Tag Archives: Hodgetown

They’re going to play hardball after all!

Minor league baseball — the organized, Major League Baseball-affiliated version of it — appears headed for the scrap heap in 2020, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and MLB’s inability to cobble together an agreement to start an abbreviated season.

But get a load of this development: Some minor-league cities are going to play host to a collegiate league comprising players from colleges and universities. Amarillo gets to join the fun when it plays host to two teams, the Amarillo Sod Squad and the Amarillo Sod Dogs. I guess the names are a sort of offshoots of the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the AA Texas League team that has been shelved for the season because of the pandemic.

They’re going to start playing baseball at Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark the Sod Poodles call home. Brett Wellman will manage the Sod Squad; Jimmy Johnson will manage the Sod Dogs. Wellman is the son of Sod Poodles skipper Phillip Wellman, so they’re keeping it in the family; Johnson is a longtime hitting instructor.

There is an interesting aspect of this league. The teams will play with wooden bats, not the metal sticks used in NCAA games featuring college teams. For those baseball purists — such as myself — the sound of a wooden bat hitting a fastball out of the park is damn near like music to my ears, compared to that tinny sound of bat striking ball we hear during collegiate games.

So, all is not lost after all for minor league baseball fans in at least one American city … which happens to be a place my wife and I called “home” for more than two decades.

The Texas Collegiate League begins play later this month. The teams will entertain fans who’ve been deprived of cheering on their beloved Sod Poodles, who won the Texas League pennant a season ago in their first season in existence but who have seen their second season slip away because of a killer virus.

This ought to work out well. Play ball!

Heart hurts for baseball fans

I might be one of the few and not-so-proud baseball fans out here who is concerned that Major League Baseball’s 2020 season is in dire peril.

It might not happen. The MLB’s owners have pitched a 76-game schedule that cuts deeply into the money the players would earn from a regular season and from a playoff system resulting in the World Series.

They’re still dickering, quarreling and negotiating over the terms of the season. It doesn’t look good, at least not to these eyes.

Furthermore, it’s beginning to look equally bleak for all those minor-league teams and the communities that support them for what they hoped would be a stellar season in 2020.

Yep, that’s you, my friends and former neighbors in Amarillo, those of you who root hard for the Sod Poodles, the city’s AA franchise affiliated with the San Diego Padres.

The Soddies won the Texas League title in 2019. They had high hopes of defending their title this season … until the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down.

This hurts fans all across the land. The big leagues have their faithful fanatics. So do the minor leagues. MLB has its players union. Minor league baseball isn’t affected so much by that governing body.

That damn pandemic is threating to wipe out an entire season.

My heart hurts for the fans who have been waiting … patiently.

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.

Minor league baseball falls victim to the pandemic

Oh, brother …

This story saddens me at a level I never thought I would experience. It comes from The Associated Press and it portends a grim short-term future for minor league baseball across a nation that is caught in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.

Listen up, my friends in Amarillo, you fans of the Sod Poodles who had hoped to be flocking to Hodgetown — the city’s shiny new ballpark —  to cheer on the defending Texas League champions.

AP reports that minor league baseball experienced a 2.6 percent attendance increase in 2019. Minor league ball had more than 40 million fans for the 15th straight season, according to AP.

The 2020 season hasn’t started. There’s no prospect on the horizon when it will start, unlike what’s happening with Major League Baseball, where team owners and the players union are working on a schedule that would commence with no fans present in the stands. The AP reported:

While Major League Baseball tries to figure out a way to play this summer, the prospects for anything resembling a normal minor league season are increasingly bleak.

For minor league communities across the country from Albuquerque to Akron, looking forward to cheap hot dogs, fuzzy mascot hugs and Elvis theme nights, it’s a small slice of a depressing picture.

Yes, you can include Amarillo in that roster of minor league cities. Amarillo fought hard to lure the Sod Poodles from San Antonio. The team’s initial-season success in 2019 was one for the books. It was epic. The fans can’t wait for the first pitch.

Then came the COVID-19 crisis. Every single sporting league is shut down. That includes the plethora of minor leagues scattered.

When will they play ball? When will it be safe to cram fans into ballparks, sitting next to each other, allowing them to high-five and cheer when the home team scores a run or makes a spectacular play in the field?

Uhh, who in the world knows?

At this moment, it doesn’t look good. We might be in for a lost season.

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.

Sod Poodles giving back to a supportive community

They’re getting ready to play some hardball again in Amarillo, Texas. The city’s AA franchise, the Sod Poodles, are training in Arizona at this moment alongside their parent ballclub, the National League’s San Diego Padres.

I want, though, to take a brief moment to salute the Sod Poodles and their commitment to the community that has fallen madly in love with the team.

The team is becoming partners with charitable organizations associated with the Texas Panhandle.

For example, they’re teaming up with the Amarillo Area Foundation to raise money for this and that cause; at a date during the season, proceeds from tickets sold will go to the American Cancer Society, which has an active chapter in Amarillo. I’m sure there will be plenty of these kinds of partnerships.

The Sod Poodles have a Facebook page with all the information you might want to see about the upcoming activities.

My point is that professional sports get pilloried all the time for the seeming greed among athletes, owners, management. I want to take a moment to toss a bouquet to the community where I once lived and to the baseball club that entertains thousands of fans every night at Hodgetown, where the Sod Poodles play their home games.

This is what brings communities together.

Well done, team and fans.

Play ball … in due time!

Still waiting for sign of life in that downtown parking garage

I admit that I am not as dialed in to affairs of Amarillo as I was when I lived there. Still, social media surely would light up like a Christmas tree if there would be any new businesses opening in the city’s downtown parking garage.

It’s been quiet, man.

The parking garage went up with plenty of promise. I remain optimistic about the future of the project. However, my optimism is being tested.

Last I heard Joe Taco was going into the structure next to Hodgetown, the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ home baseball field.

Anyone else set to join the popular eatery? Hmm. Not that I’ve heard.

I will not object to being corrected. I check local media outlets from time to time. Still not hearing it.

My optimism is still strong. However, everything — even my own usually unbridled hope — has its limits.

They’re getting anxious in Sod Poodles Land

I am hearing some faint — but growing — rumblings of excitement from up yonder on the Texas Panhandle, on the Caprock.

The fans of Amarillo’s Texas League champion Sod Poodles baseball team are counting down the days to the start of spring training in Arizona. The Sod Poodles will be preparing for their second-ever season alongside their parent club, the National League San Diego Padres.

It’s really quite cool for this former Amarillo resident to watch friends and former neighbors getting juiced up — no pun intended — in advance of the next season of hardball.

The Sod Poodles had the good fortune to win the Texas League pennant in their first season. Now comes Season No. 2. The team’s fans are getting hyped up. Heck, so am I … and I no longer live there!

Still, the Sod Poodles will play some games near where we live these days in Princeton. The Frisco Roughriders play in the same league as the Sod Poodles.

I’ll get a chance to watch the Sod Poodles this season just down the road a bit in Frisco. I’ll be there yelling loudly for the Sod Poodles.

I cannot join the fans in Arizona as the team prepares for their new season. It still excites me to see the anticipation building in the Panhandle.

Will the Sod Poodles’ fans show up at spring training?

Here is a test for how loyal and dedicated the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ fan base has become.

The Sod Poodles will be training in Arizona this spring alongside their parent National League club, the San Diego Padres. For what it’s worth the Padres will compete in the Cactus League against other teams that are getting themselves into playing shape for the 2020 Major League season.

The Sod Poodles already have demonstrated that their fan base loves the team. I mean, they packed Hodgetown game after game during the Soddies’ initial season in the Texas League. They cheered the Sod Poodles on to a league championship.

I am going to presume that the dedicated fans will trek out west to cheer for the team as it preps for the upcoming Class AA season.

While living in Beaumont, I became friends with a dedicated Houston Astros’ fan who every spring would travel to Florida to cheer the ‘Stros on as they prepared for the next season of hardball. He wasn’t alone.

I look forward to hearing how the Soddies’ fans respond to Season No. 2 of their team’s quest to retain the league championship.

Waiting for baseball season to begin … already?

I am likely not offering a big-time scoop but I am getting some buzz from up yonder in Amarillo that Texas Panhandle baseball fans are counting down the days for Season No. 2 of the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Hey, why not?

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t make it to the pro football playoffs; the Houston Texans blew a big lead against the Kansas City Chiefs over the weekend, so they’re out. The Dallas Mavericks are off to a good pro basketball start. The Dallas Stars? Beats me.

Baseball is on the minds of a lot of sports fans in the Panhandle. The Sod Poodles whet their appetites by doing something quite remarkable in their initial season. They won the Texas League championship in a five-game thriller against the defending league champs, the Tulsa Drillers.

Hodgetown, where the Sod Poodles play their home games, is mostly dark these days. That’s my guess anyway.

We’re halfway through January already. The season starts in April. The Sod Poodles will have some sort of ceremony on opening day to celebrate their Texas League title. They’ll hear speeches from the mayor, maybe a county judge or two. The fans will cheer.

Someone will toss out the ceremonial first pitch.

They’ll start playing hardball at Hodgetown, which more than likely will be chock full of fans.

So the next season is right around the corner. Isn’t that correct?

That’s what winning does. It makes fans anxious for the next season to begin.