Dunkin' Donuts Park: It's worth the trip!

During my month-long absence from the blogosphere – wow, it’s been that long since I’ve blogged? – I made the most of a rare Wednesday off by taking a 75-minute drive last week to Hartford for a 10:30 a.m. baseball game, between the second-year Hartford Yard Goats, the Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, and the Boston Red Sox’s Portland Sea Dogs, at the Goats’ brand new Dunkin’ Donuts Park.

Boy, the place is impressive!

Everything about the ballpark – from the easy access off the highway and parking, to the seats right on top of the action and the concessions – definitely met my approval. Here are a few observations from my day at "The Yard" …

• Getting there: If you live in the western part of the state like I do, it’s easy to get to. It’s simply Route 6 to Route 395, then exit 82 to Route 2, and then you merge onto Route 84 and take Exit 50 in Hartford and the ballpark’s on your right.

As for parking, there are six lots next to the park that are a stone’s throw away from Routes 84 and 91. I paid $5 to park right across the street from the park’s entrance.

• The stadium: It feels very cozy and close to the action, seats a little over 6,000 fans, and seems to be snugged nicely into the intersection of Main and Trumbull Streets. Leave the ballpark and you step right onto the sidewalk of both roads. There are quite a few cool spots to watch the action, but the right field porch looks like the place to be for a summer game.

• The seating: For $14, I sat right behind the Yard Goats’ dugout, and I was a lot closer to the field than I would have been if I sat in one of the dugouts for a Pawtucket Red Sox game at McCoy Stadium. I was so close to the field that I could read what was stitched on the patch on the side of third base!

After four innings, I walked around the entire park and I couldn’t find a bad seat in the house. I even took in a couple of innings behind the backstop near the end of the game (check out the picture above), and being there feels like you’re in the on-deck circle.

And as for leg room? This isn’t Fenway Park – there’s plenty of room to swing your legs around and allow people in your row to easily move past you to get to the aisle.

• The Retro Brand team store: Some good stuff here. It’s not as big as some of the other minor-league parks I’ve been to, but hey, the team’s only been around for two years! The Yard Goats logo is a winner – I got to get a T-shirt the next time I’m there! – and the green and blue colors fondly remind you of the Hartford Whalers that had played in the NHL in the 1980s and ’90.

• The beer selection: For those of you who like craft beer, check out the Nectar of the Goats’ pale ale, as well as the various selections from Hartford’s very own City Steam and Thomas Hooker breweries. If you don’t like craft beer, there’s always your old reliables such as Budweiser and Sam Adams.

• The food: I'm saving the best for last. You have your usual hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries, but you also have some delicious items that stand out. For $10, you can get a very good sandwich, and I had two exceptional ones – a Dunkin’ Donuts BLT (as you can see in the picture below, it's two glazed donuts waiting to smother a healthy portion of crispy bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes!) and a tasty brisket sandwich from the Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ pavilion in left field.

I also noticed that they also served clam chowder and lobster rolls, jerk chicken sandwiches, and a Yard Goats burger with, of course, goat cheese. If I’d had a bigger appetite, I would have tried the burger, and I will down the road.

Props to two of my softball teammates for their scouting reports on the menu – Ken Roberts for telling me about the BLT, and Shaun Towne for advising me to try the Dunkin' & Chicken skewers the next time I go up there.

And yes, there will be a next time. As much as I like McCoy Stadium and the PawSox, if I had a free night and was itching to go see a minor league game, I’d drive the extra 55 minutes to Hartford. Yeah, it’s nearly two extra hours of travel, but the overall experience is that good and baseball fans won’t be disappointed.

And should the day come when the wrecking ball comes to McCoy and the PawSox move to a different part of the city, I hope their new park comes close to mirroring this one, with, of course, a replica Green Monster and the dimensions of Fenway Park like some of the Red Sox’s other minor-league parks have. Pawtucket and local baseball fans would definitely benefit from a place like this!


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