Tag Archives: Sod Poodles

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.

Soddies’ fans have a long winter wait ahead of ’em

Fans of Amarillo’s new AA minor league baseball squad are facing a long, dark winter on the High Plains of Texas.

The Sod Poodles won the Texas League title earlier this summer. Some of the fans wanted a community celebration. It didn’t happen.

The team members and coaching staff dispersed to their respective homes.

Hodgetown, the downtown Amarillo ballpark where the Sod Poodles play their home games, has gone (mostly) dark.

Ahh, the wait has commenced.

I sense the real proof of the fans’ commitment to the Sod Poodles will need some time to develop. The Sod Poodles made a huge splash in their maiden season. Next year will start with a bang, too, when the Soddies accept their league championship trophy in a ceremony at Hodgetown.

They’ll play some hardball again starting next spring. The fans will keep coming next season. My hope — and from all appearances, my expectation — is that the enthusiasm will hold up over time.

I remain immensely proud not just of the success the team had on the field, but of the stunning reception the Sod Poodles received from their dedicated fans.

I live afar these days, but I am cheering as loudly as I can.

Parking garage gets a tenant … more to come, hmm?

That parking garage across the street from Hodgetown has a tenant. It’s a trendy restaurant called Joe Taco, which operates an eatery on the far west side of the city, near the medical center complex.

I understand the Local Government Corporation worked out an agreement that allows Joe Taco to operate in the parking garage rent free for the first year. Then it will pay rent on a graduated scale after that.

Good deal, yes? We shall see.

What I am not clear about just yet is whether any other tenants have signed on at the garage, which was built with considerable fanfare, hoopla and promises of more businesses to fill the ground floor spaces in the structure.

Hey, I remain optimistic that the garage will pay the freight, that it will lure other retail outlets to help defray the cost of operating the building.

Hodgetown is a beauty of a venue for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, which played championship-winning hardball at the ballpark in their first season in existence. Not a bad start.

I regret being unable to attend any games this year. I have moved away. We don’t get back to Amarillo as frequently these days. We’re settled in nicely in our new digs in Collin County. However, I remain a keen observer of Amarillo’s evolution and at this point I like what I see occurring there.

The parking garage adds an attractive edifice to the city’s downtown urban-scape. The gurus who conceived it have pledged that it will fill with businesses. I want their pledge to come true.

Why comment on Amarillo matters? Here’s why

I got an interesting response to a comment I published on this blog about Hodgetown, the ballpark where the Amarillo Sod Poodles play baseball.

It goes like this: ” … how can someone who hasn’t even been to a game or live in Amarillo anymore comment on what benefit it will have for the city?”

Hey, it’s a fair question. I’ll answer it.

I lived in Amarillo for 23 years. I am about to turn 70 years of age. I have worked full time as a journalist in three communities: one in Oregon and two in Texas. Of the three cities where I have lived and worked, I spent most of my time in Amarillo.

I had a home built from the ground up in Amarillo. My wife and I sank our roots deeply into the Caprock during my time there. We still have plenty of friends who live there, along with one of our sons.

I have a keen interest in Amarillo and its development. Yes, it is true that I now live in Collin County, but I believe I retain some institutional knowledge of the city I have departed.

My view of Hodgetown, the Sod Poodles’ home field, is that the ballpark will become a community icon over time. Fans will continue to flock to the ballpark to watch the Sod Poodles. Indeed, I also believe Panhandle residents will be more than happy to attend other community events that will occur inside the walls of the $40 million structure.

My support for the ballpark has been unwavering. I admit to having a doubt or two about the baseball team actually coming to Amarillo, given the turmoil that roiled the City Council for a time after the 2015 municipal election. The team, though, made the move from San Antonio.

Will I keep commenting on the Sod Poodles and on matter relating to Amarillo’s progress? Damn right I will.

My affection for Amarillo runs too deeply for me to turn my back on the city I called home for all those years.

Hodgetown stands as potential icon for city’s downtown area

The Amarillo City Council, led by Mayor Ginger Nelson, gave a State of the City presentation and, quite naturally, spoke of all the good things that have happened in Amarillo in the past year.

There are initiatives designed to improve the San Jacinto neighborhood, efforts to dress up other underserved neighborhoods around the city and, of course, the downtown renovation effort that is ongoing.

I want to extol the virtues of that ballpark they built on Buchanan Street.

Hodgetown is a shiny new entertainment venue. It served as home field for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the new AA minor league baseball franchise that won the Texas League championship in their first year playing hardball in Amarillo.

The structure cost a bit more than it was advertised as costing when Amarillo voters approved a non-binding referendum in November 2015. It was pitched as a $32 million venue, but ended up costing more than $45 million. I believe even at the greater price Hodgetown is still investment worth making.

There’s no way to know whether the Sod Poodles will repeat their initial success with another league title in 2020. That’s not the point. Fans will show up in the thousands for games in Season No. 2, just as they did in the team’s initial season.

I was unable to attend any games; I no longer live in Amarillo.

Hodgetown, though, does stand as a tremendous addition to the city’s downtown district. I have had the pleasure of admiring the structure on return visits to Amarillo.

City officials have much to commend their service to the public. I maintain the idea that downtown revival will ripple its way throughout Amarillo. It’ll take time, but the city’s investment in downtown is bound to bring significant reward even to those neighborhoods where residents contend the city has ignored.

Hodgetown is just one of the jewels in the city’s investment crown.

Amarillo Matters shows that it really matters

A couple of years ago a group of Amarillo civic and business leaders got together to form a political action committee dedicated — according to its mission statement — to the betterment of the city.

They called themselves Amarillo Matters. Some critics in the city spoke out against the group, suggesting some sort of nefarious motivation was driving the organization’s agenda.

But what has happened since Amarillo Matters came into being in 2016?

It endorsed a slate of City Council candidates prior to the 2017 municipal election. All five of the individuals endorsed by Amarillo Matters won that election. They all ran for re-election this year and, with Amarillo Matters’ blessing yet again, they all were re-elected.

How has the city done? Quite well, based on my observation.

Downtown’s district renovation has proceeded apace. They built that ballpark along Buchanan Street. The Amarillo Sod Poodles played baseball at Hodgetown, drawing huge crowds at every home game and, oh yes, they won the Texas League pennant after a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the fifth game of the championship series against the defending champs, the Tulsa Drillers. I know … Amarillo Matters didn’t have a thing to do with the Sod Poodles’ success on the baseball field.

Amarillo Matters’ mission calls for the development of “positive opportunities for Amarillo and the surrounding area.” Man, that sounds pretty damn sinister, don’t you think?

Yes, I questioned Amarillo Matters along the way, too. I wondered in an earlier blog post about the identity of the individuals who comprise its leadership. I called on Amarillo Matters to be more transparent and to reveal their identities to the public. The IDs have trickled out, but I will presume that some critics still contend that Amarillo Matters remains too secretive.

However, the result of the group’s mission is worth noting, too.

Amarillo has made tremendous progress over the past few years, even pre-dating Amarillo Matters’ emergence as a political force in the city.

Does a group of business leaders deserve all the credit for the city’s success? No. However, neither does it deserve the brickbats that some critics have hurled at it.

Amarillo has fared well. Amarillo Matters deserves some of the credit for the success that has come Amarillo’s way.

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.