Category Archives: Sports news

You have perfection … and then this

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Hope Trautwein hails from Pflugerville, Texas and attends the University of North Texas in Denton.

Sounds pretty, um, normal. Yes? Well, this young woman has done something that’s never been done in the history of NCAA Division I athletics.

She threw seven innings of perfect softball against the the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. When I say “perfect,” she struck out every one of the batters she faced. That’s 21 whiffs. No one hit a ball into a UNT player’s glove. No one walked. No one reached base on an error in the field. They strode to the plate, took three strikes and went back to their dugout.

Pitcher Hope Trautwein Throws A Perfect Game Of All Strikeouts | 88.9 KETR

Trautwein told National Public Radio’s Morning Edition: “I guess it’s never been done before so it doesn’t have a name.”

Here’s a name: Fantastic!

Soddies can proclaim: We’re No. 6!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Monthly has weighed in with its strangest and coolest minor-league baseball team names for 2021.

Drum roll for Amarillo Sod Poodles fans: Your team made the cut as the sixth-strangest/coolest name in Texas minor league baseball.

As TM writes: As a new team, the Sod Poodles had the advantage of history in knowing how fans had taken to other quirky team names in choosing their identity, but we can’t argue with the results: prairie dogs are certainly plentiful out near Amarillo, and the old settler term “sod poodles” is definitely a fun way to refer to them. Locals didn’t exactly cotton to the name at first—in fact, all five finalists for the team’s name drew eye rolls in the town—but can you really look at the family of grass-chewing, Stetson-wearing prairie dogs in the team’s logo and not find yourself rooting for the lil’ guys? 

Texas’s Best (and Weirdest) Minor League Baseball Team Names, Ranked – Texas Monthly

I’ll be candid. The name had to grow on me. I wasn’t crazy about the name when I first heard it had made the list of finalists under consideration. I didn’t know what a Sod Poodle is, but I found out it’s an old cowboy name for prairie dogs.

Whatever its historical significance, the Sod Poodles have played some good hardball in their single year in existence.

They are set to open their new season in early May.

Yes, the Sod Poodles won the Texas League pennant in their first year in Amarillo. They are starting a new season this week. Maybe they’ll win another pennant, this time in the Central League.

Now they have made TM’s roster of cool/strange team nicknames.

Play ball!

Are we ready for a packed house?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Gulp!

That is the sound of me swallowing hard in anticipation of what I hope doesn’t happen … if that makes sense.

They’re going to play some hardball tonight down the road a piece from us in Collin County. The Texas Rangers are staging their American League home opener at their brand new ballpark in Arlington, which they built right next to the park where they played for about 20 years.

Why am I gulping? Because the Rangers are going to play before a full house. Fans will be packed in there, about 40,000-plus of them. Sitting shoulder to shoulder. Yelling for their guys to win a game. They’ll be high-fiving each other, slapping each on the back, yelling their brains out!

Oh, did I mention that we’re still in the grip of a killer pandemic? I just did. Which makes me very nervous.

The Texas Rangers are the only Major League Baseball organization to open their venue up to everyone who can squeeze into it. The other teams are limiting ticket sales. Same thing for minor-league organizations — such as the Amarillo Sod Poodles up yonder in the Panhandle; Hodgetown will be three-quarters full when the Soddies open their home season soon.

To be clear, the Rangers are going to require fans to wear masks. I presume they’ll have hand sanitizer available.

However, social distancing is not at all possible when you jam fans together in a venue where they’re sitting right next to each other. We’ve had these spikes in infection rates and hospitalization, in case you hadn’t heard. They have occurred just as states and local governments lift restrictions created by the outbreak of the COVID virus which has killed more than 550,000 Americans — and that number is still climbing, albeit at a slower rate.

My goodness, I hope this isn’t a mistake.

Baseball is back!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Baseball is back. The fans are back … in the stands where they belong.

At least for now. I am going to hold out a sliver of hope that we don’t see such a recurrence of the coronavirus pandemic that Major League Baseball and its minor league affiliate leagues and teams will be forced to shut down for the second summer in a row.

I say all this with a particular eye cast up yonder to where we once lived, Amarillo, Texas. The fans there are waiting with bated breath

for the start of their Amarillo Sod Poodles’ season opener, which occurs in a few weeks.

The fans there have been patient, as near as I can tell. Their team won the Texas League pennant in 2019 in its first season in existence as the Sod Poodles. Then the pandemic struck. The Texas League morphed into the Central League, which means that once this season gets started the Soddies won’t be defending their pennant, at least not in precise terms.

Hey, that’s OK. If you’re a fan of the Sod Poodles — and I acknowledge that since I no longer live in Amarillo that I only can cheer for ’em from a distance — then all you care about is opening day and the festivity that goes with enjoying a day and/or night at the ballpark.

I wish everyone well, from the Big Leagues on down.

Oh, and be sure to wear your masks while cheering for your favorite teams. Deal? Good!

Let’s play ball!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This news knocks me out, man!

The college students who played this past summer while the pandemic had put minor-league baseball on the shelf in Amarillo … are coming back for a second season!

The Texas Collegiate League is going to begin playing hardball at the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ home field when the Soddies are on the road. The college students’ season begins May 28 and will last through July 17. The teams will play a 22-game schedule.

The teams from across the state will comprise college students from around the nation. They are varsity athletes and, to be totally honest, they play some pretty good hardball.

The Sod Poodles will embark soon on their second season after winning the Texas League title in 2019. They now play in the Central League. I personally hope to see them this season when they venture to Frisco, near my new home in Princeton, to play the Roughriders. Yes, I’ll cheer for the Soddies when they do well on the field.

As ABC 7 reported: “We are very excited to again partner with the Texas Collegiate League,” said Sod Poodles President and General Manager Tony Ensor. “Baseball has become a huge part of our culture in Amarillo and the best and most exciting baseball environment in the country has been built at HODGETOWN because of our great fans and community. We look forward to hosting and creating more local and nationwide opportunities for these college athletes and showcase some of the best talent college baseball has to offer!”

Texas Collegiate League baseball returning to Hodgetown | KVII (abc7amarillo.com)

The return of the Texas Collegiate League bodes well for the future of baseball in Amarillo. I recall hearing former Amarillo College President Paul Matney once say that “Amarillo is a baseball town” as he sought to sell the notion of building the ballpark in downtown Amarillo. The Sod Poodles’ initial season bore that out as fans flocked the ballpark.

This year will be different only in that the team so far is planning to sell enough tickets to put about 75 percent of the park’s capacity in the stands.

Whatever. The college athletes are coming back, giving baseball fans another reason to cheer while they chew on Cracker Jack.

Student-athletes don’t need more dough!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s launch a pre-emptive strike against what I am certain will become a talking point as we travel farther down this road called March Madness.

That is this notion of paying student-athletes for doing what they do, which is to excel in athletics while obtaining a higher education.

We must not go down that road. Why? Because these student-athletes — men and women alike — already are getting paid in the form of acquiring essentially a free college education.

If they excel in any of the sports sanctioned by the NCAA, they receive scholarships to attend the school of their choice. They become enrolled in prestigious public and private colleges and universities. Oh, and they also engage in sports activities representing their chosen school.

Granted, a tiny fraction of these student-athletes go on to earn millions of dollars as paid professional athletes, be it basketball, football, baseball/softball. Which makes their education all the more vital to them.

But think of it: They aren’t paying for their tuition, their fees, their books, their lodging, their meal plans. They get it all free because of their athletic prowess!

I agree that there ought to be ways to loosen the rules prohibiting alumni from paying for an athlete’s lunch, things such as that. Most assuredly there needs to be much work done to achieve gender equality between men and women’s sports.

I haven’t heard much discussion about this matter during this March Madness mayhem. I guess everyone’s too caught up in watching their bracket matchups being blown to smithereens by all the Cinderella-story upsets. This issue pops up, though, which is why I wanted to weigh in here.

I was able to attend college without piling up a huge student loan debt. I had the GI Bill to pay for my college education. Perhaps my view of paying student-athletes is jaded, given that I wasn’t a good enough athlete to earn a full-ride college scholarship. I wasn’t a stellar enough high school student to earn an academic scholarship, either.

I just know what I see playing out these days. Which is student-athletes given a chance to perform their athletic skills while at the same time attending college and — hopefully! — being attentive enough in the classroom to work toward their degree.

Do they deserve a salary to play ball? No. They earn enough money as it is.

March Madness is … madness!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

There is no way for me to wrap my arms around this thing we call March Madness.

It occurs every year — pandemic notwithstanding — when men’s basketball teams qualify for the national collegiate tournament to determine the national champion.

They assign dozens of teams to the tournament, selecting them to compete against each other. Then it falls on the fools among us to try to predict which two teams make it all the way through to the championship game, which this year will occur in Indianapolis, Ind.

Here’s what confuses me. I cannot find the appropriate way to measure the magnitude of difficulty in determining how one can guess which teams make it all the way through. You have to pick the winners of every game played. How in the name of metaphysical certitude do you do that?

It looks for all the world to be as likely as being snatched off Earth by ETs who have come here from the great beyond.

I hear that sure-fire brackets have busted already. Well … there’s always next year.

Let’s play ball … carefully!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to lift the mask mandate he instituted when the coronavirus pandemic broke out is going to have a significant impact on one vocal segment of the Texas population.

That would be sports fans who flock to stadiums to cheer the home team on to victory.

Listen up, Amarillo Sod Poodles fans. This blog post is important.

I called the Sod Poodles’ office today and learned that the organization is selling tickets that fill Hodgetown — the team’s downtown ballpark — to 75 percent of capacity. “We’re hoping to get to 100 percent,” a young man told me, “given what the Texas Rangers are planning” for the American League baseball season. The Texas Rangers are going to fill Globe-Life Park in Arlington to the max; although I am quite certain the fans there will be masked up as they cheer for the Rangers.

So it ought to be even with limited seating sold at Hodgetown.

The Sod Poodles’ park seats about 7,000 fans. At 75 percent sales, the Sod Poodles will be playing before about 5,200 fans — give or take — when the Central League home season opens in late May. I am pretty sure that the fans attending the game will be cheering loudly. Which brings me to another point: COVID virus spores travel through the air when human beings shout or scream … or cheer!

That compels me to admonish the Soddies’ fans who are inclined to holler when the home team performs well to mask up.

Hey, I’m pulling for you and for your team. I just don’t want to read about “super spreader events” occurring in Amarillo, Texas.

50 years since Fight of Century? Wow!

(AP Photo/John Lindsay)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Someone once said that to be called “Heavyweight Champion of the World” was tantamount to being labeled the “baddest dude on Earth.

Everyone used to know the name of the heavyweight champion. These days? I cannot tell you unless I look it up in my World Almanac and Book of Facts.

I mention this because some of the sports networks this weekend have commemorated the 50th year since the Fight of the Century.

Yep, on March 8, 1971 two men fought for the heavyweight title. One guy was the champion, Joe Frazier. The challenger? A fellow named Muhammad Ali.

I’ll set the table briefly. I was a huge Muhammad Ali fan. I considered him “the champ,” since he was stripped of his title in 1967 because he refused induction into the Army during the Vietnam War. Boxing authorities stripped him of his license to fight. He became an iconic figure. He would win reinstatement and then the Supreme Court would rule unanimously that he should be allowed to fight again.

Ali returned to the gym and whipped his body into shape. He fought twice against quality contenders before squaring off against Joe Frazier.

The fight lived up to the hype. It was a brutal affair. Frazier won by decision. He floored Ali in the final round. They both were great champions. Although, I surely must acknowledge that Muhammad Ali was The Greatest.

Both men are gone now. Frazier died in 2011 of cancer; Ali died in 2016 of Parkinson’s disease. The fight game isn’t the same without them.

The Fight of the Century turned out to be all that it was trumpeted to be. There likely will never be a man-to-man competition that ever will measure up to what we witnessed a half-century ago.

Fans at games, too?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Greg Abbott’s big announcement today wasn’t as specific as perhaps it could have been.

The Texas governor declared that Texas businesses were “100 percent open,” meaning they could serve at full capacity. He implored us all to continue to observe social distancing, wash our hands and all that kind of thing.

The governor did not make specific mention of sporting events. Will sports fans be able to sit next to each other at venues to cheer on their favorite teams? That question has surfaced, for instance, among fans of the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the Double A baseball team that is set to open its second-ever season in early May.

Therein lies a dilemma, ladies and gentlemen. What about the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers, the Major Leagues’ two franchises? Or the other minor-league franchises scattered throughout Texas?

If I were King of the World, I wouldn’t have made the declaration that Gov. Abbott made today. I would have kept the mask mandate in effect and I would have required that sports venues limit seating to a certain percentage significantly less than full. That ain’t my call. It falls to the governor, I guess, to determine whether it is safe to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers in sports venues.

I suppose the final answer to whether Sod Poodles fans will be able to fill all of Hodgetown’s seats when the season opens there in mid-May falls on the team ownership, or perhaps Amarillo City Hall.

I don’t have a suggestion on how the team should go with this one. You know already what I think of Gov. Abbott’s decision to open business back up to full capacity; I think it’s a potentially disastrous mistake. The pandemic is still raging, albeit at a bit calmer pace than it was a few weeks ago.

Perhaps the governor ought to provide some further guidance on what sports fans all over the state should do, keeping in mind that Priority No. 1 must be everyone’s health and well-being.