Tag Archives: Texas League

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.

How about that? Sod Poodles are the champs!

Strike up the band. Clear the streets. Get ready for a parade … maybe?

The Amarillo Sod Poodles completed their initial season in existence by winning the Texas League baseball championship.

Oh, I guess I should note they defeated the defending league champs, the Tulsa Drillers with an 8-3 victory on the Drillers’ home field.

This isn’t a bad way to bring AA affiliated baseball back to Amarillo. It’s not that losing to the Drillers would have been a total loser for the Sod Poodles and their diehard fan base.

However, a win is a win. A championship is a championship. The fans who flocked to their Hodgetown ballpark by the thousands every home game now have reason to cheer mightily for their hometown baseball club.

Will there be a victory parade in Amarillo? Beats the resin out of me.

There should be … but that’s just me.

Nice going, Sod Poodles.

Sod Poodles’ season already a smashing success!

I don’t know where I’ll be when the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ initial baseball season comes to an end. They’ll either be Texas League champs or the runnerup to the Tulsa Drillers.

My wife and I are trekking across Canada, where we might be out of touch for a time … or, then again, we might be fully connected to the rest of Planet Earth.

So … I’ll just get this off my chest right now. The Sod Poodles have scored a huge success in their maiden AA minor league baseball season.

Win or lose! It doesn’t matter to me.

Sure, I’d like to see the Soddies defeat the Drillers and win the Texas League title. If they come up short, well, suffice to say the team has done quite well.

They have packed Hodgetown, the venue formerly known simply as the “multipurpose event venue,” or MPEV. The park is a gleaming addition to Amarillo’s downtown district. The rest of the downtown area is bustling with activity not seen since, oh, the days when Polk Street was the place to go on a Friday and/or Saturday night.

However, the Sod Poodles are the talk of the town. They’re the talk of the Texas League, or so I have understood. The team’s nickname is a hit with the fans in the Panhandle and with other fans throughout the Texas League.

On top of all that, the Sod Poodles played some good old-fashioned hardball.

The Soddies have set the table for a lengthy and potentially prosperous run in Amarillo.

Good job!

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.

Sod Poodles still packin’ ’em in

I need not wax too gloriously about this next item, so I’ll keep it brief.

That Texas League baseball team that calls Amarillo home has drawn more than 400,000 fans to its Hodgetown ballpark in its initial season in the Texas Panhandle.

They won another game Friday night at the downtown Amarillo ballpark. The Sod Poodles are heading for the playoffs, having won the first half crown; they’re on track to win the second half title as well.

I am immensely proud of the Sod Poodles’ success. I am equally proud of how Amarillo’s baseball community has filled Hodgetown’s seats during the team’s maiden season.

What’s in store for the future? Well, I figure the marketing geniuses who brought the team from San Antonio to Amarillo will need to figure out a way to capitalize on the team’s success this year … and make it shine even brighter in the seasons to come.

Well done, folks.

What happens when Sod Poodles’ season ends?

Baseball isn’t a yearlong sport. The Amarillo Sod Poodles are still playing hardball in front of healthy crowds at Hodgetown.

Eventually, though, the umps will call the final out for this season at the downtown Amarillo ballpark. There will be a playoff and I’m pretty sure the Sod Poodles will be playing in the Texas League postseason. Hey, they’ve got a great chance of winning the league pennant in their initial season on the field. Go, Soddies!

Oh, but wait. The season will end. Hodgetown will go dark for a good bit of time.

Yet I remember one of the selling points of the ballpark back when it was called the “multi-purpose event venue,” or MPEV, was that it would be a year-round place for entertainment.

I attended a few meetings where the MPEV was being pitched by fans of the project in advance of the November 2015 citywide referendum. To a person, all the proponents said the MPEV would play host to community events. There would be a flea markets, concerts, family-oriented events held on the state-of-the-art field.

I admit I haven’t kept myself up to speed on all the activities planned for Hodgetown’s post-season time. My hope is that the city, perhaps led by the Convention and Visitors Council and Center City (which is led by a force of nature, Amarillo native and a former colleague of mine Beth Duke) will be able to find plenty of activities to keep the lights turned on at Hodgetown during the time between baseball seasons.

Yes, I am aware that it gets, um, chilly in Amarillo during the depths of winter. However, autumn’s pleasure lingers right up until winter arrives — occasionally with a vengeance. Then comes the spring, albeit with its admittedly unpredictable weather.

So, let’s hope Hodgetown stays active, stays lit up and becomes the “multipurpose venue” its supporters pledged it would become.

Naming a baseball team requires top-notch marketing skill

Just as I have given up making political predictions, I am done questioning the wisdom of marketing gurus who study the ins and outs of delivering brand names that catch the public’s attention.

I once questioned the wisdom of all that hotel construction in Amarillo. A friend of mine at the Convention and Visitors Council told me not to worry; the hotels will be do just fine. Turns out my friend was correct.

So, with that I will declare my belief in the marketers who settled on the name of the city’s minor-league baseball franchise. The Sod Poodles are playing baseball before good crowds at Hodgetown.

What’s more the team’s name has become the talk of the town, the Texas League communities where they play when they’re not at home and in baseball publications all over the nation.

Hey, weren’t the Sod Poodles named the top minor-league nickname in the country? Well, they were, although we can debate until we run out of breath about the validity of the survey.

Whatever, the Sod Poodles turned out to be a name that had to grow on some of us … such as me. I hate the name when I first saw it on the list of finalist names that the Elmore Group, the franchise owner, revealed to the public.

They mentioned something about Sod Poodles being some sort of old-time name for prairie dogs. Sure thing, dudes. Whatever you say.

The name, though, has stuck. It has become part of the franchise’s identity, which likely is what the Elmore Group and its marketing geniuses had in mind from the get-go.

That’s why they get paid the big bucks and shmucks like me are sitting in the peanut gallery. I live now in a community next to one of the teams that comprise the Texas League along with the Sod Poodles. They play hardball in Frisco. They’re called the Frisco Roughriders, which to my ear sounds almost milquetoast compared to the name given their rivals in Amarillo.

Whatever, my view from afar tells me that the Elmore Group marketers knew what they were doing.

I’ll just keep my marketing thoughts to myself and enjoy watching the community reap the benefits of knowledge from the experts.

What happens if Sod Poodles fans get seriously crazy about team?

Retirement sometimes allows my noggin to fill with ideas, some of which are nutty, some are far-fetched, some actually might make a modicum of sense.

Let’s try this one just for giggles: What might happen in Amarillo, Texas, if the city’s AA minor-league baseball team’s fans get really serious about the Sod Poodles? By that I wonder what might become of Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark in the downtown district? Is there a chance at all that the Sod Poodles could outgrow the venue?

Hodgetown can contain about 7,000 fans. From what I hear the fans are coming to the ballpark in borderline startling numbers. Last I heard the Sod Poodles were leading the Texas League in attendance.

The team is playing some pretty good baseball. The Sod Poodles won the first half of Texas League play and as I write this brief post they are on a five-game winning streak.

Let’s get real. Everyone loves a winner. Professional sports franchises have flourished when they produce winning teams. I can think of a notable exception to that rule: the 1962 New York Mets, who comprised a pitiful collection of has-beens in the team’s initial season; yet the fans still flocked to the old Polo Grounds, where the Mets played until they built Shea Stadium. The Mets got better over time, of course, and along the way have won a pair of World Series championships.

As for the Sod Poodles, I am wondering if there’s a chance the team’s enthusiastic fan base could become too unwieldly for Hodgetown, for the city’s transportation infrastructure and possibly for the parking needs that might be sharpened if fan attendance requires more parking.

I’ve never heard it asked, but I’ll ask it here: Is there an any engineering that allows Hodgetown to expand its capacity in the years ahead if the team determines the need? Did the architects design the structure with an eye toward adding more capacity?

I’ll add this bit of perspective. Amarillo is growing. Its population likely will exceed 200,000 residents when they finish the census next year. The city has been on a steady, moderate growth rate for decades. There is no indication at all that the growth is going to slow down, let alone stop.

I am acutely aware that these thoughts are coming during the Sod Poodles’ initial season in Amarillo. There, of course, are no guarantees of continued success. However, this season demonstrates a pretty good knowledge base from the team ownership on how to keep the momentum moving forward.

Hey, I’m just thinking out loud.