Tag Archives: Sod Poodles

Once more: How about a Soddies party to celebrate a big win?

This likely will be my final pitch on this subject, so I’ll go out with a bit of gusto.

Amarillo needs to throw a party for the Sod Poodles, the team that won the Texas League baseball championship with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Tulsa Drillers.

From what I have heard via social media, the Sod Poodles players have dispersed. They’ve all gone home. They hugged each other on the field and in the locker room in Tulsa, slapped each other on the back. That was it.

Why is this an important issue to raise once again? Well, I believe a city party — held at Hodgetown, the Sod Poodles’ home field — also would be for the fans who supported the team through its championship-winning season. The fans deserve a party, too!

So, why doesn’t the Elmore Group pony up some dough and fly the team back to Amarillo? I figure the team owners have some dough laying around. Surely they can afford air fare, or bus fare, or Uber fare for the players to return to Amarillo, the city that cheered its collective throat hoarse for the team.

The fans filled Hodgetown. They responded famously for the team that relocated from San Antonio.

As for who would pay for staging such an event at Hodgetown, well … I can ask Mayor Ginger Nelson if she has poked around City Hall to see if there’s rainy day fund money laying around to foot the bill for a party on the field at the ballpark.

This baseball season is a potentially watershed event for Amarillo. The city boasts a shiny, spiffy and sensational ballpark in its downtown district. There was some struggle to get the plans ironed out and to get it built.

Why not celebrate the whole thing — downtown’s rebirth, the development of the ballpark as well as the Sod Poodles’ glorious initial season?

It can be done. It should be done.

Will there be a city celebration for the Soddies?

I am acutely aware that as an Amarillo ex-pat, any suggestion I have for the city I called home for more than 20 years likely won’t carry much weight.

What the hey? Here goes anyway …

Is there any thought being given in Amarillo for a community celebration to honor the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ winning the Texas League baseball championship?

I mentioned a parade in an earlier blog post. I get that a parade along Polk Street could be tough to assemble.

But there need not be a parade to celebrate the Sod Poodles’ accomplishment. A ceremony at second base at Hodgetown might work. Invite the public onto the field for an afternoon soiree. Serve hot dogs, beer, nachos, Cracker Jack, popcorn.

Bring the Sod Poodles players to the event. Have a presentation from Mayor Ginger Nelson. Give ’em a key to the city.

I’m on the road at the moment. I won’t be able to attend such an event. I only want the best for Amarillo. The Sod Poodles have delivered a major bragging point for the city’s baseball fans who’ve waited a long time for the return of affiliated minor-league hardball.

I keep thinking of what retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney once said in promoting the referendum approval of the venue that eventually would become Hodgetown. “Amarillo is a baseball town,” Matney said. He is right. The fans demonstrated it by showing up by the thousands for each home game the Soddies played.

So, why not reward them — and the team — with a citywide celebration?

It would cap a wondrous season.

Ballpark a go from the start; the team name had to grow on me

It has been suggested on social media that the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ winning the Texas League championship has silenced critics of the downtown ballpark where they play hardball and the name of the team itself.

I plead guilty to half of that assertion.

Yes, I was a critic of the Sod Poodles name when I first heard it. The name had to grow on me. It did. The growth wasn’t a long-term affair. I grew quickly to like the name. The more I heard it the more catchy it sounded to me.

I heard about the team ownership’s rationale in selecting the name: The Elmore Group wanted a name that would be, um, conversational around the Texas League, if not around the nation’s minor-league baseball community.

I guess the Elmore Group succeeded. The name stuck. Folks are talking about it, although I am pretty sure no one has yet ever used the term to describe prairie dogs, which I understand is the old-time name for the little prairie rodents.

As for the ballpark, I’ve been on board since the beginning. My doubts arose only after some (now former) City Council members expressed concerns and doubt over whether the ballpark was feasible. The issue went to a municipal vote in November 2015; voters approved the ostensibly non-binding referendum and the ballpark was headed toward construction.

They built the ballpark. They named it Hodgetown in honor of former Mayor Jerry Hodge and his wife, Margaret. Then the fans filled the place damn near every game the Sod Poodles played at their home field.

The season is over. The Sod Poodles are Texas League champs.

I no longer live in Amarillo. However, I am delighted that the ballpark was built, that downtown continues to flourish and, by golly, that the Texas League champs carry the name of Sod Poodles.

Sod Poodles playing for the Texas League pennant!

Do I have this straight? The Amarillo Sod Poodles were on the ropes, ready to get decked by Midland’s Texas League AA baseball team. Then the Sod Poodles came back to win the fifth and final game of the South Division playoff.

So, now the Sod Poodles — in their first year playing in Amarillo — are going to face the defending Texas League champs from Tulsa in the finals. Is that right?

Well, what do you know about that?

I am sad to report that I am even farther away from Amarillo, but I will cheer for the Sod Poodles from way up yonder.

The success of the team and the reception it has received from Amarillo’s baseball community continues to impress me.

I am proud of the baseball park built in downtown Amarillo; I am proud that so many fans fill Hodgetown’s seats for every home game; I am proud that the Sod Poodles had the second-ranked attendance record in the nation.

OK, so as my friend Jack Light posted on social media, we’re talking now about the Sod Poodles winning the Texas League pennant. It must not go to a team from way over in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Well done — so far — Sod Poodles.

First season winding down; looks like Sod Poodles will stick

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — We’re on the road, visiting briefly a city with a curious link to the Amarillo Sod Poodles, a AA minor-league baseball franchise that is completing its initial season.

You see, Colorado Springs used to be home to a AAA baseball franchise, but that franchise has moved to San Antonio; therefore, that meant the San Antonio Missions had to find a new place to play hardball.

They moved to Amarillo. The Texas Panhandle city had offered substantial financial and  tax inducements to bring the team there.

Then they had to build a ballpark. The city selected a site downtown, across the street from City Hall. The decision required the relocation of the Coca-Cola distribution center to a site near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

The Sod Poodles, which is the name chosen, won the Texas League’s South Division title in the season’s first half. They’re trying to wrap up the division’s second half title.

All told, I’d say the Sod Poodles have enjoyed a marvelous initial season. They’re playing before large crowds at a ballpark named Hodgetown in honor of former Mayor Jerry Hodge and his wife, Margaret; they are leading proponent of downtown revival and they lobbied hard for the Missions to move to the Panhandle. The postseason playoffs are just around the corner.

Not a bad start to a new era of baseball in Amarillo, Texas.

Sod Poodles’ winning ways become infectious lure

Let’s face it. Winning is a wonderful inducement for sports fans. It brings out those who might otherwise decide to stay home rather than go to the ballpark for an afternoon (or evening) of entertainment.

I present to you the Amarillo Sod Poodles, who entered the Texas League this year and — in some instances — have taken the league by storm. Why and how? They’re winning a good bit more of their games than they’re losing.

The Sod Poodles existed previously as the San Antonio Missions. Then the Alamo City landed a AAA minor-league franchise that played ball previously in Colorado Springs. The Missions needed a new home to play AA hardball. They looked around. Amarillo came calling. The powers that be in the Panhandle pledged to build a new ballpark. They offered the franchise some financial inducements.

Then the team decided to relocate. They needed a new name and a new brand. They came up with the Sod Poodles.

However, this wasn’t a team built from scratch. I mean, the franchise infrastructure already was in place. They had an organization backing them, the National League San Diego Padres.

The Sod Poodles won the first half South Division title this year. They’re in first place so far in the second half of the season. They’ll be in the playoffs once the regular season concludes.

They’re playing before full houses at Hodgetown. The cheers have been loud and throaty from what I understand.

It fills me with joy to know that Amarillo is turning out to support this team with shouts and cheers.

I won’t speculate how the fans would react if the Sod Poodles weren’t winning more than half of their games. I just know that winning does have a way of ginning up support.

This baseball franchise is off to a smashing start.

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.

Where, oh where are those parking garage businesses?

I’m a bit baffled. The opening of the downtown Amarillo ballpark was supposed to bring a surge of business onto the ground floor of a shiny new parking garage across the street from what is now called Hodgetown.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles have been playing hardball at Hodgetown for a few weeks now. They’re drawing big crowds to the ballpark, recently listed a the top AA baseball venue in the United States of America. The fans are getting their money’s worth, too, with the Sod Poodles winning the first half of the Texas League season.

That parking garage is holding vehicles of fans attending the games at stadium. The businesses that were thought to be standing by after the ballpark opened have yet to sign on at the garage, or so I understand.

I saw a story in the Amarillo Globe-News online edition posted this past month that talked about the Local Government Corporation meeting to discuss the business activity slated to arrive at the garage.

Any word yet on what’s going on here?

The ballpark, the relocation of the baseball franchise from San Antonio to Amarillo and the parking garage were supposed to constitute a sort of three-part story that brought about the city’s downtown revival. I am pleased to see from afar that the city is experiencing a tangible renovation of its downtown business/entertainment district.

The Sod Poodles are drawing large crowds to the ballpark. They’re playing some good baseball under the watchful eye of a National League parent franchise, the San Diego Padres. And, oh, that ballpark is a sight to see.

I’m still hoping for the best that the city’s business and civic leadership can persuade the businesses slated for the parking garage to open up shop.

If and when that happens, I believe the future of the city will brighten even more.

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.

Irony continues to provide a bit of sting

There might be a reader or two of this blog who will presume this brief post is an assault on a young woman who once lived in Amarillo, Texas.

It isn’t. Please accept the notion that I intend only to reiterate an astonishing irony.

Meghan Riddlespurger once was the front woman for what she called the “Amarillo Millennial Movement.” She fought for the voter approval of a proposed downtown Amarillo sports/entertainment venue. Her primary motivation, she said at the time, was to entice “millennials” to remain in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle after they finished their education. She wanted them to stay at home and to enjoy the fruits of the entertainment offerings that the venue would provide.

She posted this message overnight on Facebook: When you build it, they’ll come. Please support your walkable downtown development efforts and give your heart to municipal efforts because this is where a difference can be made. Just a few years ago, people said none of this could happen. And then it did. Believe in the most and fight for the best. Your city loves you! Goodnight!

It’s a lovely message. I presume Meghan returned to Amarillo to take in a baseball game at Hodgetown, which is the direct result of her efforts to help rejuvenate her hometown’s downtown district.

But she left the city not long after the November 2015 non-binding referendum victory she had sought. She now lives in Fort Worth, where I presume she is doing well. What about the “walking the walk”?

I harbor no personal animus toward this young woman. I like Meghan Riddlespurger, even though we don’t know each other well. I left the city, too, but I’m an old man who merely comments on local matters through this blog. I wasn’t invested at the level Riddlespurger was invested.

I just find the irony to be so very remarkable.

I do have to say this, though, about the young woman’s effort: It is paying off with the Sod Poodles playing before nice crowds at the ballpark and the city reaping the reward of the effort Meghan and many others put into its downtown redevelopment.