Southington has sent more than a fair share of baseball players to the Major Leagues. Much of that can be attributed to the late John Fontana, who died at 84 in October. As a coach at Southington High School, Fontana sent nearly 200 of his players to college on full or partial scholarships, and four of his players went to the Major Leagues. That’s remarkable, considering this is from a small town in a small state.
And what’s equally remarkable now is how a former Major Leaguer from Southington is now coming home – to take the reigns in Hartford as manager of the minor league Yard Goats.
Chris Denorfia spent a decade in the big leagues, a major achievement most can only dream of, playing as an outfielder for the Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs. He spent the past two years in the front office of the Cubs organization.
“We are excited to welcome Chris back to Connecticut and to our Yard Goats family,” said Hartford General Manager Mike Abramson. “I look forward to working with Chris and having him part of our wonderful community, which he knows well.”
Denorfia, who is 39, grew up in Southington. He played at Choate Rosemary Hall, in Wallingford, and college ball at Wheaton, where he was a Division III All American. He was drafted out of Wheaton by the Cincinnati Reds.
No one need feel sorry for professional baseball players, but they do have to contend with a life of travel. That he now gets to come home is an obvious delight.
“How lucky am I? I get to live in my house for the first time in two decades and see the leaves on my trees grow for the first time in a long time,” he said.
It will be his first stint as a manager, an opportunity he called “very special,” and his first trip to Dunkin’ Donuts Park was just recently. “What a special place,” he said. “I’ve been to dozens and dozens of minor league ballparks and that’s, if not the best, is among the top three that I’ve seen in the country.”
A still relatively new ballpark and a new manager sounds like a good match, and an opportunity to wish Denorfia good luck as we welcome him home.