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Unlikely pair? USS Hartford and Yard Goats form partnership

Goats and submarines may seem like an improbable pairing, but in Connecticut the two are the making of a new partnership. 

The inside of the USS Hartford is decked out with Yard Goats merchandise thanks to a partnership between the Groton-based Los Angeles class-attack submarine and Hartford's new minor league baseball team.

Once top enlisted submariners on the boat achieve certain levels of competence, they get to wear a specially designed Yard Goats cap around the boat, according to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who recently spent an overnight aboard the submarine.

The partnership means the team's logo — a goat chomping on a baseball bat — will show up in some pretty obscure places, such as the northernmost part of the Earth. The Hartford is participating in an exercise in the Arctic.

"When they go to really cool places like the Arctic, we ask that they grab one of the hats and put it somewhere," said Mike Abramson, Yard Goats' assistant general manager, explaining that the team's followers love seeing paraphernalia pop up in unique places.

A Hartford crewmember, Chief Petty Officer Christopher Echeandia approached Yard Goats' management about the initiative. It's common for partnerships to be formed with ships or submarines named in honor of a city, state or particular person.

The close proximity of Hartford with the submarine's homeport at the Naval Submarine Base makes activities between the team and the ship logistically easy to support. 

The Yard Goats, a Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, will play their first season this spring, and management plans to bring Hartford crewmembers and their families out on the field one night to honor them, Abramson said.

The Navy actually has a long history with goats.

Early on, goats were kept aboard ships to provide sailors with a source of fresh dairy products.

The goats, which were preferred over cows for a number of reasons, including that they can swim, were kept in the chief's mess to prevent the crew from milking them.

Hence the name goat locker, Navy slang for the area aboard a ship where the chief petty officer holds meetings, eats and relaxes.

The official mascot of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., is Bill the Goat.

And Master Chief Charlie, a pygmy goat, served as the unofficial mascot of the Navy cruiser Lake Erie before he was removed from the ship last spring.

j.bergman@theday.com

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