The next generation of Colorado Rockies representing the Hartford Yard Goats is making quite a run through the Eastern League and six of those players were recently named to represent Hartford in the league’s All-Star Game.
At 43-34, Hartford sat in third place in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division entering Friday night’s action. Once again, the Yard Goats will essentially be the road team when it takes the field later today after issues with their new ballpark in Hartford have further delayed its opening.
With the All-Star Game coming up, we thought it would be a good time to sit down with Dan Lovallo, broadcaster for the Yard Goats on their flagship radio station in Hartford. During our talk, we talked about the All-Stars on the team, what’s going on with Hartford’s stadium, and who are some of the Yard Goats’ unsung heroes.
Rox Pile: Let’s start off talking about the season-long road trip the Yard Goats have been on. How has this team endured and thrived in those circumstances?
Lovallo: This is a team that hasn’t allowed the situation to affect them. I credit manager Darin Everson and his staff for their leadership and not allowing it to affect the team. Every day, this team comes out prepared and plays hard. They are focused when it comes to the mental aspect of the game. The manager and staff have set the tone and the team has followed that. It’s been phenomenal to watch.
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I also think that tough mental makeup will help a lot of these guys when they reach the Majors. There are a couple of times things could’ve headed south for this team. Last month, the team was swept in three games by Reading and lost two of three to Altoona. I thought at the time that that might be when the team hit the skids, but they used that as a building block and sit nine games over .500 now. It’s just been incredible.
Rox Pile: We know about the guys who are going to the All-Star Game. Tell me about a couple of guys who aren’t but are key parts of this club.
Lovallo: I can think of two guys and they’re both catchers. Jackson Williams and Jan Vazquez are veteran guys and they are leaders. They’re really the captains of the team behind the plate because they’ve done such a good job handling this young pitching staff. When you talk about that you can’t see heart in the box score, it applies to those two guys.
I’ll also say that Pat Valaika is an unsung hero for this team. He plays third, second, and short and does whatever is needed for the Yard Goats. He’s a quiet leader for this team. If you give me nine Pat Valaikas, I’ll take on anyone. He also has a career high in homers and is knocking in runs when given the chance.
Rox Pile: Let’s talk about one of the guys who is going to the All-Star Game, Matt Carasiti. He’s a local guy who is impressing as the team’s closer.
Lovallo: His out pitch is a forkball. I can remember when a forkball was a big out pitch for a lot of closers, but it isn’t any more. He’s unique and throwing that forkball helps because not too many guys see it any more. It’s also a very effective pitch for him. He’s a guy who I would love to see actually get to pitch in Hartford because he’s a local guy who grew up very close to where the stadium is located.
Rox Pile: Kyle Freeland was recently promoted to Triple-A. In your opinion, who is the next guy who gets a promotion?
Lovallo: I think it’s either David Dahl or Raimel Tapia. I don’t know how much more Dahl can prove on the Double-A level. Maybe he can shorten his swing a little and cut down on some of the strikeouts. With Tapia, maybe the Colorado Rockies want to see him play in Double-A a little longer? He struggled in the first month but, since then, you could make an argument that he’s the best player in the league.
Rox Pile: How do you see the second half of the season shaping up for Hartford?
Lovallo: Two teams in each division qualify for the Eastern League playoffs. Reading has a huge lead in our division but I imagine they will lose some guys. Still, they have a big lead so I think it’s a race for second. I think it depends on who we get from Class A and who we lose to Triple-A. If this team stays intact, I think it could make a great run toward the playoffs.