Tag Archives: Sod Poodles

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.

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.