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Goats’ Broadcasters Bridge Eras, Cultures

The enduring image in the 19-year major league career of nine-time Gold Glove Award winner Torii Hunter might just involve a catch he didn't make. Tumbling head over heels into the home bullpen at Fenway Park, the former New Britain Rock Cat failed spectacularly in his bid to rob former teammate David Ortiz of a grand slam in the 2013 American League Championship Series.

For Jeff Dooley, who's now in his 20th season serving as lead radio broadcaster for the organization that in 2015 rebranded itself the Hartford Yard Goats, opportunities to describe such a play have been in short supply — until now.

"In New Britain there were 16-foot walls — I don't care if you're Torii Hunter, you weren't bringing one back," said Dooley, who also serves as the team's director of media relations. "Now, with the six-foot fence [at Dunkin' Donuts Park], there's a little bit of mystery there."

It will fall upon Dooley and his longtime broadcast partner, Dan Lovallo, to paint that picture for listeners as future Colorado Rockies and their opponents take aim at outfield seats — a rarity for minor league parks — framed by the Hartford skyline.

Beginning with half-hour pregame shows for home games (condensed to 15 minutes for road games), broadcasts for all 142 games will be available on WPOP-AM 1410 and can be streamed at newsradio1410.iheart.com. Postgame shows featuring highlights and player and manager interviews will extend the game experience to the car ride home.

And in a nod to the city's Latino population, all home games will also be broadcast in Spanish on New Britain-based WPRX-AM 1120 by the father-son duo of Danny and Derik Rodriguez, making the Yard Goats one of just three teams in minor league baseball to have a bilingual radio presence.

"It is really important to our organization to have our broadcasts also available in Spanish, knowing how much the Hispanic community loves baseball, and we feel this is a wonderful way to reach the Latino community," Yard Goats owner Josh Solomon said.

Dooley's relationship with WPRX-AM 1120 dates to 1999, when the Rock Cats were between radio deals and searching for an on-air home. The station "came to the table," according to Dooley, who found himself broadcasting games in English over airwaves otherwise reserved for Spanish programming.

"So many of our loyal listeners love the game of baseball and are excited about the new Yard Goats brand," said Oscar Nieves, the station's owner. "We know that this is going to be a home run."

Danny Rodriguez, who played on the U.S. Army baseball team, will handle play-by-play duties while his son Derik will provide color commentary.

The duo of Dooley and Lovallo are in their 14th year together, an Eastern League record. They'll call home games in tandem, alternating three-inning segments as lead broadcaster. And Lovallo, as he did last season, will spell Dooley as a solo act for certain road trips.

The team will maintain its strong social-media presence, which stoked anticipation even as home games were on hold. Score updates on Twitter, where @GoYardGoats is followed by more than 13,000 users, will come with a healthy dose of snark. And everything from batting practice to clubhouse jam sessions will be streamed on Facebook.

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