Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Frisco RoughRiders 1 at Amarillo Sod Poodles 2 (Texas League) - August 4, 2019

After witnessing my first MLB no-hitter the night before, I made my way to Amarillo, the original destination for this trip. Having seen the no-no, I felt like it was time to try new things, so when I was given a pickup at the rental car agency, I accepted. I even tried a new fast food place, WienerSchnitzel, whose $5 special includes a chili cheese dog, a chili cheeseburger, and chili cheese fries. Seems healthy enough.

Of course, the reason why I was in Amarillo was to see one of three new minor league ballparks this season, namely HODGETOWN (use all caps according to team management), home of the Sod Poodles. I had planned to wait until 2020 to add this park to my count, as the Texas Rangers are opening their new digs then and I could combine them into one trip. But as I perused the Sod Poodles schedule, I happened to notice that they would have having a stadium replica giveaway (above) on August 4. These are the only giveaways I enjoy, and as I was able to get a mileage ticket back on Monday, I decided to spend the money for the ticket there.

After flying in from Houston, getting my pickup truck, and checking into my hotel, I headed over to the stadium, which is right downtown on Buchanan Street, and easily accessible off I-40. The main entrance is already an iconic part of minor league baseball, with the large, round art deco facade. Art deco infuses other elements of the exterior, such as the vertical tickets sign below. The name is also unique in the minors, being just one word and lacking any sort of Field, Park, or Stadium in it. Hodge refers to Jerry Hodge, a community leader who was a primary supporter of the effort to bring affiliated ball back to Amarillo, while Town has several meanings, including being "defined in the Prairie Dog culture as 'multiple colonies forming one large community'", according to the team's website.

I showed up about two hours before gates opened and found a free parking spot on 8th Avenue, half a block away from the stadium. Parking is free after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends, so you shouldn't have to pay the $5 to park in team-operated lots.

I picked up a $6 SRO ticket at this time, and wandered around a bit. Fans were already lining up for the giveaway despite the 96-degree heat; those at the season ticket entrance (above) are admitted 30 minutes earlier than the regular fans, which still meant nearly 90 minutes baking in the sun.

The Sod Poodles have done an excellent job marketing their team and have several different logos, three of which were visible on an office window. (above) A Sod Poodle is another name for a prairie dog, which are common in the surrounding area.

I found a hotel bar just a block away and enjoyed the air conditioning and a couple of beverages there before returning to the main entrance just before gates where scheduled to open. There was a small lineup, but with 1,000 stadium replicas to be handed out, no worries for me, or even those who showed up a few minutes after gates opened.

Once inside, I immediately made my way to the drink rail behind home plate and planted my scorebook there to reserve my spot. The view from there is above. I still prefer standing at these rails because I can spread out a bit more than when at a seat, although as I get older, I find it more difficult to stand the whole nine innings. Fortunately, most ushers are kind enough to let me take a seat for the last inning or two.

With my spot secured, I did the tour of the ballpark. The pictures above and below are from the section just behind home plate and show the seating configuration down each line. Seats here are not the usual Kelly green variety, but instead grey and made of a lighter plastic.

The concourse is spacious and offers views of the field from wherever you are.

There are four permanent concession stands, each with a different name and specialty menu, though each also offer the generic menu of hot dogs, pretzels, peanuts, and other typical fare. Feed and Seed offered a variety of treats, including a generous serving of ice cream on a sugar cone for $3.75. This was one of the few bargains I found, as food prices were a bit higher than I'm used to at AA. Beer was particularly expensive, with craft options going for $10, more than I've seen at any minor league park.

As I moved around the concourse, I took pictures from a variety of angles. Below you can see the suite level above the seating bowl. This area is closed off to regular ticket holders, but I did hear there is an amazing lounge right above home plate. A couple offered to show me the area, but I was too busy scoring the game to take them up on their offer.

Looking toward right field, you can see the berm. Surprisingly, they say that you need a specific lawn ticket to sit here; SRO tickets like I had would not be honoured. I suppose that is to stop the berm from overflowing, but I can't imagine too many people with regular seats choosing to forgo those to sit on the lawn.

There is a very spacious kids area well away from the concourse, minimizing the chance of stray foul balls.

The big attraction for Hodgetown is for groups. There are five different types of hospitality area, such as the picnic patio below. There is no doubt that these days, going to sporting events is more of a social event than actually watching the game, and it makes sense for teams to cater to them with these options.

The view of the stadium structure from right field, above the berm.

The scoreboard is above left field and quite nice for this level. During the game, the linescore is at the bottom, player stats and replays at the top, and the batting lineup to the right.

There are some irregularities in the shape of the outfield fence, as you can see below.

Moving over to left field, there are tables that are open to anyone. These would be nice for a night game, but on a hot afternoon like this one, it was better to be in the shade.

Bar 352 is a full-service bar that is 352 feet from home plate.

The view down the left field line. Generally, the third base side is shaded during afternoon games.

Another picnic area, which seemed to be open to the public on this day, as there were no reserved signs on these tables.

A view back across the diamond from the left field corner. Always nice to see the bullpens in the field.

The mascot is Ruckus and there is a giant bobblehead of him right behind home plate. I stood right behind him so I am in a lot of pictures I am sure.

The real mascot is extremely energetic, running around the concourse and waving and dancing constantly. Very impressive considering the weight of the costume and the heat.

Overall, HODGETOWN is a great new ballpark that seems to have something for everyone. The main entrance is one of the most alluring in all of the minors and the unique stadium name shows creativity and a desire to be different. Of course, there is no history or "Road to the Show" display yet, but I am sure that will be added as the seasons pass. I think the Sod Poodles will be a mainstay in the Texas Panhandle for years to come and look forward to a return visit sometime.

The Game

Frisco (Texas) was in town to finish up a four-game set against the Sod Poodles (San Diego), who started Lake Bachar (5th round, 2016) against Edgar Arredondo. Despite neither pitcher being considered a top prospect, we ended up with a pitcher's duel. It wasn't until the bottom of the 4th that a run scored as Owen Miller (3rd, 2018) doubled home Brad Zunica (15th, 2015). The RoughRiders got that back in the 5th as Ryan Dorow (30th, 2017) crushed a ball to left, one of only 3 hits given up by Bachar in his 6.2 innings. It remained tied until the 8th, when Zunica rapped a two-out single off Jonathan Hernandez (Rangers #12 prospect) that scored Buddy Reed (2nd, 2016, Padres #29 prospect). David Bednar (35th, 2016) came in to pitch a perfect 9th for this 10th save of the season as the Sod Poodles won a quick one, 2-1 in 2:29.


With an upcoming visit to Las Vegas, I will again be current with all 160 active minor league ballparks. That trip will also include the Jays in Dodger Stadium as I continue my Toronto on the Road quest. Check back for recaps in a couple of weeks.



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