Tag Archives: Sod Poodles

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.

Sod Poodles giving back to a supportive community

They’re getting ready to play some hardball again in Amarillo, Texas. The city’s AA franchise, the Sod Poodles, are training in Arizona at this moment alongside their parent ballclub, the National League’s San Diego Padres.

I want, though, to take a brief moment to salute the Sod Poodles and their commitment to the community that has fallen madly in love with the team.

The team is becoming partners with charitable organizations associated with the Texas Panhandle.

For example, they’re teaming up with the Amarillo Area Foundation to raise money for this and that cause; at a date during the season, proceeds from tickets sold will go to the American Cancer Society, which has an active chapter in Amarillo. I’m sure there will be plenty of these kinds of partnerships.

The Sod Poodles have a Facebook page with all the information you might want to see about the upcoming activities.

My point is that professional sports get pilloried all the time for the seeming greed among athletes, owners, management. I want to take a moment to toss a bouquet to the community where I once lived and to the baseball club that entertains thousands of fans every night at Hodgetown, where the Sod Poodles play their home games.

This is what brings communities together.

Well done, team and fans.

Play ball … in due time!

They’re getting anxious in Sod Poodles Land

I am hearing some faint — but growing — rumblings of excitement from up yonder on the Texas Panhandle, on the Caprock.

The fans of Amarillo’s Texas League champion Sod Poodles baseball team are counting down the days to the start of spring training in Arizona. The Sod Poodles will be preparing for their second-ever season alongside their parent club, the National League San Diego Padres.

It’s really quite cool for this former Amarillo resident to watch friends and former neighbors getting juiced up — no pun intended — in advance of the next season of hardball.

The Sod Poodles had the good fortune to win the Texas League pennant in their first season. Now comes Season No. 2. The team’s fans are getting hyped up. Heck, so am I … and I no longer live there!

Still, the Sod Poodles will play some games near where we live these days in Princeton. The Frisco Roughriders play in the same league as the Sod Poodles.

I’ll get a chance to watch the Sod Poodles this season just down the road a bit in Frisco. I’ll be there yelling loudly for the Sod Poodles.

I cannot join the fans in Arizona as the team prepares for their new season. It still excites me to see the anticipation building in the Panhandle.

Will the Sod Poodles’ fans show up at spring training?

Here is a test for how loyal and dedicated the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ fan base has become.

The Sod Poodles will be training in Arizona this spring alongside their parent National League club, the San Diego Padres. For what it’s worth the Padres will compete in the Cactus League against other teams that are getting themselves into playing shape for the 2020 Major League season.

The Sod Poodles already have demonstrated that their fan base loves the team. I mean, they packed Hodgetown game after game during the Soddies’ initial season in the Texas League. They cheered the Sod Poodles on to a league championship.

I am going to presume that the dedicated fans will trek out west to cheer for the team as it preps for the upcoming Class AA season.

While living in Beaumont, I became friends with a dedicated Houston Astros’ fan who every spring would travel to Florida to cheer the ‘Stros on as they prepared for the next season of hardball. He wasn’t alone.

I look forward to hearing how the Soddies’ fans respond to Season No. 2 of their team’s quest to retain the league championship.

Waiting for baseball season to begin … already?

I am likely not offering a big-time scoop but I am getting some buzz from up yonder in Amarillo that Texas Panhandle baseball fans are counting down the days for Season No. 2 of the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Hey, why not?

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t make it to the pro football playoffs; the Houston Texans blew a big lead against the Kansas City Chiefs over the weekend, so they’re out. The Dallas Mavericks are off to a good pro basketball start. The Dallas Stars? Beats me.

Baseball is on the minds of a lot of sports fans in the Panhandle. The Sod Poodles whet their appetites by doing something quite remarkable in their initial season. They won the Texas League championship in a five-game thriller against the defending league champs, the Tulsa Drillers.

Hodgetown, where the Sod Poodles play their home games, is mostly dark these days. That’s my guess anyway.

We’re halfway through January already. The season starts in April. The Sod Poodles will have some sort of ceremony on opening day to celebrate their Texas League title. They’ll hear speeches from the mayor, maybe a county judge or two. The fans will cheer.

Someone will toss out the ceremonial first pitch.

They’ll start playing hardball at Hodgetown, which more than likely will be chock full of fans.

So the next season is right around the corner. Isn’t that correct?

That’s what winning does. It makes fans anxious for the next season to begin.

Calling all business to the downtown parking garage!

With all the success enjoyed this past spring and summer by Amarillo’s newly installed AA minor-league baseball team, I had hoped to be able to cheer for the stampede of new business filling up ground-floor storefronts at the parking garage across the street from the ballpark where the Sod Poodles play the Grand Old Game.

Alas, no cheering … at least not just yet.

The parking garage does have a tenant, or so I understand. Joe Taco, the (somewhat) upscale Mexican restaurant is moving into the garage; for all I know, perhaps Joe Taco has made the move.

The rest of the structure, though, appears to remain dark.

The idea was for the ballpark to act as fairly quick lure for businesses looking to profit from all the ballpark activity associated with the Amarillo Sod Poodles. The Sod Poodles played to packed houses at Hodgetown throughout their initial Texas League season.

None of this concern over the lack of parking-garage activity is intended to suggest gloom and doom for the structure. I remain optimistic that the garage investment will pay off. It just might be that the planners and economic gurus perhaps oversold the immediate result that the Sod Poodles would produce once they began their season in Amarillo.

The city’s changing downtown landscape remains a work in progress. So far, the work I have seen suggests that progress is going to follow in due course.

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.