Tag Archives: Amarillo Sod Poodles

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.

What happens when Sod Poodles’ season ends?

Baseball isn’t a yearlong sport. The Amarillo Sod Poodles are still playing hardball in front of healthy crowds at Hodgetown.

Eventually, though, the umps will call the final out for this season at the downtown Amarillo ballpark. There will be a playoff and I’m pretty sure the Sod Poodles will be playing in the Texas League postseason. Hey, they’ve got a great chance of winning the league pennant in their initial season on the field. Go, Soddies!

Oh, but wait. The season will end. Hodgetown will go dark for a good bit of time.

Yet I remember one of the selling points of the ballpark back when it was called the “multi-purpose event venue,” or MPEV, was that it would be a year-round place for entertainment.

I attended a few meetings where the MPEV was being pitched by fans of the project in advance of the November 2015 citywide referendum. To a person, all the proponents said the MPEV would play host to community events. There would be a flea markets, concerts, family-oriented events held on the state-of-the-art field.

I admit I haven’t kept myself up to speed on all the activities planned for Hodgetown’s post-season time. My hope is that the city, perhaps led by the Convention and Visitors Council and Center City (which is led by a force of nature, Amarillo native and a former colleague of mine Beth Duke) will be able to find plenty of activities to keep the lights turned on at Hodgetown during the time between baseball seasons.

Yes, I am aware that it gets, um, chilly in Amarillo during the depths of winter. However, autumn’s pleasure lingers right up until winter arrives — occasionally with a vengeance. Then comes the spring, albeit with its admittedly unpredictable weather.

So, let’s hope Hodgetown stays active, stays lit up and becomes the “multipurpose venue” its supporters pledged it would become.

Naming a baseball team requires top-notch marketing skill

Just as I have given up making political predictions, I am done questioning the wisdom of marketing gurus who study the ins and outs of delivering brand names that catch the public’s attention.

I once questioned the wisdom of all that hotel construction in Amarillo. A friend of mine at the Convention and Visitors Council told me not to worry; the hotels will be do just fine. Turns out my friend was correct.

So, with that I will declare my belief in the marketers who settled on the name of the city’s minor-league baseball franchise. The Sod Poodles are playing baseball before good crowds at Hodgetown.

What’s more the team’s name has become the talk of the town, the Texas League communities where they play when they’re not at home and in baseball publications all over the nation.

Hey, weren’t the Sod Poodles named the top minor-league nickname in the country? Well, they were, although we can debate until we run out of breath about the validity of the survey.

Whatever, the Sod Poodles turned out to be a name that had to grow on some of us … such as me. I hate the name when I first saw it on the list of finalist names that the Elmore Group, the franchise owner, revealed to the public.

They mentioned something about Sod Poodles being some sort of old-time name for prairie dogs. Sure thing, dudes. Whatever you say.

The name, though, has stuck. It has become part of the franchise’s identity, which likely is what the Elmore Group and its marketing geniuses had in mind from the get-go.

That’s why they get paid the big bucks and shmucks like me are sitting in the peanut gallery. I live now in a community next to one of the teams that comprise the Texas League along with the Sod Poodles. They play hardball in Frisco. They’re called the Frisco Roughriders, which to my ear sounds almost milquetoast compared to the name given their rivals in Amarillo.

Whatever, my view from afar tells me that the Elmore Group marketers knew what they were doing.

I’ll just keep my marketing thoughts to myself and enjoy watching the community reap the benefits of knowledge from the experts.

Heading to the Sod Poodles souvernir shop

I have just made a command decision, which is easy to do, given that I am the only one who follows my own orders.

My wife and I are heading to Amarillo in a few weeks. We’ll spend a couple of nights there before shoving off on one of those bucket-list sojourns in our fifth wheel.

Before we go, though, I intend to visit the Amarillo Sod Poodles souvenir shop, which I’ll presume is somewhere downtown.

I want a Sod Poodles ballcap. I might even purchase a t-shirt.

Is this a big deal? Well, yeah … kinda.

I want to support the city’s AA minor league baseball team. I cannot get to any games, given that I live now in Collin County, which is about a seven-hour drive southeast of the Texas Panhandle.

However, I intend to visit the Soddies’ shop. I want to wear the team’s colors when I venture about my daily errands once we return home.

Oh, and I intend to wear the cap while we’re motoring across western Canada. Maybe our north-of-the-border neighbors will ask about that goofy-looking critter that adorns the cap.

I’ll try my best to provide an answer.

What happens if Sod Poodles fans get seriously crazy about team?

Retirement sometimes allows my noggin to fill with ideas, some of which are nutty, some are far-fetched, some actually might make a modicum of sense.

Let’s try this one just for giggles: What might happen in Amarillo, Texas, if the city’s AA minor-league baseball team’s fans get really serious about the Sod Poodles? By that I wonder what might become of Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark in the downtown district? Is there a chance at all that the Sod Poodles could outgrow the venue?

Hodgetown can contain about 7,000 fans. From what I hear the fans are coming to the ballpark in borderline startling numbers. Last I heard the Sod Poodles were leading the Texas League in attendance.

The team is playing some pretty good baseball. The Sod Poodles won the first half of Texas League play and as I write this brief post they are on a five-game winning streak.

Let’s get real. Everyone loves a winner. Professional sports franchises have flourished when they produce winning teams. I can think of a notable exception to that rule: the 1962 New York Mets, who comprised a pitiful collection of has-beens in the team’s initial season; yet the fans still flocked to the old Polo Grounds, where the Mets played until they built Shea Stadium. The Mets got better over time, of course, and along the way have won a pair of World Series championships.

As for the Sod Poodles, I am wondering if there’s a chance the team’s enthusiastic fan base could become too unwieldly for Hodgetown, for the city’s transportation infrastructure and possibly for the parking needs that might be sharpened if fan attendance requires more parking.

I’ve never heard it asked, but I’ll ask it here: Is there an any engineering that allows Hodgetown to expand its capacity in the years ahead if the team determines the need? Did the architects design the structure with an eye toward adding more capacity?

I’ll add this bit of perspective. Amarillo is growing. Its population likely will exceed 200,000 residents when they finish the census next year. The city has been on a steady, moderate growth rate for decades. There is no indication at all that the growth is going to slow down, let alone stop.

I am acutely aware that these thoughts are coming during the Sod Poodles’ initial season in Amarillo. There, of course, are no guarantees of continued success. However, this season demonstrates a pretty good knowledge base from the team ownership on how to keep the momentum moving forward.

Hey, I’m just thinking out loud.

City Council’s big-picture vision laid the groundwork

The Amarillo Sod Poodles continue to be the talk of the city where they play AA minor-league hardball.

They play before large crowds at a venue called Hodgetown. They’re getting salutes for the sound of the name and the quality of the ballpark.

To think that all of this was thought by many observers — including yours truly — to be in jeopardy in 2015.

Looking back on that time, while I was still living in Amarillo, I recall a contentious municipal election. Voters installed a new majority on the five-member City Council. At least two of those new folks spoke openly about whether building a “multipurpose event venue” was even feasible. They fought with Mayor Paul Harpole. City Manager Jarrett Atkinson quit, reportedly under duress.

Still, the council approved a non-binding referendum for the ballot that fall. The issue went to a vote. City residents approved it, albeit by a narrow margin.

To its credit, the City Council honored the statement of that referendum — which it was under no obligation to do — and proceeded with the initial development of what we still referred to as the MPEV.

The rest is history. The city lured the San Antonio Missions to Amarillo; the Alamo City wasn’t left without a baseball team, as it welcomed a AAA franchise that relocated to South Texas from Colorado Springs.

Amarillo, though, turned out to be the big winner, given that it didn’t have any sort of organized baseball franchise competing here. You’ll recall that the former tenants of Potter County Memorial Stadium decided to play half of its “home games” in Grand Prairie, only to abandon Amarillo altogether.

A new City Council has taken over from the one that got elected in 2015. All five new council members took office in 2017 and were re-elected this year. They have carried the momentum from that earlier time forward, for which many of us — even though I no longer live in Amarillo — remain quite grateful.

I do hope one day to spend enough time in Amarillo to sit in the stands at Hodgetown and cheer for the Sod Poodles. First things first, though. The Sod Poodles compete in the Texas League with the Frisco Roughriders, which is just down the road from where I live these days.

I intend to cheer for the Sod Poodles even as they play against the “home team” in Frisco.

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.

Matney was right: Amarillo is a ‘baseball town’

Paul Matney has about as much long-term, “institutional” knowledge of Amarillo, Texas, as anyone who’s lived there in the past century.

So, when the retired Amarillo College president said in 2015 that “Amarillo is a baseball town” and would consume minor-league baseball like no one’s business, we all should have been paying careful attention.

Matney became a spokesman for a campaign to win a non-binding referendum on what was called merely a “multipurpose event venue” at the time. His statements seems to be proving to be more than truthful. Matney seems to know baseball. More than that, he knows the community that now plays host to a AA minor-league baseball franchise. It is affiliated with the National League’s San Diego Padres. They call this team the Sod Poodles.

It is playing baseball in a brand new ballpark before nearly full crowds every night the “Soddies” are at home.

What a remarkable turn of events for the city.

I am delighted beyond measure to see the city embrace this form of sports entertainment. It also is fascinating to see who suits up these days for the Sod Poodles and who, eventually, makes it to the Big Leagues … and who among those might carve out over time careers befitting of inducting into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

It won’t happen? I young man named Tony Gwynn played hardball in Amarillo for a time in the early 1980s when the city was home to an earlier affiliated team.

Gwynn is now in the Hall of Fame.

As for Matney, I admire his knowledge of the community and his courage he exhibited by declaring that “Amarillo is a baseball town.”

He appears to have been so correct.

CAVE people: Eating their words?

A friend of mine — who communicates with me these days on social media — brought up an unofficial group of Amarillo-area residents who have had their heads handed to them.

He mentioned “CAVE” people. “CAVE” is an acronym for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. I commented briefly the other day about how the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the city’s new Texas League baseball franchise, are leading the league in average attendance while playing ball at Hodgetown, the new 7,000-seat ballpark in downtown Amarillo.

My friend noted that the CAVE folks were “against” the baseball team, against building the ballpark, against efforts to revive Amarillo’s once-moribund downtown district.

The CAVE folks aren’t an official group, such as Amarillo Matters, which has formed to promote downtown revitalization and other economic development efforts.

But they’re out there.

Sure, there has been healthy skepticism about downtown efforts. Some folks want he Herring Hotel to get a boost from City Hall. Others have lamented the absence — yet! — of any retail outlets springing up in that parking garage across the street from Hodgetown.

I do recall the CAVE cadre/cabal saying the multipurpose event venue would fall flat. I’m happy to notice, even from some distance these days, that the MPEV hasn’t done what the CAVErs predicted.

If anything, it is proving — and, yes, it’s still early — to be one of the wisest investments the city has made since, oh, the arrival in 1999 of the Bell/Textron aircraft assembly plant next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

That project has worked out well. I believe the Sod Poodles, Hodgetown and the city’s effort to pump new life into downtown will work out, too.

Sod Poodles packin’ ’em in

This graph showed up on my Facebook page a little while ago, so I thought I would share it on High Plains Blogger.

Check it out.

Amarillo’s AA minor-league baseball team, the Sod Poodles, is leading the Texas League in attendance early in its initial season playing ball on the High Plains.

Sixteen home dates have drawn nearly 100,000 spectators to the Sod Poodles’ shiny new venue, aka Hodgetown, built for about $45 million in downtown Amarillo.

I’ll acknowledge that I haven’t been to a game. I’ve only seen the ballpark from the other side of the right field fence. The front entrance looks impressive, too.

I am just delighted to know that Amarillo is turning into a “baseball town.” Maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised.

A few years ago, when residents were preparing to vote on a referendum to approve construction of what was known only as a “multipurpose event venue,” retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney came to the Rotary Club of Amarillo to pitch the idea to Rotarians. He said at the time that “Amarillo is a baseball town” and it deserved to have a Major League-affiliated team playing ball for the fans who had wanted a return to that quality of baseball.

Matney spoke from a position of deep institutional/community knowledge, given that he grew up in Amarillo, graduated from the University of Texas and then returned home to carve out a stellar career at Amarillo College.

It was evident to me then that Matney knew of which he spoke. It’s clearer to me now, seeing those attendance figures, that he was spot on declaring Amarillo to be a “baseball town.”