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Hartford Yard Goats kick off the 2023 baseball season

April 6 marked opening day in Hartford.

Thousands of fans packed Dunkin’ Park – “Donuts” has been dropped from the stadium name – Thursday night to watch the Hartford Yard Goats host the Bowie Baysox to kick off their Eastern League season.

Fans at the main gate were greeted by and took photos alongside ChewChew and Chompers, the team’s goat mascots, along with Icy Joe, an anthropomorphic Dunkin’ iced coffee.

Nate Olin, 38, of Marlborough, Connecticut, and his daughter Keira, 9, were among the first fans inside the park.

"Oh, this is my favorite place to be!" Keira said. "Because I love how there's all the places you can go, all the places to eat, then you can sit down and have a great time watching baseball."

“Some years they do very well, some years you just come for the experience. To me, though, as long as I get to watch some baseball, that's all that matters,” Nate Olin said.

“I’m just glad I get to share it with my children,” he said.

Otis Elevator Co. employee Frank Rivera, 37, of Hartford, donning a Yard Goats hat, said he was never a big baseball fan before the team previously known as the New Britain Rock Cats relocated to the capital in 2016.

“Live [baseball] is something different,” Rivera said. “Ever since this park got built here, it’s better for Hartford. It’s very good.”

“It definitely helps the city. It’s awesome,” Rivera said.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin welcomed fans before local recording artist Dana Lauren sang the national anthem, which crescendoed along with the roar of two C-130 Hercules aircraft as part of a Connecticut Air National Guard flyover.

This story has been updated.

Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.

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