Tag Archives: Hodgetown

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.

Will the fans hold onto their enthusiasm? Uhh, yep!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My old trick knee — which has let me down from time to time while I ponder political prognostication — is acting up again.

The throbbing is letting me know that my former neighbors and current friends up yonder in Amarillo are waiting with bated breath for the start of their favorite baseball team’s 2021 season.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles won the Texas League title in 2019 in their first year of existence. Then they were sent to the showers for the entire 2020 season; the COVID-19 pandemic took out its wrath on the fans’ enthusiasm.

My hope for the fans is that they will be able to cheer once again for their beloved Sod Poodles. They likely will be unable to pack Hodgetown for every game. My sense is that Gov. Greg Abbott or city leaders will impose outdoor gathering restrictions at least for the start of the season.

We’re hearing some encouraging news about the fight against the pandemic. The infection, hospitalization and death rates are receding. Good news, yes? Of course it is!

That will allow sports fans all across the state and the nation to begin gathering — eventually — to cheer for their favorite athletes.

The Sod Poodles hope to pick up where they left off at the end of their inaugural season in 2019. That trick knee of mine is telling me the fans will respond.

Sod Poodles to play ball?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This message ought to be directed to the couple of Amarillo soreheads who have chastised me for commenting on the city’s minor league baseball team because I no longer live in the Texas Panhandle.

My strong hope is that the Amarillo Sod Poodles will play ball this spring and summer. My stronger hope is to be able to watch the Sod Poodles play hardball, although it is not likely I’ll be able to do so at Hodgetown.

I won’t give up on the notion of attending a Sod Poodles game at the downtown Amarillo ballpark. The greater likelihood will be that I will watch ’em and yell for ’em while sitting in the Frisco Roughriders park, which is a whole lot closer to our home in Princeton.

I had intended to attend a Roughriders game vs. the Soddies in 2020. Then the pandemic wiped out the Texas League season. The Sod Poodles couldn’t defend the league title they won in their initial season in 2019.

A new season well might commence in a few months. I am awaiting the shout to “play ball!”

We have friends who attend ballgames regularly … when they’re playing ball. If we get an invitation to join them when the Sod Poodles come to the Metroplex, we’ll accept.

We might not wait for the invitation. I truly am looking forward to watching the team that has created all the buzz in the Texas Panhandle.

MLB reworks minor-league alignments

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A number of friends of mine who live in a city I used to call home are breathing a bit more easily now that Major League Baseball has announced plans to restructure its alignment with minor-league franchises.

MLB will allow each of the 30 teams in the Big Leagues to have four minor league affiliates. One of them will be a Double A team. Well, the relief comes because the Arizona Diamondbacks have a relationship already with the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

This means, as near as I can tell, that the D-backs and the Soddies will commence their relationship this season, which I certainly hope will be going forward in this era of the pandemic.

The Sod Poodles saw their Texas League season shelved in 2020 because of the pandemic. They couldn’t defend a league title they won in their first year of existence. Maybe they’ll get the chance this  year, or one should hope.

MLB is looking to reduce travel costs and employing other budget-cutting measures. The Sod Poodles could have been left standing alone, like some communities discovered. It’s not to be.

MLB Invites 120 Clubs To Be Minor League Affiliates; Here’s Who Made It And Who Didn’t (forbes.com)

Indeed, the Sod Poodles proved themselves to comprise one of the nation’s most successful minor-league franchises while playing ball in 2019. If only they could have continued that success in 2020.

What the heck. There’s always this year, this season. The Diamondbacks and the Sod Poodles can make a great tandem.

Here is looking forward to another banner year for the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

‘Trash,’ you say? Why, I never …

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I feel the need to share a message I received from someone in Amarillo, Texas, who apparently believes I shouldn’t comment on matters relating to the city I once called home.

I won’t tell you his name, since he sent the message to me privately. I responded privately as well, telling him he was full of feces … except that I used a more descriptive term that means the same thing.

He wrote me this message: Your writings about the Sod Poodles is (sic) trash. You don’t live here so you can stop writing about stuff here. I figured by the way you look you would be a Biden fan.

Well, excuse me, buster!

I have taken to  writing about the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the city’s new Double-A minor league baseball team because (a) I believe the team brings a lot of pizzazz to the city and (b) the city has invested a lot of actual and emotional capital in reviving its downtown district and the Sod Poodles are a big part of that revival.

I am not sure what my correspondent has read that would anger him so much. It’s not as though I have been trashing the Sod Poodles. On the contrary I’ve been cheering them on every step of the way. I applauded the team for winning the Texas League title in 2019 in the Sod Poodles’ first season ever. Granted, they weren’t an expansion team; they relocated to Amarillo after vacating San Antonio, so the team was an established entity in the Texas League.

Moreover, I have cheered the construction of Hodgetown, the Soddies’ new ballpark that was erected downtown. If I have one concern about the project it has been the absence of any businesses buying retail space in the parking garage the city built next to Hodgetown. The park itself is a thing of beauty. Granted, I haven’t yet attended a ballgame there, but I have seen it up close on visits to Amarillo. Hodgetown is a beaut, man!

I am not sure what my correspondent’s assessment of my political leaning has to do with anything. I guess he was just looking for something else to sling at me. Whatever.

My goal is to continue to comment on matters relating to Amarillo. I still have a member of my family living there. My wife and I spent many years there and grew to love the community.

That qualifies me as someone who is fit to comment on matters that I deem appropriate. So … there.

Oh, and how about them Sod Poodles?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Hey, let’s take a break from Donald Trump’s petty petulance at having lost an election.

I want to offer an atta boy to the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the defending Texas League champs and the minor league baseball team that plays hardball in the city I once called home.

Sod Poodles General Manager Tony Ensor, said this, “We are very pleased to announce that the Amarillo Sod Poodles organization has been formally invited by the Arizona Diamondbacks to become their new Double-A affiliate. Today’s announcement recognizes Amarillo and the Sod Poodles as being among the very best communities and franchises in Minor League Baseball. We are eager to review this affiliation opportunity with the Diamondbacks and our ownership group and look forward to discussing the exciting future ahead for baseball in Amarillo.”

There you go. The Sod Poodles have joined another Major League Baseball team in developing young talent that eventually hopes to end up in the Bigs. The Sod Poodles’ former parent club was the San Diego Padres. They have switched. To be candid, this one got past me. I must’ve been too preoccupied with other matters, such as the aforementioned Donald Trump’s bitching about losing an election to Joe Biden.

I’ll have to be content to cheer for the Sod Poodles  from afar, presuming they have a season this year; it didn’t happen for the Soddies, who wanted to defend their Texas League title won in the team’s first year of existence. We can thank the COVID pandemic for that.

Let’s hope they play ball this year … under the watchful eye of the Arizona Diamondbacks.