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A branding exercise: Hartford Yard Goats

Dunkin' Donuts Park

When the Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League) branding was announced to the public in March, there were plenty of complaints from fans. But that’s almost always the case when it comes to edgy MiLB brands — and history shows fans will usually end up embracing the moniker.

A yard goat, per the team, is a workhorse locomotive moving and shuffling cars from track to track in the rail yard keeping things in order. According to the team’s press release, “a Minor League Baseball player is like that humble Yard Goat, not a glamorous job but working hard day in and day out away from the big city lights to assure that the Major League affiliate is kept on track.” So while you may have images of cute goats at play in future team branding (just like adorable chihuahuas in El Paso), the team also has the benefit of tapping into railroad imagery as well. The New York Times took a look at how the Yard Goats name came to be (most MiLB readers of this site know the story and players, such as Chuck Domino and Brandiose, all so well), with perhaps a little more pessimism (and a total lack of knowing how MiLB naming words) than the case requires. It’s also a cliched lament for a market losing baseball — although, in the case, the New Britain Rock Cats aren’t actually leaving the greater Hartford market, just to a different location:

How will Hartford residents feel about their Yard Goats on Opening Day 2016, when the team is scheduled to play at the newly named Dunkin’ Donuts Park?

After the heartbreak of losing the Whalers, some residents, including Mr. MacDuff, seem poised to welcome the team with open arms.

“You know, I talked to a couple friends and relatives about it,” Mr. MacDuff said this month. “They told me, and I sort of accept it, that it will grow on me.”

On the one hand, any team name that needs explaining is automatically a little suspect. Everyone knows what a flying squirrel is, even if you don’t think it’s an appropriate name for the baseball team. But that’s not a hard-and-fast rule: No one knew the background of the IronPigs name, but Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Class AAA; International League) merchandise has been amongst the top sellers in MiLB apparel sales, and the team is annually at or near the top of MiLB attendance figures. Similar success has been experienced by teams with extreme monikers, such as the El Paso Chihuahuas (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) or the Akron RubberDucks (Class AA; Eastern League). So it’s not the most prudent of moves to rule out the Hartford Yard Goats just yet.

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