The Hartford Yard Goats wrap up their season on Monday in New Hampshire, but the story is what happened in the capital city this year. Not only did fans flock to see the Goats play in their second season at Dunkin' Donuts Park, they actually came out in larger numbers than the inaugural year.
In August, the Yard Goats became the first minor league team in Connecticut to surpass 400,000 fans in attendance for a season. The team ended the season having earned 47 total sellouts in 2018. The final attendance number for the year: 408,942. There was no second-season slump.
The Yard Goats lead the Eastern League in total attendance selling out the final 19 games. Thirty-one of the last 33 home games were standing room crowds. It didn't matter if it was a weeknight or a weekend, Dunkin' Donuts Park was packed.
The team may have finished under .500 and more than 10 games back of a playoff spot, but fans didn't seem disappointed. They voted Dunkin' Donuts Park as the "Best Double-A Ballpark in America" for the second straight year.
The team got to enjoy much of the season with all-star infielder Brendan Rodgers, who is ranked as the top prospect in the parent club Rockies' organization.
The year was also a year of many 'firsts.' The Yard Goats became Los Chivos de Hartford for three nights honoring the Hispanic heritage of the community. The team became the Steamed Cheeseburgers and the Whirly Birds in two popular promotions.
Tim Tebow played in Hartford when the Binghamton Rumble Ponies were in town. The former NFL quarterback told the assembled media in May that Dunkin' Donuts Park is the nicest minor league park he's visited. Tebow also spent time schmoozing with PGA golf professional Bubba Watson during a game in June.
There were many other firsts for the Yard Goats in 2018: hosting a stand-up comedy show, debuting the beer bats and 'Glazed & Grazed' burgers, bringing the Cape Cod League to Hartford and having country superstar Jason Aldean play a game on the field.
Baseball may be gone from Hartford for the year, but the Yard Goats are making sure to keep the ballpark in use throughout the fall.
The team plans a 'Links at the Yard' event where fans can play nine holes of golf around the ballpark Sept. 27-30. The Goats are also holding their second annual G.O.A.T. Brew Fest on Oct. 20 (NBC CT is returning as a sponsor). Beyond that, keep your eye out for a possible future Eastern League All-Star Game at DDP. Perhaps in 2021?
In the meantime, fans will have to settle for fond memories of the team's second season in Downtown North.
Don't despair, Yard Goats fans. It's only 220 days until the home opener on April 11.
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