Beginning in 2016, the New Britain Rock Cats will be no more. In their place will be the Hartford Yard Goats.
On Wednesday afternoon, "Yard Goats" was announced as the winning entry in a name-the-team contest that was first announced at last month's stadium groundbreaking in downtown Hartford. The contest, which received nearly 6,000 entries and 35,000 ballots, was narrowed down to five finalists last week. Yard Goats was chosen by the team's selection committee, triumphing over Hedgehogs, Praying Mantis, River Hogs and Whirlybirds.
So what is a Yard Goat, and why is it the name of a Minor League Baseball franchise? As the team explained on its HartfordPlaysBall2016 website, Yard Goats "honors Hartford's rich railroad history." It is a slang term for "an engine that switches a train to get it ready for another locomotive to take over."
A press release issued by the Rock Cats on Wednesday afternoon provided further detail.
"A Minor League Baseball player is like that humble Yard Goat," it reads. "Not a glamorous job but working day in and day out away from the big city lights to assure that the Major League affiliate is kept on track."
"We wanted a name that would identify our organization as family-friendly and appeal to kids as well as baseball fans throughout the region," said team owner Josh Solomon.
The Yard Goats, Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, will make their debut in 2016 at their yet-to-be-named downtown ballpark. This facility, located at the junction of highways 84 and 91 in downtown Hartford, is just 12 miles northeast of the team's current home in New Britain. The ballpark, with an estimated price tag of $56 million, is considered the centerpiece of Hartford's $350 million Downtown North (or "DoNo") development project.
Brandiose, a San Diego-based design firm responsible for recent Minor League creations such as the El Paso Chihuahuas, Akron RubberDucks and Biloxi Shuckers, has been tasked with bringing the Yard Goats name to life. These logos and uniforms will be unveiled at a later date.
Meanwhile, the Rock Cats are on the cusp of their 33rd and final season in New Britain. The Rock Cats moniker was first adopted in 1995, when the team changed its name from the Red Sox to the Hardware City Rock Cats (a reference to New Britain's "Hardware City" nickname). Two years later, in 1997, the current New Britain Rock Cats designation made its debut.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.