Salazar had been the hitting coach for New Britain the year before the franchise moved to Hartford. There was plenty of buzz about the new franchise and new stadium heading into the 2016 campaign, Salazar said, and that’s what made the year-long road trip an even tougher mental exercise for the team.
“The toughest part was probably leading into the season. Maybe the stadium will be ready. Maybe it won’t,” Salazar remembers. “You know what, we will spend the first two weeks on the road, then it will be ready, which turned into a month. They just kept extending it. That was probably the most difficult part was not really knowing.
“But you adapt. You say, ‘OK, we’re just taking a bus. We’re just on a Northeastern tour of the United States playing baseball.'”
That Northeastern tour included, among other places, Harrisburg, Pa., Manchester, N.H., and Binghamton, N.Y., where the Yard Goats played a July 4 “home game” in a completely empty stadium.
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“They wouldn’t sell tickets to the stadium, so there would be zero fans, kind of like what we went through last year,” Salazar remembered about those road “home” games. “It was just so empty. You could hear the ball hit the seats or you could hear conversations going on if anyone was in the park. Dick Monfort would come to a game, and I remember coming out with, maybe Jeff (Bridich) and (Zach) Wilson, and you can hear them like talking from the dugout.”
In all, it’s estimated that the team traveled around 10,000 miles during the season. And, despite all the team went through and the obstacles overcome, those Yard Goats finished with a 74-67 mark.
“I think baseball players maybe learn this lesson easier than other people,” Salazar said. “You really depend on the people around you and your start to embrace them as your family. No matter what the race, a religious belief, or whatever, it’s just a ‘we’re in this together’ bond. Let’s find a way through it and be strong.”
Abramson said that, while the team was on the road, he and his administrative team took on that same “together” bond as they prepared for the Yard Goats debut, whenever that would be.
For staff, it was patience and continuing to believe in the known outcome,” Abramson said. “There was never a time we doubted how successful we would ultimately be and with that came the courage to not strike back at those who were criticizing us at the time. We knew our day would come, and that the results would speak for themselves.”