Fun facts for all 10 Double-A Central teams

Stan the Man, prairie dogs, possums, burger-inspired ballparks and so much more

April 5th, 2021

After undergoing a substantial reorganization, Minor League Baseball is embarking upon a new era in 2021. There are now 120 teams competing in 11 newly named leagues, comprising four levels of play (Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A). This is the third in a series of league-by-league articles, highlighting one unique fact about each team.

In 2019 -- the last time that a Minor League Baseball season was played -- the Double-A Texas League was comprised of eight teams. All eight of those clubs can now be found in the Double-A Central, along with the San Antonio Missions and the Wichita Wind Surge. The Missions, members of the Texas League from 1968 through 2018, return to the Double-A ranks after a short stint in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The Wind Surge are set for their debut season (originally scheduled for 2020) bringing Minor League Baseball back to Wichita for the first time since 2007. What follows is one unique, and often strange and surprising, fact about each Double-A Central club.

North Division

Arkansas Travelers
Seattle Mariners affiliate since 2017

The Travelers boast one of the most unique mascots in all of sports, a five-foot tall swamp possum by the name of Otey. This bipedal marsupial is named after R.C. Otey, an infielder who played for the Travelers from 1949 through 1958 and then transitioned into a 30-year career as head groundskeeper at the team's then-home of Ray Winder Field. In 1957, Otey's penultimate season as a player, the Travelers changed their moniker from "Little Rock" to "Arkansas." In doing so, they became the first professional baseball team to use the name of its home state as a geographical signifier.

Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Kansas City affiliate since 2008
Arkansas is known as the Natural State, but that's not the only reason the Naturals were named as such. The team is owned by the Rich Products Corporation, which also owns the Buffalo Bisons. In 1983, significant portions of Robert Redford's "The Natural" were filmed at the Bisons' then-home of War Memorial Stadium. The movie's popularity raised the profile of the Bisons, who soon moved up a level (from Double-A to Triple-A) and then to a new ballpark (from War Memorial Stadium to their current home of Sahlen Field).

Springfield Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals affiliate since 2005
The first iteration of the Springfield Cardinals was a Class A Western Association franchise that existed from 1932 to 1942. 63 years later, the Springfield Cardinals returned in the form of a Texas League franchise that had relocated from El Paso. Stan Musial was a link to both. Prior to solidifying himself in St. Louis, Musial hit .379 as a member of the 1941 Springfield Cardinals. On April 2, 2005, Musial threw out a ceremonial first pitch prior to Springfield's exhibition game against parent St. Louis. This was the first Springfield Cardinals game at Hammons Field, which remains the team's home.

Tulsa Drillers
Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate since 2015

When a team relocates to a new city and keeps its name, some strange combinations can result (the Utah Jazz come to mind). But sometimes the process is seamless, and such was the case with Tulsa's Texas League team. The franchise was established in 1975 as the Lafayette (Louisiana) Drillers, before moving to equally oil-dependent Tulsa in 1977. The Tulsa Drillers replaced the city's Triple-A franchise, the also crudely named Oilers, who relocated to New Orleans and became the Pelicans.

Wichita Wind Surge
Minnesota Twins affiliate since 2021

The Wichita Wind Surge, who have yet to play a game, are nonetheless a franchise with deep roots in the Midwest. The franchise was founded in Kansas City at the turn of the 20th century and played there through 1954. Then it was on to Denver (1955-'92), New Orleans (1993-2019) and, finally, Wichita. The Wind Surge's brand-new, yet-to-be-named ballpark is located in the same location where the team's previous Minor League facility, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, once stood. Everything old is new again.

South Division

Amarillo Sod Poodles
Arizona affiliate since 2021

"Sod Poodle" is a slang term for a prairie dog, a common animal in the Amarillo area. But just because prairie dogs have always been prevalent, that doesn't mean that Amarilloans were familiar with the term. The team admits as much. Sod Poodles director of public relations Shane Philips discovered this obscure colloquialism while doing a Google search deep dive during a team name brainstorming session, and it was chosen as one of five finalists in a 2018 "Name the Team" contest. Sod Poodles immediately became an Amarillo phenomenon, capturing the attention of a fan base that was equal parts fascinated and flabbergasted. The name was soon referenced in a local lawyer's television commercials, Chick-Fil-A roadside signage and the title of a church sermon ("Sod Poodles and Mind Boggles"). The grassroots attention even resulted in what is now the team theme song, Carson Leverett's "Sod Poodles Anthem."

Corpus Christi Hooks
Houston Astros affiliate since 2005
The Hooks play at Whataburger Field, a ballpark moniker that resulted from a naming rights deal with the formerly Corpus Christi-based fast food franchise. Prior to the 2019 season, the Hooks extended their partnership with Whataburger through 2033. As part of this agreement, the ballpark's roof was painted in Whataburger's familiar orange-and-white color scheme.

Frisco RoughRiders
Texas Rangers affiliate since 2003

The RoughRiders, the first Minor League team in the history of Frisco, have led the Texas League in attendance the past 15 seasons. Their best attendance mark came in their inaugural season of 2003, when they drew 666,977 fans to Dr Pepper Ballpark. The RoughRiders nonetheless finished second in the league in attendance that season, as the Round Rock Express drew 685,973 in their penultimate season as a Double-A franchise. The Express became a Triple-A franchise in 2005, at which point Frisco began its 15-season run of Texas League attendance dominance.

Midland RockHounds
Oakland Athletics affiliate since 2009

The RockHounds, established in 1972, didn't win their first outright Texas League title until 2005. Since then they've been making up for lost time, winning it all in 2009 and then four straight times from 2014-2017. The RockHounds' four-peat was the Texas League's longest consecutive championship streak since 1920-25, when the Fort Worth Panthers won six in a row. In these seasons, the Panthers also won the Dixie Series, in which the champions of the Texas League and the Southern Association were pitted against one another.

San Antonio Missions
San Diego Padres affiliate since 2021

Over the course of San Antonio's long professional baseball history, the city was often home to a Texas League team (1907-'42; 1946-'64 and 1968-2018). One of the greatest players to suit up San Antonio during this time was Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, who played for the Bullets (a Houston Colt .45s affiliate) in 1964. Morgan batted .323, scored 113 times, hit 12 homers, knocked in 90 runs and stole 47 bases while leading the Bullets to a championship. He finished the 1964 season in Houston, remained in the Major Leagues through 1984 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990.