Amarillo High graduate and Texas Tech outfielder Max Marusak works out for the Amarillo Sod Squad on Friday at Hodgetown. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
With the newly formed Texas Collegiate League fastly approaching for Tuesay’s opener, both the Amarillo Sod Dogs and the Amarillo Sod Squad were on the field for a full practice Friday afternoon at Hodgetown.
Both managers were also on hand to speak to the media for the first time.
Baseball veteran Jimmy Johnson will be the skipper of the Sod Dogs.
Johnson, 72, has been in baseball for 50 years as a former infielder with the Houston Astros (1969-76), and manager/ hitting coordinator at the minor league and big league level. Most recently Johnson coached for the China national baseball team at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Brett Wellman, son of 2019 Sod Poodles manager Phillip Wellman, will oversee the Sod Squad.
Wellman, 28, played three seasons (2014-16) as a catcher in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
With Johnson and Wellman knowing they only have 30 games this summer with these talented players, each of them have their own strategy heading into the short season.
Jimmy Johnson, left, will manage the Amarillo Sod Dogs, while Brett Wellman will skipper the Amarillo Sod Squad. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
“Most of these guys are going to play at the next level,” Wellman said. “In college they don’t play everyday, so our biggest goal is to teach them the grind of playing everyday like professional baseball. We want to teach them how to get their work in, but control it so they aren’t dead tired everyday.”
Johnson says he wants to have a hands on approach, but understands these guys have great instruction from the programs they come from.
“I want these guys to have fun, and learn as much as we can in 32 days,” Johnson said. “I may make some small adjustments, but no overhaul. We’ll also follow the program from their college coaches and the players will have input.”
As for the rosters, both teams are made up of 30 players from all levels of college baseball.
Highlighting the lineups will be three local talents — Amarillo High graduates Max Marusak and Rhett Maynard, along with Randall’s Taylan Mullins-Ohm.
Amarillo High graduates Rhett Maynard, left, and Max Marusak highlight the rosters locally. Maynard will play for the Sod Dogs, while Marusak will play for the Sod Squad. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
The speedy Marusak, a sophomore at Texas Tech, will suit out for the Sod Squad while Maynard, a TCU freshman and Mullins-Ohm, Southwestern Oklahoma State sophomore, lace up the cleats for the Sod Dogs.
“I’m glad it worked out,” Maynard said. “This way my friends and family will be able to come out and watch me play. I’m looking to learn a lot from Jimmy Johnson. He’s been around baseball for 50 years, so I can’t wait to learn from him. As for playing Hodgetown, I’ve never played here before. Ever since it was built I’ve always wanted to play here. It’s going to be awesome.”
Marusak echoed Maynard’s comments.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity,” Marusak said. Getting to live at home, and play at Hodgetown is unbelievable. I think whoever comes and watches is going to be impressed by the talent on these rosters. We have some great players, and I can’t wait to get going.”
Three West Texas A&M pitchers will help fill out the Sod Squad roster in Cooper Harris, Mitchell Miller and Jake Suddreth.
The Sod Squad will open the season with a three-game series at Hodgetown at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday night against the San Antonio Flying Chanclas.
The Sod Dogs make their home debut on Friday, July 3 when they take on the Round Rock Hairy Men for three games.Hodgetown will be operating at 50 percent. To check out ticket prices, a look at the full schedule or to look at the roster for both teams, visit sodpoodles.com