Minor league baseball: Hometown or affiliation?

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May 14, 2017 by marlonpitter

Hartford Yard Goats pitcher Yency Almonte throws the first official pitch at Hartford’s new Dunkin’ Donuts Park on opening day in Hartford, Conn., Thursday, April 13, 2017. The city and its minor league baseball team are celebrating opening day at the city’s new 6,000-seat stadium, a year late and millions of dollars over budget. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)

Written by Marlon Pitter

Three weeks ago, I wrote about how proud I was to be a fan of a road team at visiting venues and more so because they were the affiliate team of my “major league club,” so to speak.

Now that I’m back in Hartford for the summer and possibly longer after graduating from UMass Lowell, I’m faced with a similar but less emotional choice in watching AA Eastern League baseball.

The Hartford Yard Goats are in their second season as the transplanted New Britain Rock Cats from about 15 miles southwest of Connecticut’s capital. The Yard Goats play ball at Dunkin Donuts’ Park just north of the city’s downtown area, serving as the AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

There’s professional baseball right in my backyard. Why wouldn’t I dive right into the blue and green and give the Yard Goats my love, attention, and “dollaridoos” – a term coined by Australian YouTuber LazarBeam in his making weird websites video – this summer?

As big a supporter of the city I am, I have never supported a sports team in the area.

I didn’t support the Wolf Pack for reasons in the aforementioned and hyperlinked blog.

UConn basketball hype never appealed to me.

I almost went to the University of Hartford, but I wouldn’t be writing (for) this blog if I did.

The Hartford Colonials folded before they ever amounted to anything.

The Hartford Whalers left in April 1997. I was one-and-a-half.

The list (probably) goes on.

Well, the Portland Sea Dogs might be the only thing stopping me from becoming a Yard Goats fan (you know, aside from the ridiculous name).

The Sea Dogs represent the Boston Red Sox organization in the AA Eastern League, and how sick would it be to see future Red Sox players compete in minors before they make it to the show?

The problem is that team is almost in Canada, basically (Portland, Maine), so the only time I’ll be able to watch those players is – you guessed it – when they play the Yard Goats in Hartford.

I’m very much undecided on this matter at this point, as you can tell, but I’m trying to remedy the situation by answering a few questions to myself.

Should I go the extra mile to be that road fan for a team that’s two levels away from the big time, as opposed to one level away with the AHL-NHL affiliation?

I don’t think it’s worth it. I know @salucco once called AAA baseball “purgatory” and a place for rehab starts, but I don’t think I should latch on to a Double-A baseball team that’s in my system for the sake of doing so. That said, I might still pay attention to the prospects… Who am I kidding? No, I won’t.

Edge: Yard Goats

Should I support a team that’s three states away, or should I support a team that I can watch play every damn week if I want to?

I’ll drive to Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for AHL hockey before I drive to whatever stadium the Sea Dogs play in to see them at home. At the end of the day, I can just take a bus downtown to see the Yard Goats.

Edge: Yard Goats

What have the Colorado Rockies done to the Boston Red Sox to make any hatred for them trickle down to their AA affiliate?

Not a damn thing to my recollection, which has very little pro baseball knowledge, admittedly. They couldn’t even win a single World Series game against the Red Sox in 2007.

To be fair, the then-New Britain Rock Cats were affiliated with the Minnesota Twins from 1995-2014 – yes, David Ortiz played in New Britain while he was in the Twins’ organization – but the Rock Cats began their existence in the Red Sox system from 1983-1994. (Who says Connecticut isn’t part of New England?)

Edge: Neutral

The Yard Goats seem to have the advantage in most of the key factors between themselves and the Sea Dogs in terms of fandom. Plus, I don’t think it’s worth nearly getting thrown out of another minor league arena for sporting the wrong colors and supporting the wrong team.

The play on the field at this point in the season, however, seems to be another story. The Sea Dogs are 17-13 and five games ahead of the 13-19 Yard Goats in the Eastern Division of the Eastern League (redundant much?). Respectively, the teams are fourth and fifth in the six-team division, trailing the 20-13 Trenton Thunder (NYY), the 18-13 Binghamton Rumble Ponies (NYM) (I can’t make this stuff up) and the 18-13 Reading Fighting Phils (PHI) as of May 13.

The Sea Dogs own a 3-1 head-to-head advantage this season with a four-game slate coming up in Portland starting with a doubleheader Tuesday. The Yard Goats host the Sea Dogs June 30 through July 3 for a four-game set, so we’ll I’ll see what that matchup brings when the time comes.

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