The Hartford Yard Goats had been on the verge of winning the franchise’s top playoff spot since 2009, when the team was named the Rock Cats and played in New Britain. Tied for first in the East League Northeast Division and one game to go in the first half of the season, the Yard Goats were in New Jersey last Sunday against the Somerset Patriots with a playoff berth. playoffs in play.
Ten innings later, a home run by top Yankees prospect Anthony Volpe sent the Patriots dancing and the Yard Goats back to Hartford empty-handed.
Good news for them, however, there is still half a season to go and another spot up for grabs.
” It was hard. If there was a way to do it, I guess getting fired was about as cinematic as it gets. But they don’t give out rings in June,” said Michael Toglia, Yard Goats first baseman and 2019 Colorado Rockies first-round pick.
With constant movement in the farm system, minor league rosters are always on the move. Twenty-one of the 33 players on the 2022 roster were not with Hartford in 2021. The Rockies, however, tend to group players together as they move through the farm system in an attempt to build chemistry.
“We start to see the fruits of that labor, when the guys have played together for a long time you start to see that camaraderie build,” Yard Goats manager Chris Denorfia said.
That camaraderie, which Toglia says is “outside the box,” exists and is being built away from the diamond as well. The team hangs out together, plays video games and goes out to dinner as a group.
“We always do things together. I think that translates on the pitch because everyone knows each other’s personalities, strengths and weaknesses so well,” Toglia said, “and that’s a big part of why we can win.
Denorfia, the club’s second-year coach, has a lot to do with it. He grew up in Southington and played 10 major league seasons, starting in 2005 with Cincinnati with stops in Oakland, San Diego and Seattle before a final season with the Cubs in 2015. He coached the Yard Goats to a record from 39-79. in 2021 and turned the tide in his second year at the helm.
On the day of the match, Denorfia seems to have missed nothing. The former outfielder stands out only for his dry gray hoodie. Other than that, he wears black gym shorts, a hat, and Yard Goats glasses, just like the rest of the guys. Hand in hand, he stands at first or second base during pitching practice or hits fungos at his infielders during BP.
“Being a player doesn’t necessarily make you a good coach. The things that I learned towards the end of my career – watching how leaders worked, watching how my managers worked, I think that was probably the most important experience I had in terms of my career current. But we always judge how well we can reach the players,” Denorfia said.
“If it’s the wrong message, if it doesn’t get to people, if it doesn’t go through that wall they’re putting up, then it’s not effective. So one of the biggest things I do with these guys is just build my relationships.
The Yard Goats finished the first half with a 43-26 record, second-best in the Eastern League. After Saturday’s 11-3 loss to Binghamton, Hartford got off to a 3-2 start in the second half as a six-game series with the Rumble Ponies comes to an end on Sunday.
The electric Ezequiel Tovar advances the attack of Hartford. The 20-year-old shortstop leads the team with 84 hits and a .318 average to go with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs. Third baseman Aaron Schunk has a team-best 51 RBIs and Toglia leads the way with 14 home runs to go with 45 RBIs.
“We’ve been pretty warm, we’ve had good weeks, we’re playing well at home; the energy in the park helps a lot. It just makes it a lot more fun,” Yard Goats outfielder Jimmy Herron said.
Hartford went 22-36 at home last season and still averaged more than 5,000 fans at a 6,850 capacity park. Dunkin’ Donuts Park was named Best Double A Park for the third time in 2021, although it has only been around since 2017.
“They just put on a fantastic show. So it’s a great thing to do in town, regardless of the outcome. And it’s even better when you win,” said Denorfia. “When the crowd gets into it, when it applauds, people come back because it makes them feel good. It makes them feel like they are part of something, and they are because we also feed off of it.
The Yard Goats took the day off after missing out on the playoff spot in the first half on Sunday and returned laser-focused and ready to keep winning in hopes of earning a berth at the end of the game. season.
“It certainly lit a fire knowing that we had one of the best records in all of Double A and we didn’t make it in the first half,” Toglia said. “I think the fire will continue to grow. We will continue to win games.