Aside from batting in the latter halves of each inning, having home games on your schedule is supposed to play to a team’s advantage in multiple ways. There’s no need to travel, players sleep in their own beds, and use their own facilities. However, some teams just can’t catch a break, and Brandon Magee looks once more at the Hartford Yard Goats and their lack of a home field.
The Hartford Yard Goats, AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, were slated to open Dunkin’ Donuts Park on Tuesday, May 31 against the Trenton Thunder, the AA affiliate of the New York Yankees. The opening festivities will, unfortunately, be moved further down the line as developers failed to meet Tuesday’s deadline to turn the park over to the city of Hartford in a “substantially completed” state. The missed deadline put the Goats back into a state of limbo, not knowing where their next “home” game may be played.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin had this to say regarding the continuing delays:
“I think the past administration was unrealistic in setting the original schedule. But the deadline that was set in the negotiations a couple of months ago was a deadline that was put forward by the developers and I think they should have hit it.”
Josh Solomon, owner of the Yard Goats released a statement:
“We’re extremely disappointed the deadline for substantial completion has been missed, again. We encourage Mayor Bronin and the Stadium Authority to do everything in their power to get the stadium completed so that the team can come home to Hartford and play ball at Dunkin’ Donuts Park this summer.”
When could the stadium be ready? Two weeks ago, an ownership representative stated at a status hearing that he had grave concerns regarding elevators, stairs, food service, and 50 other non-compliant issues. On Wednesday, Jason Rudnick, manager of DoNo Hartford LLC – the company in charge of construction for developer Centerplan – concurred that many items are not done:
“Elevators are not in. Some stairwells are not in. Bathrooms are not completed. Some concessions are not completed. The luxury boxes are not completed. That’s a checklist. Again, our goal is to complete all of those items and play baseball this year.”
Rudnick would not commit to a date for “substantial completion,” adding:
“I want an opportunity to sit down with the owner and discuss that. My definition of substantially complete may be different than his.”
These issues did not keep the head of the Hartford Stadium Authority from making a guess as to when the stadium may be ready to go. Chairman I. Charles Matthews stated:
“If they need 30 more days to complete the work, the Yard Goats need a week or two to burn out. So do the math. So we’re thinking the end of June or the first week of July. It feels that way now. Someone may tell me something different but that’s the way it feels to me as chairperson.”
Meanwhile, the Road Goats have been one of the best teams in minor league baseball, winning 23 of their first 32 games, all played at the opposition’s ballpark. Thanks to the generosity of the Connecticut Tigers, the Yard Goats were finally able to play games in Connecticut this week. Last Thursday night, Dodd Stadium played host to the Eastern League for the first time since 2009.
But the return of AA baseball to the Rose City has not been kind to anyone but the opposition. The offense has been particularly awful, scoring a total of ten runs over six games, with Hartford losing their first six games in the Constitution State this season. And with those six consecutive losses, they lost their lead in the Eastern League Eastern Division, falling two games behind the Fightin Phils of Reading. The Yard Goats were finally able to get a favorable decision on Wednesday afternoon, picking up a victory over the Akron RubberDucks.
However, with DD Park being incomplete, it is possible that Dodd Stadium will host even more games in the upcoming weeks. Certainly, the seven-game home stand from May 31 through June 6 is a possibility.
There is a complicating factor in utilizing the Norwich park during the rest of the summer. Dodd Stadium has a primary tenant – the Connecticut Tigers – and their league – the New York-Penn League – will be starting in the middle of June. It would be difficult for Dodd to host the Yard Goats’ three-game series from June 14-16, as the field will likely be in use by the Tigers, who open up their season on the 17th. While cohabitation cannot be completely ruled out, juggling the home schedules of the two teams will be difficult. With DD Park being unavailable until, at least, Independence Day, it certainly looks like the Yard Goats will return to wandering around the Eastern League.
Adding insult to injury, the Binghamton franchise announced on Tuesday that they plan to drop the Mets moniker in 2017, and their pick-a-mascot contest ensures that the Goats and the Batavia MuckDogs will drop down the list of oddest nicknames in minor league baseball. As an aside, I am rooting for the Stud Muffins. I can already picture their mascots – Corny and Blueberry – leading the cheers, the “Best Muffin Top” contests, and their 7th inning tribute to Les Nessman.
It’s been a bad week for Chew Chew, Chompers, and the rest of the Yard Goats.
Brandon Magee is our minor league expert; he has written about minor league travel, ranking prospects, a first round draft pick, and the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.