It’s been a long time since the Hartford Yard Goats have taken the field at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. The last time the green and white clad Yard Goats played before a sellout crowd here in Hartford, it was August 29, 2019.
The ballpark sat idle in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But baseball is back in Hartford this summer.
The Yard Goats, the Double A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, open their season with a six-game series at Richmond beginning on Tuesday. The first home game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park is set for Tuesday, May 11 when the Goats host a six-game series against the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox’s Double A affiliate. Fans can listen to games on WPOP-AM (1410) or WPOP-FM (100.9).
Enhanced safety protocols will make the experience at Dunkin’ Donuts Park different than in the past.
There has also been off-the-field changes for the Yard Goats. The Eastern League, which dated back to 1923, is gone along with many other minor league organizations.
Last fall, major league baseball took over minor league baseball when the agreement that governed the relationship between Major League Baseball and the minor leagues expired at the end of September. MLB announced a new plan for affiliated baseball with 120 minor league clubs – including the Yard Goats – agreeing to join the new professional development league.
Forty clubs that had minor league teams affiliated with major league clubs in 2019 were left out in the cold. The Eastern League, Pacific Coast League, International League, Texas League, New York-Penn League were left without any teams.
The Yard Goats will be playing in the Northeast Division of Double A Northeast League that will include former Eastern League partners Binghamton (Mets), New Hampshire (Blue Jays), Portland (Red Sox) and Reading (Phillies). Somerset replaces Trenton as the Yankee affiliate.
Hartford will also face former Eastern League franchises in the Southwest Division of the Double A Northeast League including Akron (Indians), Altoona (Pirates), Bowie (Orioles), Erie (Tigers), Harrisburg (Nationals) and Richmond (Giants).
Earlier this week, the Yard Goats, who signed a 10-year player development with Colorado in February, announced their 2021 Opening Day roster with 14 pitchers and 14 position players.
Two of Colorado’s top 10 prospects, as determined by MLB.com, will be starting the season in Hartford this month – No. 2 Ryan Rolison, a left-handed pitcher, and No. 9 Elehuris Montero, an infielder. Three players on Colorado’s 40-man MLB roster will be in Hartford – LHP Yoan Aybar, RHP Tommy Doyle and Montero.
Rolison was Colorado’s first round pick (22nd overall) in 2018 from the University of Mississippi. He went to spring training with the Rockies this spring and was 2-0 with a 5.19 in four appearances. He spent 2019 in High-A Lancaster with 118 strikeouts in 116 innings pitched. He went 6-7 with a 4.87 ERA and was a California League All-Star.
Montero was acquired by Colorado in February in a trade for St. Louis All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado. Montero was in spring training with the Rockies and went 3-for-9 with one RBI in 10 games. In 2018, Montero was the Midwest League’s MVP after hitting .322 with 28 doubles and 15 home runs in Low A Peoria.
Doyle was Colorado’s second round draft pick in 2017 from the University of Virginia. He made three relief appearances with the Rockies in 2020, pitching 2.1 innings. He went to spring training and had one save in a scoreless inning. Doyle has a 3.12 ERA and 40 career saves in three minor league seasons (110 games). In 2019 at High-A Lancaster, he had a league-leading 19 saves in the California League.
Twenty-four new players will be in Hartford with four players returning to Dunkin’ Donuts Park led by outfielder Manny Melendez, who spent his entire 2019 campaign in Hartford. Melendez hit .258 with 22 doubles, two triples and six home runs along with 47 RBI. He had two long hitting streaks of 12 and 11 games.
Right-handed pitcher Will Gaddis is from Merrimack, N.H. and brings some New England flavor to the squad.
Yard Goats roster in 2021
LHP Yoan Aybar (Bani, Dominican Republic), RHP Jake Bird (Newhall, CA), RHP Matt Dennis (Arlington Heights, IL), RHP Tommy Doyle (Vienna, VA), RHP Julian Fernandez (Boca Chica, DR), RHP Will Gaddis (Merrimack, NH), LHP Brian Gonzalez (Miramar, FL), RHP Nate Harris (San Antonio, TX), LHP Nick Kennedy (Tampa, FL), LHP Ryan Rolison (Jackson, TN), RHP Garrett Schilling (Clawson, MI), LHP Colten Schmidt (La Porte, TX), RHP Tate Scioneux (Reserve, LA), LHP Reagan Todd (Centennial, CO)
C Max George (Parker, CO), C Javier Guevara (Valencia, VZ), C Greg Jones (Maryville, TN), INF Sean Bouchard (San Diego, CA), INF Todd Czinege (Overland Park, KS), INF Matt McLaughlin (Mountain View, CA), INF Elehuris Montero (Santo Domingo, DR), INF Coco Montes (Coral Gables, FL), INF Taylor Snyder (Elk Ridge, UT)
Willie Abreu (Hialeah, FL), Casey Golden (Greensboro, NC), Jameson Hannah (Flower Mound, TX), Matt Hearn (San Jose, CA), Manny Melendez (Barquisimeto, VZ)
2021 Yard Goats schedule
Teams play a six-game series from Tuesday through Sunday. Each Monday is an off day.
May 4-9 at Richmond
May 11-16 PORTLAND
May 18-23 SOMERSET
May 25-30 @Portland
June 1-6 BOWIE
June 7-13 @Reading
June 15-20 @New Hampshire
June 22-27 RICHMOND
June 29-July 4 ALTOONA
July 6-11 @Portland
July 13-18 NEW HAMPSHIRE
July 20-25 @Bowie
July 27-Aug. 1 BINGHAMTON
Aug. 3-8 @New Hampshire
Aug. 10-15 @Bowie
Aug. 17-22 NEW HAMPSHIRE
Aug. 24-29 @Harrisburg
Aug. 31-Sept. 5 READING
Sept. 7-12 @Somerset
Sept 14-19 PORTLAND
Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets)
Hartford Yard Goats (Rockies)
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jays)
Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox)
Reading Fightin Phils (Phillies)
Somerset Patriots (Yankees)
Akron RubberDucks (Indians)
Altoona Curve (Pirates)
Bowie Baysox (Orioles)
Erie SeaWolves (Tigers)
Harrisburg Senators (Nationals)
Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)