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Yard Goats Look For Success Beyond Opening Day

Ryan Caron King
The Yard Goats are less than a week away from opening day in Hartford.

Minor League Baseball was supposed to return to Hartford a year ago, but developers couldn’t complete the stadium on time. Now, with just days to go, Dunkin’ Donuts is pretty much finished, and it seems that only rain can stop the April 13 opener.

Mayor Luke Bronin inherited the project when he came into office, and he opposed the stadium from the beginning.  Bronin said that it's time to embrace the team and help make it a success.

"For a city in our fiscal shape, I don’t think it ever made that sense to make that level of a public investment, but what I hope is tied to our administration, is the successful management of a star-crossed project," Bronin said.

Yard Goats Assistant General Manager Mike Abramson said the team realized it would have to deal with lingering negativity back when it decided on a brand.

"It was described that people would hate it, they’d start to warm up to it, and then they would love it -- the philosophy being that you could transform passion," Abramson said.

Now in Connecticut, shirts and caps in the blue and green colors of the old Hartford Whalers logo with a goat pictured in front are everywhere.

Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR
Fans of the Hartford Yard Goats gather to celebrate the 2016 opening day at the restaurant City Steam, a full year before the Hartford stadium's 2017 opening.

But, while the goat is in now, natural curiosity fades as franchises grow. Abramson said the trick to building momentum will be positive community relations.

"We look a lot at year four and I think the things that we are doing best right now to ensure that we will be a vibrant brand and a vibrant venue 10 years from now, really goes down to our community work,” Abramson said.

The team has created a community center and what it calls an all-star community board to help the Yard Goats in their outreach. ESPN analyst and former major league baseball player Doug Glanville said that he will be a member of that board.

"Out of the gate, I was impressed with their real commitment to the community and their sense of prioritizing it as a necessary component of being a sports team that represents a city," Glanville said.

A sellout crowd of about 8,000 people will attend opening night. This year’s question is whether the momentum will continue.

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