Tag Archives: Sod Poodles

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.

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.

Minor league baseball hits the showers

It’s official … there will be no minor league baseball in America this summer.

The dang pandemic has claimed a major casualty. I got word of the demise of minor league hardball in my morning newspaper, which reported that the myriad leagues around the country couldn’t pull it together in time to throw out first pitches.

I had hoped to attend a few games this summer in Frisco, where the Roughriders play ball. It won’t happen. What’s more, I had intended to cheer for the Amarillo Sod Poodles when they ventured to Collin County to play the Roughriders.

In fact, my heart hurts more for the Soddies’ fans than for the Roughrider fans. I mean, the Sod Poodles wanted to defend their Texas League championship, which they won in 2019 during their initial season in existence.

The Big Leagues are set to play a 60-game schedule that begins late this month. I hope they make the grade, although given current infection trends in many states I am not going to cash in my chips on it.

As for the minor league cities all across the nation that root hard for their Major League wannabes, let’s justsit tight and wait for next year to arrive.

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.

Hoping for a good outcome for Amarillo’s baseball future

The start of the Major League Baseball season remains a moving target.

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown it all into a cocked hat. MLB hasn’t yet played a game that counts. The National Basketball Association suspended its season, along with the National Hockey League. The National Football League is supposed to start blocking and tackling, but there might not be fans in the stands.

As for baseball, there appears to be some serious tension building between the big-league clubs and their minor-league affiliates.

Pay attention, dear friends in Amarillo, Texas. I am about to talk about the beloved Sod Poodles.

There is some discussion about MLB shedding 42 minor league franchises. What in the world does that mean for the Sod Poodles, which are affiliated with the National League San Diego Padres?

Here is a small part of what Sports Illustrated is reporting:

Even as taxpayers help to keep teams afloat, several minor league affiliates reported that their MLB teams seem unconcerned about their plight during the COVID-19 crisis. Though MLB clubs are not allowed, by rule, to directly pump funds into their affiliates, several minor league executives chafed at not having received so much as a check-in phone call.

The frostiness comes amid months of tense back-and-forth between MLB and the minors over the Professional Baseball Agreement, which governs their relationship. Last extended in 2011, the deal expires this September and, as part of the negotiations, MLB is seeking to save costs by eliminating more than a quarter of affiliated teams by next season while pushing for other significant changes to its minor league partnership.

The SI article is titled “Minor League Baseball is in crisis.” So I’ll leave it to you to decide just how much of minor league ball is hurting.

As for the Sod Poodles, the franchise does not have a lengthy history. It has competed in just a single season. Granted, it was a highly successful season in 2019, with the Sod Poodles winning the Texas League championship.

Please do not accuse me of heightened negativity here. I want nothing more than for my friends and former neighbors in Amarillo to cheer the Sod Poodles on again and again.

We are faced, though, with Major League Baseball in the midst of a financial crisis created by a worldwide medical crisis. I don’t expect the baseball players union to give up the substantial sums of money that go the players. MLB, therefore, might have to face the harshest of realities if it cuts the enough affiliated franchises to save enough money to stay in business.

I am crossing my fingers. Please, let those savings not involve the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Looking toward a possible grim reality: no baseball in Amarillo

I am trying to equivocate as much as I can, using the word “possible” in front of “grim reality.”

I am fearing the worst for my former neighbors up yonder in Amarillo, where they are waiting for the start of the minor league season featuring the defending Texas League champion Amarillo Sod Poodles.

The worst is that there might not be a season to celebrate.

I watch the “Sod Squad” fan club on my Facebook page. It is full of hopeful statements from fans. I want their hope to be well-founded. I want them to be able to cheer the Sod Poodles into their second season in existence. Their first one was epic, winning the Texas League title against the defending champion Tulsa Drillers.

It’s just that the coronavirus pandemic has spooked athletic leagues and associations everywhere. Major League Baseball is trying to figure out how to play a 100-game schedule, how to split the two leagues into three divisions and how to play all their games in Florida, Arizona and Texas … with few if any fans watching in person.

Minor league ball isn’t that far along.

I want there to be baseball this spring and summer. I am leery of it returning this year given the loss of life that is occurring at this very moment.

The Sod Poodles have what must be one of the more devoted fan bases in all of minor league baseball. I love reading their Facebook posts. I draw from their enthusiasm.

Now that I live a good bit distant from Amarillo, I am hopeful to see the Sod Poodles play when they venture to nearby Frisco to play the Roughriders. Trust me when I say I would cheer loudly for them even as I am surrounded by Roughrider fans.

My gut is telling me it might not happen this year. Let’s start preparing for the worst.

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.

Be patient, sports fans

Those of us who enjoy watching sports activities — and are fortunate to stay healthy during this pandemic crisis — need to suck it up and be patient.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a strict crackdown on gatherings of 10 or more people. Activities of all stripes have been postpone or canceled. Sports teams are put on hold. The governor’s order extends to at least April 3, although I wouldn’t bet my last dollar that he will lift the restriction on that date.

Baseball’s season is put on hold. That means Major League Baseball won’t commence hardball. Nor will MLB’s farm teams, the minor league franchises that flourish in smaller to mid-size communities around the nation.

Listen up, Amarillo Sod Poodles fans: That means you, too.

The Sod Poodles finished their initial season in 2019 with a Texas League title. They whetted the appetites of their thousands of fans who packed Hodgetown at every home game.

They likely will have to wait to resume their cheers.

Sigh. I’m with you, ladies and gentlemen. I wish you could settle into your Hodgetown seats on time, but this crisis compels us to be patient and to do our part to help “flatten the curve” of new cases of coronavirus.

Our sporting appetite will be fulfilled in due course. None of us knows when our government can declare some semblance of victory over the deadly virus. I hope it is soon. So, too, do sports fans in every community from coast to coast to coast.