We end 2018 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #4: Elmore Sports Group lays the groundwork for 2019 franchise shifts.
It’s not easy to relocate a team but somehow the Elmore Sports Group—the 2018 Ballpark Digest Organization of the Year—is pulling off three in a year with the Amarillo Sod Poodles (Class AA; Texas League), the Rocky Mountain Vibes (Rookie; Pioneer League), and the San Antonio Missions (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). The Texas League Missions relocated to Amarillo to become the Sod Poodles, with the former Colorado Springs Sox of the PCL moving to San Antonio and assuming the Missions name and branding, and the Pioneer League’s former Helena Brewers shifting to Colorado Springs to become the Vibes.
The Sod Poodles will play in a brand-new ballpark in downtown Amarillo, which is currently under construction. The ballpark is scheduled to open in time for Opening Day 2019 on April 8 and is the first new facility opened by the Elmore Sports Group since 2010, when the Eugene Emeralds (Short Season A; Northwest League) moved into PK Park. The Sod Poodles are the first affiliated minor-league team to play in Amarillo since the Texas League’s Gold Sox relocated to Beaumont, TX after the 1982 season.
Back in November, it was announced that the former Brewers were becoming the Rocky Mountain Vibes, complete with a campfire, s’mores theme, and mascot Toasty Vibes. It wasn’t part of the original final five team names that were voted on by fans but according to Fox 21, Chris Phillips, president and general manager of the Vibes, said the team was inspired after seeing Happy Campers in the final five and decided to come up with a name inspired by that which led to the Vibes.
San Antonio will effectively move up from the Class AA Texas League to the Class AAA Pacific Coast League, while maintaining the storied Missions name. The club will play at Wolff Stadium for now, but a new ballpark will be pursued for down the road.
Time will tell what the future holds as these three franchises settle in to a new normal in their respective cities and/or leagues but one thing is for sure: the future is bright.
Here’s our Top Ten of 2018 to date: