The Texas League of Professional Baseball Clubs today announced the Amarillo Sod Poodles and Tulsa Drillers as its 2020 Co-Organizations of the Year for their impactful efforts in the community and creative operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and cancellation of the 2020 Minor League season. This marks the second consecutive Organization of the Year honor for the Sod Poodles franchise after being recognized following the team’s 2019 Championship and storybook inaugural season.
“In order to celebrate the great efforts our clubs have put forth during 2020, the baseball season that never was, the Texas League has decided to recognize two teams for their ingenuity, creativity and incredible work ethic in providing events in their communities ranging from college baseball games, COVID-related outreaches and digital programs, etc.” said Texas League President Tim Purpura. “The League is very pleased to recognize the Amarillo Sod Poodles and the Tulsa Drillers as co-Organizations of the Year for 2020. Congratulations to both clubs, their owners, management, and fans for keeping things positive during trying times.”
"We would like to thank the Texas League for recognizing us with this honor and congratulate Tulsa on their efforts,” said Sod Poodles President and General Manager Tony Ensor. “This award speaks to the leadership of our ownership, Elmore Sports Group, our incredible staff, season seat members, tremendous corporate partners, the City of Amarillo, and the cooperation of our fantastic community. With Amarillo’s commitment to health and the safeguards put together with the support of local city leaders, we were able to put on an event season to remember!”
The official announcement of the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season presented a newfound challenge for teams across the nation. With their primary event season extinguished, the Sod Poodles organization immediately started to look for other ways to make a positive impact on the Amarillo community during uncertain times.
To safely hold events, the Sod Poodles worked with state and local health officials to create a detailed COVID-19 Readiness Plan, covering the full array of fan/staff procedures and cleaning protocols for all events to take place at HODGETOWN, including ballpark-wide sanitation stations, socially-distant seating, mask-wearing, staff temperature checks, and enhanced disinfecting of common areas. Furthermore, the team worked proactively with Germinator powered by J-Ferg Pros for ballpark-wide sanitizing, which applied a protective application that lasted for up to three months after being sprayed.
From March to the year’s end, the Sod Poodles organization’s goal was to provide a little sense of normalcy and do their best to ensure that the community did not lose a summer of memories. This was accomplished by creatively keeping fans engaged both at home or at the ballpark in a variety of ways.
The team hosted 25 live social media shows dubbed the “SodCast” that highlighted community organizations from around the community and featured special guests like Dwier Brown of Field of Dreams and Rick Rizzs, former Amarillo and current Mariners’ broadcaster. The organization also joined the City of Amarillo’s #AllInAmarillo initiative and launched yellow “We Are Amarillo” t-shirts in support of healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers across the Texas Panhandle, where each purchase of a shirt donated two tickets to a future game for an essential worker. At the campaign’s end, an overwhelming community response sparked over 1,300 tickets to donate after 650 shirts were purchased.
In June, the Sod Poodles took on a lead role along with fellow Elmore affiliate San Antonio to negotiate and expand the existing four-team Texas Collegiate Wood-Bat Summer League (TCL) to a 10-team league with other minor league teams in Tulsa, Frisco, and Round Rock. The Sod Poodles organization committed to creating opportunities for over 60 college student-athletes to continue their development and host not one, but two teams, introducing the Amarillo Sod Dogs and Sod Squad.
As a result, in 35 games hosted in Amarillo spanning from June 30 to August 6, Amarillo drew a league-best 56,300 fans. Additionally, fans were able to enjoy seven fireworks nights, seven gate giveaways, discounted ticket nights, dollar hot dog games, and Thirsty Thursdays.
The Sod Squad earned the North Division title after a 22-11 finish. The Sod Squad, managed by Brett Wellman, son of 2019 Texas League Manager of the Year Phillip Wellman, piloted the ‘Squad to the deciding game three of the North Division Championship, earning himself the well-deserved honor of TCL Manager of the Year. The two teams combined were represented by players from 32 different schools across the nation, including 31 Division I, 22 Division II, and six Division III and junior college athletes. Eight of the 14 total All-TCL North Division slots were represented by Amarillo players as well as the TCL North Player of the Year.
HODGETOWN also was host to the 12th annual “Boots vs. Badges” Charity Softball Game played between local firefighters and law enforcement to benefit the 100 Club of the Texas Panhandle and Coffee Memorial Blood Center, three ballpark movie nights, a “Uniting as One” community church service, the first-ever outdoor symphony “Hollywood at HODGETOWN” concert, and two socially-distanced country concerts featuring Cooder Graw and Flatland Cavalry.
During the holiday season, Diamond Creations, the Sod Poodles' in-house catering and concessions operation, worked with the Salvation Army and donated their staff and stadium kitchens to cook 45 turkeys and 25 hams for their free, community luncheon held at the Amarillo Civic Center on Thanksgiving Day. Additionally, half of the full-time front office staff volunteered at the event to serve food, assist guests, and set up and clean the facility.
And, in December, HODGETOWN hosted the eighth annual North Side Toy Drive, which provided a healthy, outdoor, socially-distanced environment to support the event that presented gifts to more than 3,000 underprivileged children.
Overall, the Sod Poodles organization safely hosted 73,600 community guests who attended events in 2020.
Amarillo will host their 2021 home opener at HODGETOWN on Tuesday, May 18 against the Midland RockHounds, Double-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, to begin their initial six-game homestand.
For the most up-to-date news on the Sod Poodles along with detailed information on the 2021 season, promotions, and tickets, follow the team on social media @sodpoodles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For questions and more information, call 806-803-7762 or email [email protected].