Take a look at the 2021 Colorado Rockies roster and you will see plenty of members of the 2016 Hartford Yard Goats. In and of itself, that’s not big news. After all, plenty of minor league teammates stick together and make their way to the Majors.
But there was something about that 2016 Yard Goats team that was … well … there are a lot of adjectives that can be used for that team, which endured an entire season on the road while Dunkin’ Donuts Park was undergoing construction delays in downtown Hartford.
Gritty. Tough. Determined. Overcoming. There are plenty of things you can say about a group of young men who head out on a bus trip to start the season in April and never play a home game that entire spring and summer. There wasn’t a choice. The Yard Goats, born after the New Britain Rock Cats moved roughly 12 miles to Hartford to start operations and continue the Double-A affiliation with the Rockies, had grand plans to start the home part of their schedule on May 31 inside Dunkin’ Donuts Park. It didn’t happen. Construction stopped in early June. By late July, the franchise knew it wouldn’t play a game at its new park until the following April.
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“A lot of the grit we demonstrate was born that year,” said Mike Abramson, general manager of the Hartford Yard Goats. “Our willingness to stand up for our beliefs, stand up to detractors, was born that year. The voice of our brand … proud, strong, confident … all born that year.”
There was something else born that year on the road throughout all 141 games away from Hartford. A bond between players who endured that season-long road trip that still exists today.
Among those on that Hartford 2016 Opening Day roster were Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Ryan McMahon, Antonio Senzatela, and Raimel Tapia. During Rockies spring training in Scottsdale, I sat down for exclusive conversations with Freeland, McMahon, and then-hitting coach Jeff Salazar (now assistant hitting coach for the Rockies) and asked them about that season and how it changed them.