Rock Cats Say Farewell to New Britain With Walk-Off Win

Aug 31, 2015

It was the team's 3,312th game as the Rock Cats. They'll play eight more on the road before becoming the Hartford Yard Goats.

Minor League Baseball came to a close in New Britain on Sunday. The Rock Cats played their final home game of the season before moving to Hartford next year to become the Yard Goats.

But after nine innings of play, the Rock Cats weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to New Britain, so they played another six innings before eventually edging out the Portland Sea Dogs, 7-5. 

More than 6,500 fans went out to New Britain Stadium on Sunday, although far fewer stayed around for Jordan Patterson’s walk-off home run in the 15th inning - more than four hours after the first pitch. 

Watch the final play:

Even for those who couldn’t make it through four hours of baseball, they were treated well. Former Major League MVP Justin Morneau was in the line-up. He was back in New Britain on a rehab assignment after missing most of the season with the Colorado Rockies due to a concussion.

Morneau is not new to the Hardware City though. He came up through the Minor Leagues and played for the Rock Cats between 2001 and 2003 when the team was affiliated with the Minnesota Twins.

Justin Morneau returned to New Britain on a rehabilitation assignment from the Colorado Rockies. He played with the Rock Cats between 2001 and 2003 when they were affiliated with the Minnesota Twins.
Credit Jonathan McNicol / WNPR
Justin Morneau signs autographs before Sunday's New Britain Rock Cats game against the Portland Sea Dogs.
Credit Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

New Britain Stadium was home to the Rock Cats since the 1996 season and saw plenty of future Major Leaguers in the home dugout. David Ortiz is one of the Boston Red Sox's all-time great players but he came up through the Twins' system and played in New Britain. Fans also saw then-catcher Joe Mauer, outfielder Torii Hunter, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski make their way through the minors.

New Britain Stadium on Sunday.
Credit Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

For most of the 3,312 games played under the Rock Cats moniker, the team was a Twins affiliate. Its parent club cut ties last year though and the final season was played under the Colorado Rockies' banner. 

Credit Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

The history of the day went even further back though. A post-game celebrity softball game featured Hall of Fame pitchers Fergie Jenkins and Rollie Fingers.

Credit Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

Although the franchise is moving to Hartford next season, a new team will likely move into New Britain Stadium next year. Mayor Erin Stewart teased the idea on social media while watching the game:

She also confirmed the plans to the Hartford Courant. "We're hoping by the end of the week we'll have a final lease agreement and will be ready to go with the Atlantic League for 2016," Stewart told the Courant. The Atlantic League is independent and already has one Connecticut team, the Bridgeport Bluefish.

Credit Jonathan McNicol / WNPR
Some New Britain Rock Cats fans wore their new Hartford Yard Goats' gear to the former team's last home game.
Credit Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

On Friday night, the franchise's single game attendance record was broken with 8,672 entering the gates. The new "Dunkin' Donuts Park" in Hartford will have a capacity of approximately 9,000.

Efforts to fill those future seats were underway in New Britain though. On Saturday night, Hartford Yard Goats magnetic schedules were given away to fans. Promotions for season tickets in Hartford could be seen and heard throughout the stadium from the outfield scoreboard to the bathrooms.

Credit Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

The Hartford Yard Goats' Twitter account has been very active and is already counting down the days until the first pitch in Hartford.

But the Rock Cats still have eight away games on their schedule. Even the team's home page seems abandoned. Nearly 24 hours after the final game started, the lead image still promotes to the final three games.

Credit Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

The final Rock Cats game of the season is on September 7, 2015 in Portland, ME.