Thursday afternoon's weather indicated that fall is definitely here and that football season is well underway, but it also signaled that professional baseball was finally back in Amarillo.
Officials from Amarillo Professional Baseball and the San Diego Padres gathered in a ballroom downtown at Embassy Suites to publicly affirm their player development affiliation for the next two years. And they weren't alone.
"I tell you, Amarillo was a little bit excited about professional baseball," said Tony Ensor, president and general manager of Amarillo Professional Baseball, before a group of people attending the announcement. "People were so excited about the padres coming to town and the history that would come with them."
On Oct. 1, it was announced that the Padres had entered into a player development deal with the Amarillo organization, as their Class AA team will compete in the Texas League in the new stadium under construction in downtown Amarillo. It marks the return of affiliated baseball to Amarillo for the first time since 1982, when the Padres AA club ended their run in town as the Amarillo Gold Sox.
With the announcement and the signing of the player development deal Thursday, a new era of professional baseball officially began in Amarillo, and Ensor couldn't contain his enthusiasm.
"I don't know that you can say you sold out a press conference, but there were fans showing their support in the community before today, then you see the ballpark going up and you know this is something special," Ensor said.
San Diego's AA Texas League team was in San Antonio for several years before announcing its move to Amarillo last week. The team is one of seven minor league franchises owned by the Elmore Sports Group.
D.G. Elmore, owner of the Amarillo franchise, acknowledged how attractive the community was to his team for relocation.
"It involved people all over the city of Amarillo pulling their weight," Elmore said. "We've worked with the Padre organization for a number of years and they're first class, dynamite people."
Padres assistant general manager Fred Uhlman, a native of Georgetown, and became familiar with players passing through Amarillo since his father worked with the Reds organization. He thinks the Padres and Amarillo are a natural fit.
"I'm very excited to continue our relationship not only with the Elmore Group and the Texas League, but obviously the city of Amarillo," Uhlman said. "Our aim as player development is to get players who are going to help us. It is minor league baseball, so it's also about entertaining the fans."
The Amarillo team will also be the second Padres affiliate in Texas. El Paso is the organization's Class AAA affiliate, playing in the Pacific Coast League.
Sam Geaney, the Padres director player development, thinks this area is ideal for player development based on the new facility.
"We spend all year at ballparks in every affiliation," Geaney said. "I've made a couple of trips down here the past couple of months to see the progress of the ballpark and to be able to see the evolution of it, it has a chance to be one the finest ballparks in minor league baseball."
There's a good chance you'll see a future Padre in uniform once the season starts on April 8, 2019. The Padres have eight of Major League Baseball's top 100 prospects according to Baseball America.
One of the top prospects who made his way to the big club last season for the Padres was relief pitcher Brad Wieck, who's a San Jacinto Christian graduate. Wieck was present at the announcement, and while he doesn't seem likely to come back to town as a Class AA prospect, he appreciates the moment.
"It's incredible," said Wieck. "I'm an Amarillo native and to see how much support there is and to give back to the Panhandle and the San Diego Padres is really cool. I wish this all could have happened a couple of years ago."
What isn't yet in place for the team is a nickname. Ensor said the organization will announce one in mid to late November.