Tag Archives: Hodgetown

Defending against ‘negativity’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I feel a strange need to defend myself against what I perceive to be a misconstruing of some previous blog posts.

The subject at hand would be the Amarillo Sod Poodles, Amarillo’s Class AA baseball team that had its second season in existence shelved by the coronavirus pandemic.

I wrote a blog post the other day wishing the Sod Poodles well as they prepare for the 2021 Texas League season. A reader of the blog thanked me for the positive vibe and said previous blogs weren’t so positive.

Hmm. I got to thinking: When have I been a Negative Ned regarding the Sod Poodles?

http://highplainsblogger.com/?s=Sod+Poodles

What I have just posted is a series of previous blog posts regarding the team, about its success, about my desire for the Sod Poodles to do well.

This fellow isn’t the first to suggest I have been “too negative” about the Sod Poodles. I can think of three or maybe four critics who have accused me of excessive negativity.

Well, I don’t get it.

I don’t live in Amarillo any longer. My wife and I gravitated to the Metroplex in 2018. We have set up a new home in a Dallas suburb. We are happy and content. I do keep up with Amarillo and Texas Panhandle news, though. I have managed stay abreast of the Sod Poodles’ success and their journey through their wildly successful initial Texas League season … the one that produced a league championship. 

Amarillo comprised a large part of our life’s journey. We lived there longer than anywhere else during our 49 years of marriage. We built a home there. We enjoyed successful careers.

Then we retired and moved on. I have been a huge supporter of downtown Amarillo’s progress and was thrilled to the max to see the city build a ballpark that they named Hodgetown. To be candid, the name “Sod Poodles” didn’t exactly bowl me over when I saw it on the list of finalist names. Then it grew on me … and I have said so, repeatedly.

Negativity? I don’t see it.

There. Now I feel better.

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.

Growing city needs strong newspaper

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was speaking the other day to a member of my family; we were talking about two issues simultaneously: the growth and maturation of Amarillo, Texas, and the long, slow and agonizing demise of the newspaper that formerly served the community.

It occurred to me later that both trends work at cross purposes. I find myself asking: How does a community grow and prosper without a newspaper telling its story?

That is what is happening in Amarillo, I told my family member.

The city’s downtown district is changing weekly. New businesses open. The city is revamping and restoring long dilapidated structures. Amarillo has a successful minor-league baseball franchise playing ball in a shiny new stadium in the heart of its downtown district.

The city’s medical complex is growing, adding hundreds of jobs annually. Pantex, the massive nuclear weapons storage plant, continues its work. Bell/Textron’s aircraft assembly plant continues to turn out V-22 Ospreys and other rotary-wing aircraft. Streets and highways are under repair and improvement.

Amarillo is coming of age. Its population has exceeded 200,000 residents.

What, though, is happening to the media that tell the story of the community? I can speak only of the newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years before walking away during a corporate reorganization of the newspaper. The company that owned the G-N for more than 40 years sold its group of papers … and then got out of the newspaper publishing business. It gave up the fight in a changing media market.

The newspaper’s health has deteriorated dramatically in the years since then. Two general assignment reporters cover the community. That’s it. Two! The paper has zero photographers and a single sports writer.

The paper is printed in Lubbock. It has a regional executive editor who splits her time between Amarillo and Lubbock and a regional director of commentary who does the same thing.

There exists, therefore, a serious dichotomy in play in a growing and increasingly vibrant community. I see the contradiction in the absence of a growing and vibrant newspaper that tells the whole story about what is happening in the community it is supposed to cover.

Spare me the “it’s happening everywhere” canard. I get that. I have seen it. None of that makes it any easier to witness it happening in a community I grew to love while I worked there. I built a home there and sought to offer critical analysis of the community from my perch as editor of the Globe-News editorial page.

I do not see that happening these days.

Meanwhile, Amarillo continues to grow and prosper. If only it had a newspaper on hand to tell its story to the rest of the world.

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!!

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.

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.