EXCLUSIVE: Tony Ensor talks Sod Poodles’ alternative identity “Calf Fries”

VIDEO: Sod Poodles unveil "Amarillo Calf Fries" jersey to be worn this season
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 10:11 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - The Sod Poodles unveiled their new look as the Amarillo Calf Fries today.

The team will sport the orange and baby blue Calf Fries uniform six times throughout the summer, the first of those being Saturday, April 15.

They will also don the new threads on May 13, June 15, July 16, August 4, and August 31. The team will also give away a Calf Fries replica jersey to the first 1,500 fans in attendance on Sunday, June 4.

You can view NewsChannel 10 Sports’ exclusive interview with Sod Poodles President/GM Tony Ensor above, and read the full transcript below.

NewsChannel 10 Sports’ Exclusive Interview with Tony Ensor

My first question is plain and simple. Tell me about the Calf Fries!

A lot of people have asked me why we created the Calf Fries brand and logo, and quite frankly it’s just to simply engage our community -- our local, our regional and national community. We have a lot of fans all over the country, and it’s so fun when they come out to the ballpark. Calf Fries was a way to do that. It allows us to celebrate our local culture, you know. Calf fries, ranching, it’s all part of the Panhandle culture. We thought it was a great way to celebrate that and have some fun out here at the ballpark at the same time.

When you were picking the alternate name and thinking about what you were going to do, why was it important that it had that local flavor, that local touch to it?

When we went through the process of branding and naming the Sod Poodles, it had to be authentic and it had to be original. Calf Fries followed in that same line, so we really wanted to celebrate our local culture. The Panhandle culture for the last hundred years has been about the beef industry and about ranching. We thought that was a perfect way to celebrate that culture and have fun at the same time.

What is your favorite thing, I guess, about this alternate branding? What are you most excited for when it comes to the nights that you’ll be donning the Calf Fries logo? You mentioned in a previous interview with us that there won’t be any Sod Poodles branding around Hodgetown, what’s most exciting to you about that?

You know, the thing I love about Calf Fries, and Minor League Baseball in general, is that there’s a lot of real world things that we have to deal with and experience out there in the real world. When you come out to a minor league ballpark, and specifically when you come out to Hodgetown, we want you to check all the worries and stresses at the door. When you come in and you get to experience Calf Fries, it’s a tongue-in-cheek phrase. We love it, we love the people, our fans are having fun with the brand and the name. They get to come in the ballpark, see the best athletes in the world out there doing their thing, but at the same time, get to enjoy the Calf Fries. We’re going to have calf fries in the concession stands, the whole ballpark is going to be themed, our scoreboard, all the team names. When you call the office that day, we’re going to be the Amarillo Calf Fries, so it’s just a good way for people to have fun. Quite frankly, not everyone that comes to the ballpark is a hardcore baseball fan. They want to come out just to experience the ballpark itself: the great food, the affordable pricing, the silly, fun things we do in between innings, the firework shows. We want to be able to find something for everyone. Even if you’re not a hardcore baseball fan, there’s no way you won’t have fun at Hodgetown, and that’s really what Minor League Baseball is all about.

Absolutely. Tell me a little bit about that branding that you mentioned. You mentioned earlier that you used separate colors from the Sod Poodles’ primary branding, and you guys obviously unveiled some of the merch today. Tell me a little bit about that.

We started working on this over a year ago. We wanted to be a completely different brand from Sod Poodles, which is already one of the most unique brands. In fact, the Sod Poodles brand was just named as the top minor league team name in the country just today. We’re very proud of that brand, but everything we do around that brand does go back to Sod Poodles. When we were choosing the Calf Fries, we wanted to go away from that same color scheme, that same brand that we had there, and do something completely unique and original, something completely different. That’s why you see the color schemes. The response to Calf Fries, not only here locally, but regionally and nationally has been through the roof. I think we’re one of the top-selling alternate brands in the country right now, so it’s just a fun way to enjoy our culture, enjoy the great game of baseball and do it all here at Hodgetown.

That leads into what was going to be my next question. You guys have had a response all around the country, you mentioned before the interview that 44 states have shopped for Calf Fries merch, as well as all around the world, you have shoppers. Tell me about what that’s like and what it says about the Calf Fries brand.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles is our main brand, that’s what we are. That’s who we are, already one of the most unique brands in the country. When we developed Calf Fries, we wanted to do something that would complement that brand, something that, again, was unique, something that was out there. We like to be on the edge a little bit with our brands, as you probably know, and Calf Fries has done that. I’ve seen our Calf Fries brand and logo talked about and shown on magazines all around the country and on a lot of different national podcasts. In fact, the merchandise, you talked about that earlier, I last checked just a couple weeks ago -- we’ve sold merchandise to over 44 states in the country, we’ve had over 12 countries on our online team store shopping for Calf Fries gear. It’s something that people just want to have fun with. They know it’s Minor League Baseball, and they want to get into the groove of Minor League Baseball. The work that we did with the brand, the logo itself, is first-rate. Jason and Casey at Brandiose did an amazing job with the logo, and our marketing team has done the rest to really get this out there. Not only to bring attention to the Sod Poodles, but to bring attention to Amarillo, and I think that’s really important.

We have these on-field caps here that the Sod Poodles are going to be wearing on our six Calf Fries nights. Tell me about that logo, the design, the inspiration for these logos and these colors, specifically.

Well, quite frankly, on the color scheme, we wanted to go away completely from our red, white and blue that are traditionally the Sod Poodle colors, and do something totally unique. We found these, it’s really the color of our infield, if you think about it. We love the logos, we spent a lot of time looking over a lot of different renditions of the logo to finally come up with these. I call this guy [in the pan], this is “frying pan calf.” Obviously, the theme to him was, and people kind of gathered this, like the first time you’re sitting in a hot tub. That’s the experience I want you to get when you’re looking at the frying pan calf. Of course, the other guy [standing with his back facing us], we call him “running calf,” and that should be obvious. He’s running away because he doesn’t want to meet the rancher in the last process of the calf fries. It’s just fun and engaging. It’s fun for our fans, they’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve never seen anything take off like this from an alternate brand standpoint throughout the country, and Calf Fries has done that. We’re very proud of it.

That’s awesome. I want to talk about the jersey now.

You should put the jersey on.

You want me to put the jersey on?

Yeah, put it on! Take the jacket off, put the jersey on. You can sign off with the jersey on. “Going nuts out here at Hodgetown!”

That’s a great idea. Can I steal that line? Because I will.

Yeah, absolutely! You’ll be the first TV anchor with the Calf Fries jersey on.

I love that, I’ll put it on my resume someday.

It looks great.

Alright, well, now that I’ve been allowed to be the first news anchor to wear the Calf Fries jersey, what does the branding mean to you?

Well, Calf Fries as a brand really talks about the Panhandle culture, the beef industry, and what’s so important, the ranch life. It’s really a celebration of our culture here in Amarillo and the Panhandle. The color scheme we went with was completely away from the Sod Poodle brand. The only color we kept from Sod Poodles was our baby blue, our teal blue. You can see on the sleeves that we celebrate our state of Texas with the calf fry print on the sleeves. We went into a lot of detail on [the jersey], we think the fans have loved it so far, the response has been amazing on it. We know the players are going to love wearing it. We’re very proud of the brand, very proud of the logo.

You mentioned that we have these Texas calf fry symbols here on the sleeves. What does it mean to make sure you keep the Texas theming, the local theming pertinent on the branding?

We are Texans and we’re proud of being Texans here in Amarillo. We thought to be able to celebrate not only Amarillo and our culture here locally with the beef industry, but we have to put the state of Texas on there. We though tit was a neat twist to put it in the orange cow print. It’s very noticeable that this is the state of Texas, and we wanted to honor that.

That’s awesome. I love that. Well, thank you Tony, I really appreciate you.

Thank you!