Tag Archives: minor league baseball

‘Gotta love minor league ball’

I suppose it could be a lot worse, or a lot more worthy of argument, as Amarillo, Texas, awaits the naming of its new AA minor-league baseball team.

The team owners are pondering a list of five names that emerged as “finalists” to be considered for the new team name.

My favorite, if you want to call it that, is Sod Poodles, which the Elmore Group said is an old-time term used to describe prairie dogs, a critter common throughout the High Plains.

But I got an interesting message from a friend of mine who wanted to provide a bit of perspective to this whole matter of team-naming.

My dear friend writes: I know you’ve been agonizing over the Amarillo team’s name, but here are some examples from Thursday’s Word Sleuth: Bees, Curve, Fire Frogs, Hooks, IronPigs, Lugnuts, Muckdogs, Owlz, Rawhide, Snappers, Stone Crabs, TinCaps, Yard Goats, and my personal favorite, Biscuits and Gravy. Love that minor league ball!

My friend, who lives in Beaumont, Texas, also wants me to mention “Golden Gators,” which was the name of a team that once played hardball in the Golden Triangle.

Yep, I love minor league ball, too.

The Amarillo team’s ownership said it wanted to build a community talking point with the list of finalists. It seems to have succeeded in that mission. Whatever name they reveal for the team is sure to get ’em talking.

But … I’m still all in for the Sod Poodles. Yeah, it’s a weird name, but the fans will get used to it. Of that I am certain.

Worst or best names?

A letter to the editor in today’s Amarillo Globe-News comes from a man who, I think, understands why the weird names on the finalist list being considered for Amarillo’s new baseball team may produce one of the potentially “best” team nicknames of all time.

Here’s the letter; it’s brief:

Regarding the recent letter to the editor in Amarillo Globe-News (Letter: ‘Sod Poodles’ has competition for worst name in minor league baseball, Aug. 3, amarillo.com) about “Rocky Mountain Oysters” being the worst name in professional baseball, it is just a matter of opinion, but I think “Rocky Mountain Oysters” is one of the best minor league baseball team names.

Ever.

And “Toledo Mud Hens” runs a close second.

The letter is signed by Dick Novotny of Amarillo.

I think the man gets it.

I admit to being initially turned off by the list of finalists when the Elmore Group — owners of the AA team that will play ball in Amarillo beginning next spring. Then I started thinking about it. I also heard the team’s justification for going with the goofy names.

It made sense. The team owners want the team name to become some sort of brand for the outfit that will play ball. They point out that many other minor-league franchises have fielded teams with strange-sounding names. The two of them noted in the AGN Media letter are good examples.

I have heard already of the Mud Hens. I understand that the Mud Hens are popular in Toledo, Ohio, irrespective of the name of the team.

I’m still going to go with Sod Poodles as the new team’s name. Who knows? Perhaps the Sod Poodles will emerge eventually as the “best minor league baseball team name … Ever.”

How much change awaits downtown Amarillo?

A young couple we met this week in Plano, Texas, seems to share my optimism about the future of downtown Amarillo.

They both grew up there. They know the city well, better than I do. Hey, my wife and I only spent 23 years in the city, so I’ll concede that my body of knowledge isn’t as deep as those who are of the Texas Panhandle city.

Our conversation turned to the upcoming ballpark that’s under construction. The stadium will be done no later than the spring of 2019. Then they’re going to start playing AA minor-league hardball at the shiny new park. It will seat about 5,000 fans. My hope is that it’s full on opening night — and on subsequent game days.

Our new friends said the city well might see the kind of entertainment explosion that has occurred in other cities with downtown athletic venues. They didn’t mention them specifically, but I thought immediately of Oklahoma City, where they built a ballpark, then welcomed the burgeoning revival of the old warehouse district that’s now called Bricktown.

One of our new friends believes the row of old warehouses east of City Hall and the new ballpark are slated for a similar revival once they start playing baseball downtown.

I hope he is right. Indeed, if other communities can rehabilitate old buildings, bring them back to life, generate more revenue for the community, then Amarillo would seem to be ripe for a similar spate of good fortune.

The city is witnessing a significant uptick in business activity already along Polk Street.

I am going to hold out hope — and belief — that more good fortune is on its way.

Get ready for it: Amarillo Sod Poodles

I am getting a bit of enjoyment reading the smattering of letters to the editor of the Amarillo Globe-News from baseball fans arguing against Sod Poodles as the name of the new AA minor-league baseball team that will play ball next spring in Amarillo, Texas.

One of them appeared today. There have been some others. They cannot stand the name that emerged as one of the finalists selected by Elmore Group, owners of the team that will move from San Antonio.

I hated the name when I first saw it, too. Then my mind changed. I now have become something of a fan of the name. Sod Poodles supposedly is some sort of historic, Old West reference to prairie dogs. I keep hearing from lifelong Texas Panhandle residents that they’ve never heard of the term … until now!

The team owners wanted to choose from among five names that would cause fans to talk about the team. I believe Sod Poodles is the name that will have fans talking the most vociferously.

I don’t know what the team ownership will decide. They’re supposedly polling the public for its preference. They’ll announce the “winner” later this year. I am not certain of this, but I am betting the Elmore Group is under no obligation to certify and release the ballot results while announcing its decision.

Just a note to suggest that my hunch is that the team owners are going to go with their gut on this one.

You go, Sod Poodles!

Sod Poodles sounding more like the top name

I’m hearing from a number of longtime Texas Panhandle residents — many of them lifelong residents — who say the same thing.

Sod Poodles is not another name for prairie dogs.

Yet the owners of the minor-league baseball team that will play ball in Amarillo, Texas, beginning next April might be leaning toward naming their team the Sod Poodles.

And it’s over the apparent objections of those who contend that the finalist name — despite contentions from team owners — really has no historical reference to the critters that still populate the Caprock.

I’ve done a 180 on the name. The first time I heard the list of finalist names … I hated all of them. I might even have hated Sod Poodles the most. The name I hate the most at the moment, though, is Jerky.

Now? I understand the marketing ploy that the Elmore Group — owners of the team that is moving to Amarillo — is trying to use. They want a cute name. They want a name that will have fans talking about the label, the team. They want to gin up interest among baseball fans.

I think they have accomplished their mission.

For the record, I want the Amarillo Sod Poodles to play hardball next year.

Sod Poodles? Let’s think about this

I am about to deliver a assessment or two I hope I won’t regret.

I’ve been giving more thought to the silly list of “finalist” names delivered by the owners of Amarillo’s future AA minor-league baseball team. I also have been trying to digest the reasoning behind the five names chosen to be considered for team’s nickname.

My thought at this moment is this: I am starting to understand better what the team ownership is trying to convey to the community that will sit in the ballpark that is currently under construction in downtown Amarillo.

They want a silly name that elicits a community conversation. They want the name to be the subject of good-natured giggles. They are striving for something different, perhaps a bit unique that becomes a talking point in minor-league — maybe even major league — baseball circles.

That all said — and I am hoping to avoid being struck by lightning by adding this point — I am actually sort of thinking Sod Poodles isn’t such a bad idea … after all!

I want to be candid on one point. I have never heard the term used to describe prairie dogs. I had no idea on Earth that it is some sort of “historical” term used in the old days to refer to the critters that are the bane of ranchers and farmers. Don’t hold against me that I am not a Texas Panhandle native. I mean, I have known about prairie dogs since I was a little boy growing up in Oregon; sod poodles never crossed my radar — ever!

None of this discussion is about me or whether any of us have heard of this term. It’s about prompting a community discussion.

The owners of the team that begins playing hardball in Amarillo in the spring of 2019 have done that very thing.

Look, I mentioned once already that I hated the name of my hometown professional basketball team when it was announced in 1970. Portland’s new NBA team would be called the “Trail Blazers,” prompting a good bit of community angst. We grew to accept and actually like the name. Hey, it was meant to pay tribute to Lewis and Clark, who “blazed a trail” from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century.

Whichever name Amarillo’s minor-league baseball team owners select will attract its share of collective teeth-gnashing. Eventually, Amarillo’s baseball fans likely will accept it.

Maybe they will even learn to like it. I wonder, for example, if baseball fans in Toledo hate the “Mud Hens.”

Cultural District: ready for some tangible results

Amarillo wants to become a destination for those who seek a cultural awakening.

Given that I’m out of the loop these days as a former print journalist, I am not entirely privy to the nuts and bolts of what is going on in every corner of the city.

I once wrote a blog for Panhandle PBS. The final installment in my series of blogs dealt with the then-pending designation of an Arts and Cultural District for Amarillo.

Here is what I wrote for the final time for Panhandle PBS.

The Texas Arts Commission eventually approved Amarillo’s request for an Arts and Cultural District designation. As I wrote in April 2016, I consider this to be a huge step forward in the city’s evolution.

I wrote then about the impact that the arts have on the Texas economy: The districts apply for grants through the Texas Commission for the Arts, which estimates that the arts generate approximately $5.1 billion annually to the Texas economy; of that total, about $320 million comes from sales tax revenue.

The city has many ways to measure the impact of the cultural district. Suffice to say, though, that the city is making some mighty large strides toward reaping the rewards of a beefed-up arts and entertainment community.

Allow  me to turn briefly to the construction of that downtown ballpark/multipurpose event venue that is well under way. The soreheads around the city keep yapping about the ballpark being a single-purpose venue: It will be the home field beginning in April 2019 to a AA minor-league baseball team that will move here from San Antonio.

But as the saying might go, “There’s more ‘there’ there.” Or at least that is the hope of those who want to see the MPEV take root and grow. There well could be plans to stage community events in the shiny new venue: concerts, for example; or perhaps some communitywide gatherings featuring food and music.

The cultural district does have plenty with which to work. I think of the musical “Texas” performed during the summer in Palo Duro Canyon, the Broadway series of musicals at the Civic Center and the Amarillo Little Theater.

There’s plenty of ground to plow here. Plenty of ways to market the city’s art and its myriad entertainment offerings.

I will join the rest of the community and await the big payoff. I don’t know when it will arrive, but I’m sure I’ll recognize it when it does.

Amarillo poised to become a baseball city again

It is a virtual lead-pipe cinch that I won’t be living in Amarillo when they toss the first pitch at the city’s new downtown ballpark.

The city’s new AA minor-league baseball team will commence its initial season in April 2019 in a shiny new 4,500-seat venue.

The journey toward that end has been fraught with some difficulty, some apprehension and, yes, a bit of controversy. It’s going to come to fruition, which makes me happy for the city my wife and will depart in due course.

I will acknowledge that I was not a regular attendee at the independent league games played by teams that had various names. I did attend a few games at the dump once known as the Dilla Villa, in honor of the Amarillo Dillas who were playing baseball there when my wife and I arrived here in early 1995.

They morphed into another team, which morphed again. Then the outfit that ran that team decided to split its home season between Amarillo and Grand Prairie. That lasted one year. Now they’re gone.

The ballpark, also known as the multipurpose event venue, was conceived by local officials and business leaders while all that nonsense was occurring at the rat hole that passes for a ballpark at the Tri-State Fairgrounds. They had a number of public hearings. They put the issue to a non-binding citywide referendum in November 2015 — and it passed.

The price tag for the referendum was pegged at $32 million. It grew to $45 million. They knocked down the old Coca-Cola distribution center, and relocated that business elsewhere.

Has it been smooth sailing? Not at all. I had my own doubts about whether the Local Government Corp. could pull this deal off. The City Council support for the LGC’s work seemed a bit tenuous. Then this past spring, voters decided to elect a new council.

Let us not forget that the general managing contractor, Wallace Bajjali, vaporized along the way in a dispute between the firm’s principal owners. It didn’t deter the progress toward landing the affiliated AA franchise.

The Elmore Group, which owns the San Antonio Missions, is now going to relocate that team to Amarillo; San Antonio will get a AAA team that will relocate to the Alamo City from Colorado Springs.

Meantime, life is good for diehard baseball fans in Amarillo. They’re going to get to watch a professionally run baseball team play ball in a sparkling new venue.

I wish them all well. This journey has given me a mild case of heartburn along the way. It’s all good now as they prepare to break ground on the ballpark.

I intend to watch it grow and will be cheering from afar when they toss out that first pitch.

MPEV argument making more sense

matney

Paul Matney did not say this directly as he was touring Amarillo on behalf of a proposed multipurpose event venue, but I think I have gleaned a message from his pro-MPEV pitch.

It is that if we build a shiny new baseball park in downtown Amarillo we’re going to attract the attention of a serious, well-funded minor-league baseball franchise that can come here to run a team the right way — and not the way it’s being run these days.

I refer to the decision to combine the Amarillo Thunderheads with the Grand Prairie AirHogs and to split the 2016 baseball season between two locations, nearly 400 mile apart.

I believe I now get what the retired Amarillo College president was getting at.

Amarillo’s baseball fan base deserve better than to be treated to this clown show.

They haven’t broken any ground yet on the MPEV. The $32 million venue has been (more or less) endorsed by the Amarillo City Council, which has handed off implementing the development of the project to the Local Government Corporation.

I’m not certain how this combined franchise location thing is going to work for the owner of the Thunderheads/AirHogs. My gut tells me it’s a loser.

It well might give MPEV supporters additional grist to expedite the development of the new ballpark, to get it built, to market the city to the owner of a legitimate Class AA franchise and return serious minor-league baseball to Amarillo.

Hey, maybe this franchise combo deal can be a blessing after all.

 

Play ball … in two cities next year

ama thunderheads

Amarillo’s minor-league baseball fortunes have taken a bizarre turn.

I cannot yet tell if it’s for the better or the worse. Let’s just call it bizarre. Weird too. Strange? You bet.

The Amarillo Thunderheads have merged with the Grand Prairie AirHogs, according to the American Association of Independent Baseball, the league to which both teams belong.

What does it mean? Well, the team will play 25 of its “home” games in Amarillo and 25 in Grand Prairie (a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb) for the 2016 season.

There’s more strangeness. According to a league statement: “We appreciate that Southern Independent Baseball, owner of the Amarillo and Grand Prairie clubs, agreed to the league’s request to operate its two teams as one in 2016. We fully expect that both teams will return in 2017 as individual entities with a full schedule in their respective markets.”

The league had 13 teams. It wanted to pare it to 12 to provide a more even schedule for everyone concerned. So, the league decided to combine the Amarillo and Grand Prairie franchises for the upcoming season. Is this a one-season gig? Time will tell.

OK. I know what you’re thinking. What does this mean for the future of the multipurpose event venue that many of us — yours truly included — hope will be built in downtown Amarillo?

To be honest, at this very moment I have no earthly idea what this means. Here, though, is my hope.

It is that the $32 million MPEV construction will proceed and that marketing gurus here will be able to locate a first-cabin minor-league franchise — say a AA outfit affiliated with a major-league team — to bring their organization to Amarillo. Here, the theory goes, the baseball team will play ball in a gleaming new sports venue, fill the 4,500 or so seats on most days or nights with fans — and the enterprise will be deemed a success.

I have to say, though, that this merging of two teams into one for the 2016 season seems a bit fraught with peril for those who’ve been hoping that the Thunderheads could make a go of it in Amarillo.

The Dillas became the Sox and then the Thunderheads, all in the span of just a few years.

What now? The Thunder Hogs? The Air Heads?

How about we just get this new baseball venue built and then bring in an outfit that can lend some stability for those who want to cheer for their very own minor-league baseball team?