Tag Archives: San Diego Padres

Sod Poodles rack up another high honor

Let’s try this one on for size.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles, Texas League champs in their first year of existence, have been named the Minor League Team of the Year throughout the entire United States of America.

Let’s see. I believe that is a high honor that needs to be saluted.

An article on www.baseballamerica.com speaks to many aspects of the Sod Poodles’ spectacular initial season that warrant a Team of the Year designation.

The Sod Poodles have provided their parent club, the National League’s San Diego Padres, with plenty of talent. The AA Sod Poodles sold out a brand new downtown Amarillo ballpark, Hodgetown, for virtually every home game they played; manager Philip Wellman is no stranger to winning league championships, so he brought a winning attitude to Amarillo while leading the Sod Poodles to the Texas League title, defeating the defending champs in the process.

I have been cheering the Sod Poodles on since before they took the field in April of this year. I have endorsed the principle of bringing a minor league team to Amarillo that has a direct affiliation with a Major League team. The Padres have pledged to take good care of the Sod Poodles and, to my way of thinking, the first year of Sod Poodles hardball in Amarillo has provided plenty of proof that the Padres are true to their word.

Read the www.baseballamerica.com story here.

This is quite cool.

Affiliated baseball has its highs and a few lows

This comes as no great flash for baseball fans, but communities that play host to minor-league baseball franchises face the reality of losing their biggest stars when they perform well on the field of play.

My friends in Amarillo, Texas, are learning that fact of baseball life as they follow the fortunes of the Sod Poodles, the AA team affiliated with the National League San Diego Padres.

The Padres recently called up two players to the Big Leagues. Why? Because the players earned their spots on the Padres roster.

The Sod Poodles currently are leading the South Division of the Texas League; they captured the first-half title. So the team is having a pretty stellar maiden season in the Texas League. They used to be known as the San Antonio Missions, but the Alamo City was rewarded with a AAA franchise that relocated from Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Sod Poodles will keep playing hardball at Hodgetown and at venues around the league. They will be without Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez, who got the call to suit up with the parent club.

This is what happens. The players who play a major part in a team’s success are so good at what they do that the team at the top of the heap wants to reap the reward, too.

The better Major League Baseball franchise management teams, though, know to replenish the “farm team” roster with players who can help the minor-league outfit keep winning, and winning does produce bigger crowds, which produce more revenue, which enables the team to afford to pay the better players, who keep the winning tradition alive.

Do you get my drift?

It wasn’t that way when Amarillo was home to “independent” baseball teams that played in that rathole/dump at the Tri-State Fairgrounds. It’s a new era for minor-league baseball in Amarillo. The fans are reaping a nice reward with a winning baseball team.

However, when the “parent club” calls the names of the players responsible for the winning, well … you know how it goes.

Get used to it, Sod Poodles fans.

Here come the Sod Poodles gags

Here they come. The jokes are going to become part of conversation in Amarillo, Texas, which is preparing to welcome the return of minor-league baseball next spring.

The hole you see in the picture above is meant to poke fun of the new baseball team’s name, the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Sod Poodles supposedly is one archaic term for prairie dogs. I haven’t talked to anyone with any history in the Texas Panhandle or the High Plains who has heard of the term “Sod Poodles.”

Whatever, the jokes are piling up around the Panhandle.

My hunch is that the team owners are laughing hysterically themselves at what they have brought to the region.

The Sod Poodles will be a AA minor-league outfit affiliated with the National League’s San Diego Padres. The team used to play as the San Antonio Missions, but moved to Amarillo when San Antonio welcomed a AAA team.

My wife and I have moved away from Amarillo, but I am having fun watching this team’s presence in the city evolve and develop.

The multipurpose event venue/ballpark will be done by April 2019 when the Sod Poodles open Texas League play. They’ve laid down the sod. The structure is taking shape downtown.

And the jokes are flying.

Let’s play ball!

MPEV sprouts like a weed in downtown Amarillo

Holy cow! We haven’t been gone all that long  from Amarillo. We’re coming back for a quick visit and we’re going to see the change taking place at a rapid pace in the city’s downtown district.

A friend sent me this picture. It is of the multipurpose event venue — the “ballpark,” if you will — that’s under construction across the street from City Hall.

I am beginning to believe that, by golly, they’re going to be ready for the first pitch to be tossed in April 2019.

The ballpark will be home to an as-yet unnamed AA minor-league baseball team that’s affiliated officially with the San Diego Padres of the National League. I’m still pulling for Sod Poodles to be the new team’s name. So help me I don’t know why, but I have changed my initial opinion of that name that showed up on a list of finalists under consideration.

The ballpark continues to be very big deal for the city. It will cost an estimated $44 million. It will seat about 5,000 baseball fans. My hope — perhaps it’s even my hunch — is that the ballpark will be full of fans when someone throws the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day of the Texas League season in Amarillo.

I look forward to casting a gaze up close when we venture to Amarillo in a few days. We’ll be back just a few weeks later to attend a concert at the Civic Center.

I won’t be surprised to see that the ballpark/MPEV has sprouted even more dramatically as the city marches its downtown district to a bright future.

I hate wishing for a drought to continue in the Panhandle of Texas, but another dry winter — such as what the Panhandle experienced this past winter — will enable the contractor to finish the job on time.

MPEV occupant lines up a big-league affiliate

The San Diego Padres are coming back to Amarillo, Texas.

Amarillo’s upcoming minor-league baseball season has cleared yet another hurdle. The Padres used to be affiliated with an earlier Amarillo baseball franchise. They’re back in the fold with the new team that doesn’t yet have a name.

It is getting a ballpark, though. Bit by bit, the multipurpose event venue is going up along Buchanan Street. They hope to have the venue complete by April 2019, when the AA season commences in Amarillo.

Given the progress I’ve seen — albeit from some distance these days — I am no longer going to doubt the project will be done in time for the team to toss out the first pitch next spring.

The San Antonio Missions are moving to the Panhandle from South Texas; San Antonio will be home to a new AAA franchise that is relocating from Colorado Springs, Colo.

The next big question now appears to be: What are they going to call this new Amarillo baseball team?

I’ve done a 180 on this one. I once hated the Sod Poodles name that showed up on the list of finalist names being considered by the Elmore Group, owners of the new Amarillo team.

I am not entirely crazy about the name today, but the thought of the name has grown on me. I now officially hope that Sod Poodles, or some derivation of the name, becomes the name of the new team that will take the field.

But … the city that is remaking its downtown district — with new hotels, entertainment venues and a serious dressing up of street corners — has a new major league baseball affiliation about which it can boast.

Not bad.

Do we call it ‘MPEV,’ or something else?

They’re going to start construction soon on Amarillo’s newest attraction soon.

It’ll be built downtown, across the street from City Hall. It’s going to be home to a AA baseball team that’s moving here from San Antonio. The team intends to open its 2019 season at the place that’s come to be known colloquially as the “MPEV.”

MPEV stands for multipurpose event venue. It’s a descriptive term, given that it also will play host to many other community events other than baseball.

Some residents refer to it as The Ballpark. Critics have attached unflattering names to the structure. “Boondoggle” comes to mind. I don’t consider the construction and opening of the MPEV as a negative occurrence.

It’s going to cost about $40 million. Amarillo’s voters approved a non-binding referendum in November 2015 on the MPEV back when the price was a “mere” $32 million.

Here’s a thought, however, on what kind of name ought to go on this new venue. Why not honor someone by putting his or her name on the building?

I’ll begin the discussion with this name: Tony Gwynn.

Who is this man? He once played baseball in Amarillo, back when the city was home to the Gold Sox. The Gold Sox were a farm team for the San Diego Padres, which interestingly enough, happens to be the Major League Baseball team affiliated with the new outfit that’s coming here. He only played 23 games in Amarillo in 1982.

Gwynn eventually got called up to the Big Leagues. He did quite well. He compiled a .338 lifetime batting average, got more than 3,000 base hits, played in a World Series with the Padres — and comported himself with class, grace, good humor and dedication during his storied MLB career. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Gwynn died in 2014 at the age of 54, which means there is no way he can sully his stellar reputation.

Tony Gwynn Park. It has a nice ring. Don’t you think?

Here’s why minor-league baseball is good for Amarillo

baseball

I’ve spoken already about my hope that Amarillo can reel in a baseball franchise that would play ball in a new downtown ballpark.

What I want to explore briefly here today is why the potential new franchise is so much more desirable than what the city has at this moment, which is a “franchise” in name only.

The current baseball team calls itself the Texas AirHogs. It is an “independent” team that splits its home schedule between Amarillo and Grand Prairie.

When these guys play their Amarillo half of their “home” schedule, they suit up and perform at the Potter County Memorial Stadium, which in reality is a dump.

I’m not sure what next season will bring us. The AirHogs might go somewhere else next year. They might devote their full home schedule to Amarillo. Or, they might decide to stay full-time in Grand Prairie.

The push now is on to lure a Double A franchise from San Antonio. The Missions are affiliated with the San Diego Padres of the National League. The Padres appear to be a well-run major-league franchise. They produced a Hall of Fame outfielder, the late Tony Gwynn. Indeed, Gwynn finished the 1981 season in Amarillo, hitting .462, which was a precursor to the brilliant career he forged with the Padres.

Amarillo is no longer a one-horse burg known only for Cadillac Ranch and the gigantic steak. We’re on the cusp of passing the 200,000-population barrier; we might already have passed it, for all I know. We are blessed with a healthy local economy and an increasingly diversified work force.

The city has committed to building a downtown ballpark. It cost is about $50 million. Demolition and construction will begin perhaps later this year. The city is now negotiating with the sports group that owns the Missions to bring that franchise to the Top of Texas.

My hope is that the city can sell itself to the Missions, persuade them to come here, rather than go somewhere else. My expectation doesn’t yet match my hope, but the gap between them is narrowing.

The Amarillo City Council has done a good job of jerking my emotions around. The council occasionally says the right things to assuage my concerns about the direction the city might be going. Then some council members blurt out intemperate remarks that get people’s attention — for the wrong reasons.

An affiliated minor-league baseball franchise would be wonderful for Amarillo. That it would play baseball in a new venue downtown would produce a fine return on the investment being made in that venue.

Again, this only is a hope, but I think it’s a reasonable one: The crowds attending baseball games downtown could bring plenty of what we could call “recreational revenue” to many of the businesses that would be clustered in the downtown district.

I will presume the city is negotiating with the group that owns the Missions is bargaining in good faith. If it comes to pass, as one council member has suggested will happen soon, then the city will reap the benefit.

How do I know that? It’s happened thousands of times already in many American cities. It surely can happen here.

I believe it will.