A preview of the Poodles’ palace


Following the first-class, festive announcement that Amarillo’s team will be called the Sod Poodles, I was given an exclusive tour of the ballpark they’ll occupy starting in April. Even though it was covered in snow that day, I could clearly tell it will be a winner, as several novel design elements will no doubt capture the fancy of the fans in the Texas Panhandle.

My tourguides were Brian Simpson of Populous (architects) and Brandon Robertson of Western | Hunt (contractors), and we battled the elements to examine everything.

Check out my preview of the ballpark that includes 13 photos you won’t see anywhere else!


Sod Poodles it is


by Joe Mock
All rights reserved

AMARILLO, TEXAS  Amarillo was both frigid and festive Tuesday, as the relocating San Antonio Missions announced the nickname they’ll use when the they take the field on April 8, 2019: Sod Poodles.

With temperatures in the 20s outside and a rare layer of snow on the ground, the ballroom of the Embassy Suites in downtown Amarillo hosted the big reveal. Hundreds of season ticket holders as well as viewers on local TV and Facebook Live learned the new name of the Texas League team.

After a series of speeches, including remarks by Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson and D.G. Elmore, Jr. (shown in the photo addressing the media) of the Elmore Sports Group that owns the team, Elmore and team General Manager Tony Ensor pulled back a sheet revealing the new name and logo. Confetti flew and rousing music filled the ballroom as the fans cheered and school children on the front rows squealed with delight.

According to pioneer lore, settlers in the area often referred to prairie dogs as “sod poodles.” In materials released by the team, they noted that the nickname provides a connection to the history of the Texas Panhandle, while offering instant appeal to youngsters. It’s certainly unique.

Brandiose was the firm tasked with bringing the nickname to life. The logos they created were then revealed by Ensor with a short backstory for each image (below).

“We in Minor League Baseball have to be willing to change,” Texas League President Tim Purpura told BaseballParks.com. “Take this new name and logo. Even ten years ago, it wouldn’t have been respected or admired, but now it will be.”

He added that “Minor League Baseball is a fun business but it’s a serious business, too, because we’re developing young players to be Major Leaguers. To me, the fun business of the Sod Poodles and the serious business go hand in hand.”

When Gary Jennings of Amarillo learned that affiliated Minor League Baseball was returning to town after a 37-year absence, “I was overjoyed because it showed Amarillo’s citizens are moving the city forward.” He eagerly purchased season tickets. “It’s wonderful not just for Amarillo, but for the whole Texas Panhandle. And the ballpark is going to bring other avenues of entertainment.”

“The City wanted to have a true a multi-purpose event center,” Jerry Danforth, Facilities Director for Amarillo, told us. “We were looking for an anchor in Minor League Baseball, but we also wanted other events to take place there. We knew if we could bring in a baseball team that could also schedule other events, we could keep the energy up, and that was our goal.”

That $45.5 million ballpark is being built two blocks down the street from the Embassy Suites. Populous is the architecture firm and a partnership of Western Builders and Hunt Construction is handling the contracting. I was given a tour of the facility following the announcement festivities. Here’s my article and photos on what I saw at the impressive facility.


Thrillsville


I’ve been meaning to do this for about a decade — and now I have! I’ve completely updated my list of biggest “ballpark thrills.” You know, the most thrilling experiences I’ve had at a ballpark. And they are ranked, from #1 to #100 — with a few more thrown in as honorable mentions.

Some involve World Series games, some involve college contests … and lots of things in between. In fact, the one topping the list was at a kids’ baseball game!

The photo, by the way, was from my seat at the game with the largest attendance in the history of the sport. Where does it fall on my list? Read the rankings to find out.

So check out my completely updated list of my top 100 experiences at a ballpark. And after looking it over, add a comment with your own ballpark highlight!


If you are really into ballparks


If you’re really into ballparks, you’ll love this.

I’ve been lucky enough to be interviewed several times on Steve Manderson’s Sports Tuesday show on the Source Radio Network. We always have a great conversation about ballparks.

My most-recent conversation with Steve was recorded as a YouTube video (there was a webcam pointed at me, but not at Steve unfortunately), so you can listen to it.

It’s over an hour long, and we cover a lot of ground — all without commercials!

Our first topic is how I covered MLB’s games in Puerto Rico for USA TODAY, and what it took to prepare the ballpark for those games following the back-to-back hurricanes that devastated the island. Other topics include: what I learned from my tour of the Braves’ new spring-training complex in North Port, Florida; what I think about the possible new parks in Tampa and Oakland; what markets deserve a MLB expansion team (Portland won’t like me on this topic!) and much more.

If you are a fan of ballparks, you’ll enjoy this wide-ranging conversation. So play the YouTube video on your phone and listen as you drive to work. It’s way more interesting than what you normally listen to! And let me know what you think about the interview!


Exclusive look at Braves’ new spring complex


Thanks to the Braves and the architects of the team’s new spring-training complex in North Port, Florida, I was given an exclusive tour of the facility.

Construction is still very much going on, but the 21 shots in our photo essay will let you see the Braves’ Major League and Minor League clubhouses, the workout facilities, the grounds and all around the stadium at the complex’s heart.

Check out the page here.