan Street in downtown Amarillo. I am delighted at the new life being breathed into the city’s downtown district largely as a result of the enthusiasm generated by the baseball team.

Season No. 1 has come to a highly successful conclusion. We cannot know what Season No. 2 will bring, whether there’s a repeat in store or whether the team will rebuild as the Soddies’ parent club, the National League San Diego Padres, looks to place AA athletes with AAA ballclubs … or even with the major league club.

I get the sense the offseason enthusiasm will hold up. I mean, social media do have a way of helping keep the embers hot. The Sod Poodles’ fans are using social to something that looks to be close to maximum advantage.

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.

Downtown revival will drive the city’s future

I feel quite comfortable making this prediction on the city I used to call home: Amarillo’s future will rely on the progress that has been made — and will continue being made — with its downtown district.

I have moved away but I am enjoying the sight of the city repurposing much of its downtown district into something that has yet to be defined fully.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles have completed a successful season playing AA baseball in a shiny new ballpark on Buchanan Street. Polk Street is undergoing a major makeover. The Potter County Courthouse Square has been remade and the county is looking seriously these days at building new District Courts Building to replace the structure that former County Judge Arthur Ware has called “The Grain Elevator.”

Now the city is getting into the game in a serious way. It is pondering whether to renovate the Civic Center, re-do the Santa Fe Depot and relocate City Hall into an existing downtown structure. Psst … I hear the Globe-News Building at Ninth and Harrison is available.

I long have subscribed to the notion that successful cities all have one thing in common: They boast vibrant downtown districts.

Yes, the city’s effort at remaking downtown has its critics. Imagine my (non)surprise. I just want to offer this admonition: The entire city will reap the reward once the work gets done downtown.

Amarillo’s governing council for too long look askance at investing public funds into its downtown. It believed that the private sector should carry the load virtually exclusively. Beginning with the mayorship of Debra McCartt, continuing through that of Paul Harpole and now with Ginger Nelson pounding the gavel, the city has taken a more proactive approach to downtown redevelopment.

That is to everyone’s credit. It will be everyone’s benefit as well.

I cannot predict when this will happen. I just believe as sure as I am writing these words that it will.

Bidding adieu to Sod Poodles … for this season

I am going to bid adieu to the Amarillo Sod Poodles with this brief blog post.

However, I am likely to be back when the Soddies take the field for Season No. 2 next spring.

They had a hell of a ride in their initial minor-league baseball season in the Texas League. They won the league championship in fine fashion, defeating the defending champs with a come-from-behind victory in the fifth and final game of the championship series. They had their fans sweating bullets, only to unload on the Tulsa Drillers in the ninth inning.

I don’t know whether Amarillo is going to throw a party any time soon for the Sod Poodles to celebrate their championship or whether they’ll wait until the start of the 2020 season to honor ’em with a presentation at Hodgetown, some speeches from Mayor Ginger Nelson or even a state legislator or two. Whatever, the fans will flock to the ballpark and will cheer mightily.

I am happy for the fans who attended the games in fine fashion. They filled the 7,000 or so seats most games. Hodgetown is a jewel. The city has made huge strides toward revamping, remaking and re-creating its downtown district. The Sod Poodles can lay claim to being a major part of that effort and the result it is producing.

It was a great season. It ended the right way.

So, to paraphrase the late great Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks: Let’s win two championships.

How about that? Sod Poodles are the champs!

Strike up the band. Clear the streets. Get ready for a parade … maybe?

The Amarillo Sod Poodles completed their initial season in existence by winning the Texas League baseball championship.

Oh, I guess I should note they defeated the defending league champs, the Tulsa Drillers with an 8-3 victory on the Drillers’ home field.

This isn’t a bad way to bring AA affiliated baseball back to Amarillo. It’s not that losing to the Drillers would have been a total loser for the Sod Poodles and their diehard fan base.

However, a win is a win. A championship is a championship. The fans who flocked to their Hodgetown ballpark by the thousands every home game now have reason to cheer mightily for their hometown baseball club.

Will there be a victory parade in Amarillo? Beats the resin out of me.

There should be … but that’s just me.

Nice going, Sod Poodles.

Sod Poodles’ season already a smashing success!

I don’t know where I’ll be when the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ initial baseball season comes to an end. They’ll either be Texas League champs or the runnerup to the Tulsa Drillers.

My wife and I are trekking across Canada, where we might be out of touch for a time … or, then again, we might be fully connected to the rest of Planet Earth.

So … I’ll just get this off my chest right now. The Sod Poodles have scored a huge success in their maiden AA minor league baseball season.

Win or lose! It doesn’t matter to me.

Sure, I’d like to see the Soddies defeat the Drillers and win the Texas League title. If they come up short, well, suffice to say the team has done quite well.

They have packed Hodgetown, the venue formerly known simply as the “multipurpose event venue,” or MPEV. The park is a gleaming addition to Amarillo’s downtown district. The rest of the downtown area is bustling with activity not seen since, oh, the days when Polk Street was the place to go on a Friday and/or Saturday night.

However, the Sod Poodles are the talk of the town. They’re the talk of the Texas League, or so I have understood. The team’s nickname is a hit with the fans in the Panhandle and with other fans throughout the Texas League.

On top of all that, the Sod Poodles played some good old-fashioned hardball.

The Soddies have set the table for a lengthy and potentially prosperous run in Amarillo.

Good job!

Civic Center renovation? Absolutely! It needs it!

Back when Amarillo’s civic, business and political leadership were talking up the need to build a event venue/ballpark downtown, one could hear grumbling from some quarters that went something like this: Why don’t you do something with the Civic Center? It needs improvement … badly.

Hodgetown has been built; the Amarillo Sod Poodles have completed their initial regular season of AA minor league baseball before virtually packed houses every night. Downtown Amarillo’s evolution is progressing nicely.

The City Council is now proposing a major renovation, reconstruction of its 51-year-old Civic Center. It’s going to cost some money, about $300-plus million. The city is planning to conduct a bond issue election in May 2020 to ask for residents’ permission.

Ahh, but that ain’t all of it. The city wants to renovate the old Santa Fe Railroad Depot structure next to the Civic Center. Here’s my favorite part: relocation of City Hall to an existing downtown structure; no building a new City Hall from scratch. The city thinks it can find a suitable existing structure to house its municipal offices. I have thought just a bit about what might be available, but I am coming up empty.

You want ambition? You want proactive government? This is it, folks!

A new Civic Center in the works

I happen to support the notion in principle. OK, I don’t live in Amarillo any longer. I just happen to be a Texas Panhandle ex-pat who returns to Amarillo on occasion to see family and friends — and to witness the progress I envision for the city my wife and I called home for more than two decades.

The Civic Center was built in 1968. The Cal Farley Coliseum is a fine venue for truck pulls, along with hockey and indoor arena football. The coliseum’s roof isn’t nearly far enough off the deck to suit event planners.

From what I have seen of the concept being kicked around, the council is talking about an extreme makeover, with tens of thousands more square feet of convention space and some serious green space landscaping around the structure.

Here is what I also hope the city does not do: I do not want the city to break up the project into bite-sized morsels. Please, city officials, do not separate the Civic Center complex job from the Santa Fe Depot job, or from the new City Hall location.

Residents ought to be able to determine whether they want all of it. Amarillo has gone down this a la carte method before. Residents have been picky about what they like.

To its credit, the city planning some “public feedback forums” to give officials some guidance on how to proceed. My other great hope is that residents show up and offer their comment — while at the same time avoiding the implication that the city is proceeding in secret.

This project — all of it — is likely to bring untold benefit to a city I believe is on the move. As for the Hodgetown naysayers, here is your opportunity to campaign hard for a project you said you wanted in the first place.