Tag Archives: Hodgetown

Hotel signals a potentially shiny future for city

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was unable to attend the dedication of a new hotel in downtown Amarillo, given that I now live about 360 miles southeast of the city.

The opening of the Barfield Hotel, though, has been on my radar for some time, dating back to my days as a journalist covering downtown Amarillo’s rebirth, revival and its renaissance.

The city has crossed what looks to me — even at some distance — like an important threshold.

The Barfield sat vacant for more than 30 years. It was a rotten hulk of a structure. Homeless people would sleep on the ground floor, freezing during winter nights. Then through a series of ownership changes, some fits and starts and a hiccup or two along the way, the city managed to cobble together a development package that resulted in the opening of what they call a “boutique hotel.”

Marriott Corp. is the lead company in this deal. I haven’t yet seen the newly revived Barfield building. I hope to get back there soon to lay eyes on the structure at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street.

Why is this an important event? Because it signals to me that the city’s downtown rebirth is continuing. The Barfield is just the latest in a series of triumphs that businesses and the city have scored along the way.

Hodgetown still welcomes fans flocking to the ballpark to cheer for the Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball team; the Embassy Suites hotel is up and running nearby; various storefronts have opened along Polk Street; the city is offering some additional entertainment venues for residents and visitors to enjoy.  Downtown hasn’t become Nirvana. That parking garage downtown is still lacking sufficient business activity to pay for itself, from I have been able to discern.

Still, downtown Amarillo, as near as I can tell, bears little resemblance to the moribund district I discovered when my wife and I moved there in early 1995.

Is the city done? Has the work been completed? Oh, I doubt it strongly. City Hall might be relocated. The Civic Center is slated to get some major work done. They’re building a new courts building to serve Potter County downtown. Oh, and then there’s the Herring Hotel building … another rotting structure that cries out for some tender loving care.

All in all, I am happy to see the progress being made in a downtown district where I used to work and which I once lamented about its future. I worry far less these days about the future of the city. It’s looking brighter all the time.

Soddies have firm grip on fans

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Amarillo’s Central League baseball team, the Sod Poodles, are struggling a bit on the field this year. They are in last place in their division.

But … there’s some good news to report on the team that won the Texas League pennant in their first year of existence in 2019.

The fans are still flocking to Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark that sits along Buchanan Street in downtown Amarillo. How do I know that, given I now live in Princeton, a suburb of Dallas?

I get the Sunday Dallas Morning News each week. I went out this morning to pick it up off my driveway. I opened the sports page and turned to the Central League box scores. I saw that the Sod Poodles had lost a game Saturday night at home to the Frisco Roughriders. However, they played before a packed house at Hodgetown.

This is good news on at least one important level. It tells me that the Sod Squad — a social media group — isn’t just a gaggle of fair-weather fans who cheer the Sod Poodles on only when they win. They’re with ’em through thick and thin. Let’s face it, they’ve hit a “thin” patch this season after sitting out all of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

I remain proud of the baseball community in Amarillo, where my wife and I lived for 23 years before relocating to the Dallas ‘burbs.

Retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney, a vocal proponent of bringing minor-league ball back to Amarillo, once referred to his hometown as a “baseball city.”

That means they’re in it for the long haul with the team that many folks fought hard to bring to the High Plains.

What tastes best at the ballpark?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Someone who belongs to a social media group to which I also belong has asked what well might be the most, um, silliest question ever posed.

She wants to know “What’s the best thing to eat at the stadium?”

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this question posed on Facebook. The query comes from a member of the Amarillo Sod Poodles fan club.

I am going to presume something implied in the question. I will presume that “stadium” refers to the ballpark where the Sod Poodles play baseball in Amarillo.

My answer was unequivocal. I said, “hot dog.” I should have put a few exclamation points behind it.

I mean, I can think of nothing that tastes better at a ballpark during a baseball game than a hot dog smothered in mustard. I believe the late talk show host Mike Douglas once said that a hot dog at a baseball game was equal to “a filet mignon.”

Man, he was so right.

I am not going to make fun of the question or the questioner. It just boggles my noggin that “hot dogs at the ballpark” isn’t known universally as among the best eatin’ ever.

Soddie fans get good news

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

So help me I thought I could hear some wild cheers coming from Amarillo when news came from federal medical experts about the mask and social-distancing mandate.

The cheers would have come from fans of the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the city’s minor league baseball team that opens its home season next week at Hodgetown.

Why the cheers? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed the mask and social distance mandate for those who are fully vaccinated against the COVID pandemic.

That means, if I get this right, that Hodgetown can be filled to the max with fans who don’t need to sit six feet apart from each other.

I am happy for the fans who get to go to the ballpark to cheer the Soddies on. I hope they exercise at least a modicum of caution. How? They ought to wear their masks, even if they are fully vaccinated against the killer virus.

I wish everyone in Amarillo the best as we all take these baby steps toward what we used to think was a “normal life.” As for the Sod Poodles’ fans, they now get a chance to show the Central League — where the Soddies play their hardball — how rock-solid baseball fans act when they get the chance to cheer for the home team.

Soddies’ home opener approaches

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

AMARILLO, Texas — If only we could stay for another, oh, two weeks.

We cannot. Why the wishful thought? I would love to sit in the stands when the Amarillo Sod Poodles begin their home season in the newly aligned Central League, a Double A baseball organization.

Our agenda takes us away. My sense, though, as we sit so close to Hodgetown is that the Soddies’ baseball faithful are chomping at their proverbial bit to sit in the ballpark and cheer their hometown team on to victory.

I’ll be with y’all in spirit.

How do you measure success?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I wrote an item nearly four years ago that projected good, even great, things for the city where I used to live.

My wife and I plan to return there soon on a brief stopover on our way to the Pacific Ocean. We will be hauling our RV behind our big ol’ pickup. I intend to take a quick look around Amarillo, Texas, just to see if my projection holds up.

I think it will. I certainly hope that is the case.

The blog I posted referred specifically to what was called the “MPEV,” which became an acronym for “multipurpose event venue.” The MPEV, when completed, took on the name of Hodgetown, which is in honor of former Mayor Jerry Hodge, who possesses one of the city’s deepest pockets, not to mention an abiding love of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.

When it’s built, MPEV will benefit entire city | High Plains Blogger

Hodge and many others worked hard to lure a AA baseball team to Amarillo. The community honored him by putting his name on the site known formerly as the MPEV.

The city continues to undergo a major facelift in its downtown district, or so I have been told. They’re going to open the Barfield Building — presumably soon — as a boutique hotel. Those of us who used to see the rotting hulk of a structure regularly are amazed at its transformation.

Interstates 40 and 27 are in the midst of major expansion and improvement. They’re installing a new and improved version of Loop 335 along the city’s western boundary.

So, yes, the city is trekking toward a future that remains a bit unclear. I do believe it will emerge from all this makeover a better place. It will be a more livable community … not that it was unlivable when my wife and I called it home.

That baseball team, the Sod Poodles, will open its 2021 season very soon after sitting out 2020 because of that damn COVID pandemic.

I intend to report back to you what I see upon our return to the Caprock.

Getting set to play ball

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We have many friends in Amarillo, Texas, where we lived for two decades before relocating southeast to the Dallas ‘burbs.

Thus, it is with great pleasure that I join my friends — and baseball fans — as they prepare to start cheering for their beloved Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball team.

The Sod Poodles open their 2021 season next Tuesday in Tulsa, which if you think about it for a second is a most appropriate place to commence your second season in existence.

You see, the Sod Poodles came into being in time for the 2019 season and then they won the Texas League title. Where did they do that? In Tulsa, where they defeated the defending champs on their own field. The COVID pandemic wiped out the 2020 season, leaving the Sod Poodles to wait an extra season to defend their league title.

To be fair, the Texas League is now called the Central League. So the Sod Poodles won’t be defending precisely their pennant.

I am happy for my friends up yonder that they’ll now be able to return to the ballpark — aka Hodgetown — to cheer for their Double AA team.

The Sod Poodles’ home season opens May 18 when Midland rolls into town to play six games in a row at Hodgetown.

I have been cheering for the Sod Poodles from some distance. I realize that I no longer am able to attend games at Hodgetown.  Indeed, the park didn’t open until after we had departed the Caprock. That hasn’t dulled my interest in all the good things that have occurred in Amarillo since our departure.

The Sod Poodles’ initial-season success is just one of the things we’ve been cheering from afar.

With that, I will enjoy looking at the standings each day to see how the team from my former city of residence performs. I wish them well. I wish the fans — and our many friends — well, too, as cheer on the home team.

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.

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.

More good news, Soddies’ fans!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Silly me. I have  been briefed on changes that got past me. So here is an amended — and corrected — version of an earlier blog item.

***

Hey, y’all … I understand the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ 2021 baseball schedule is set.

Are you happy? You should be! The Sod Poodles will get to play ball this season, even though the Texas League where they competed in 2019 no longer exists. The Sod Poodles are playing in the Central League, so a “defense” of their Texas League pennant is now off the table.

The season begins May 4. The Sod Poodles will open their home schedule two weeks later, May 18, at Hodgetown.

Amarillo Sod Poodles announce 2021 regular season schedule (msn.com)

The picture you see with this blog was taken in 2019. There likely won’t be a packed ballpark when the Sod Poodles take the field in Amarillo against the Midland RockHounds. Social distancing requirements in the ongoing fight against the pandemic will limit crowd sizes at all sports venues in Texas. Will that quell the enthusiasm of the fans who will attend? Hardly.

I just want to sing the praises of the Amarillo minor-league franchise. It has signed a 10-year agreement with the Arizona Diamondbacks of the National League. The franchise, in only its second season of hardball, is getting national recognition.

I will hold my breath, too, as the Soddies get ready to play ball.