The Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League) have won Minor League Baseball‘s 2019 John Henry Moss Community Service Award, recognizing the team’s commitment to charitable service, support and leadership within its local community and within the baseball industry.
The Yard Goats will receive the award on Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront during the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet. Created in 2013 by Minor League Baseball, the award honors the late John Henry Moss, who founded what would become the South Atlantic League in 1959 and led the league as its president until 2007.
“When we were creating the Hartford Yard Goats brand, we spent a great deal of time talking about the kind of organization we wanted to be. We wanted our actions and our commitment to community to be so demonstrative that people associated us as much with our philanthropy as our baseball,” said Hartford Yard Goats Owner Josh Solomon.
To accomplish its goal, the team took a 1,300-foot retail space, open to the street and intended for rental, and turned it into a community center. The Aetna Community Center would not only house the larger-than-life community programs the Yard Goats were building, but become a front door to the people of Hartford. Since that time, the location has served as the home base for the Yard Goats Foundation, the team’s 501(c)3 devoted to creating, executing and supporting initiatives that enrich the lives of children in the Hartford community. The Yard Goats have created several programs that benefit their community including the Young Ambassadors Program, a Youth Culinary Program, a Theater Arts Program and the Yard Goats Dance Team.
“The lengths to which the Hartford Yard Goats have gone to not only create unique and inclusive programs for members of their community, but to make sure they are far reaching and successful, is unparalleled,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “Enhancing our communities has always been a cornerstone of Minor League Baseball, and I’m proud of the work the Yard Goats have done, and continue to do, in Hartford.”
The Young Ambassadors Program is the flagship program at the Aetna Community Center and is entering its third year. After an extensive application and interview process, high school students are selected to receive leadership training and are educated on a variety of topics including personal branding, money management, good study habits and college readiness. When the program concludes, the students all receive stipend positions with the Yard Goats, and many remain with the team throughout the season.
The Yard Goats Youth Culinary Arts Program started as an idea to use the ballpark for something other than baseball while taking advantage of some of its amenities like a commercial kitchen. Every week during the fall, more than 25 students from local schools come to the ballpark and learn how to buy inexpensive ingredients and prepare those ingredients in a delicious and nutritious way. The students learn from local chefs who own and operate restaurants in their community. When the meal is prepared, they break bread together.
Each Spring, more than 30 high school students from Hartford come together to put on a performance at Dunkin’ Donuts Park as part of the Yard Goats Theater Arts Program. In partnership with Hartford Stage, the largest theater company in the city, the program is about fostering education, imagination, healing and strength through the arts.
The perfect hybrid of the team’s commitment to the community and its dedication to entertainment, the Yard Goats Dance Team comprises more than 40 performers chosen from hundreds of auditioners. In partnership with a local dance studio, the Yard Goats Dance Team performs in front of thousands during every Friday home game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park and throughout the state at various public events.
The 2019 season also marked the Yard Goats’ first peanut-free season to better include fans with severe peanut allergies. The team announced that it would no longer sell peanuts or peanut products at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, eliminating a staple of the game. The decision was not an easy one for the team, but the result was a successful season that saw hundreds of children attend their first-ever baseball game thanks to the Yard Goats.