When you are coming into a new season as the reigning champs, there is a palpable excitement around you. Amarillo fans have come flocking to HODGETOWN to get a glimpse of the Sod Poodles and see if they can turn around and become repeat champions.

They filter into the ballpark, grab their drinks and snacks and settle into their seats. The first pitch is thrown, and everyone locks into the game.

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Last season, it was easy to stay locked into the game. The Soddies would drive in a ton of runs, and give up less than they were scoring. Easy recipe for a win right there, and win they did often. It's what led them to a championship.

This season? Hasn't exactly gotten off on the right foot. Our beloved Sod Poodles are sitting towards the bottom of the standings with a 2-7 record, and unfortunately, it hasn't even been close.

The prolific offense we had last season? It's sputtering big time. They've only plated 37 runs in those nine games, good for 4 runs per game. In the high flying Texas League, that's not nearly enough to win most ballgames.

To further compound the problem, the Soddies have given up a staggering 74 runs, or a touch over 8 runs per game on average. Can't win ball games giving up that many. To top it all off, they're 0-3 at the friendly confines of HODGETOWN, not something you want to see.

So what's the problem? Have they forgotten how to play baseball? No, that's not the case at all. See, we've been spoiled the last few years from some incredible talent that has rolled through here. The Diamondbacks organization did a great job drafting over the last several years.

The point of the minor leagues is to allow those players to develop, then work up to the big club for their shot at MLB stardom. Just over the last couple of years, we've seen Alek Thomas, Jordan Lawlar, and reigning MLB Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll stroll into, and out of, Amarillo.

Those guys will help you win a lot of games, but as they do that, they get moved up levels. Most head to the AAA affiliate in Reno. Right now, Reno is stocked up with a lot of the guys from last seasons team. Some of the other guys that helped the Soddies to a championship have moved on to different clubs.

It's not to say the Soddies don't have the talent on this team. Ivan Melendez is a beast, he's just off to a slow start. Deyvison De Los Santos is back and doing his part hitting .351 at the moment. A.J. Vukovich is also over .300 with a couple of home runs.

The pitching staff is WILDLY different from last season though, and there are a lot of young guys trying to find their footing against these better hitters. Jumping up levels as a pitcher is the hardest thing to do. The hitters at the AA level are far better, older, and more experienced, and these pitchers have nine of them to get through.

The season isn't lost, we're only nine games in. Breathe, relax, and let these boys settle into the summer. It can only go up from here, right?

Josh Jung and the Frisco RoughRiders play in Amarillo at HODGETOWN

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