With apologies for the delay in posting this report, I had the pleasure of attending the Dayton Dragons game versus the Bowling Green Hot Rods Saturday night. I am always excited to have an opportunity to visit Fifth Third Field. Simply put there is energy and an air of anticipation at Dragons games that I have never felt at other Minor League baseball games. July 2 was special though. On July 2nd The Dayton Dragons tied the Portland Trailblazers NBA franchise all time, all sports record for consecutive sellouts. Over the entire 11 years of the Dragons existence they have sold out each and every game. They entertain, excite and market themselves in every way and we took advantage of all the Dragons had to offer on this special evening. The New York Times even did a feature story on the milestone.
We arrived at the ballpark when the gates opened at 6PM and decided with our lawn seats to start out in the area alongside the right field foul pole. This is a great place for kids to collect baseballs from the visiting team after they have finished warming up before the lineups are announced. The only downside to this location is the blinding sun beating down on my poor kids heads so after the second inning, my parents called down from the second deck on the home team side and indicated a few of the ticket package holders were not present for the game. After chatting with an usher we were allowed to relocate to seats where we had a much better view of the action without cooking in our own skins like an over done kielbasa.
Two other items of note occurred before our pilgrimage to the second deck. The first was an unfortunate foul ball that struck a young girl in the face just above our lawn seats. The girl was immediately attended to by stadium medical staff and whisked away to Children’s Hospital in Dayton but it again reminds me of the double edged nature of attending a game. My 8 year old son has become a devoted fan of Drew Stubbs, Joey Votto and Aroldis Chapman and truly loves the game. It didn’t take him long to lock onto Juan Duran, Yorman Rodriguez and Billy Hamilton and later Kyle Lotzkar to find more baseball heroes. Yet I find in bringing my kids to the park I spent far more time watching for foul balls that might hurt them than tracking the game. I want my kids to love baseball and being hit by a line drive in the face can not only serve as permanent negative reinforcement of the idea of fun=baseball, it can also inflict life changing brain injury to the unaware. I know my kids did not watch every pitch, more frightening, I know my attention was occasionally pulled away as well. This injured child could have been my own and I pray she was ok. The second note was a positive one and that was the friendliness of all of the ushers around the ball park. I have often attended sporting events where the ushers behaved more like hall monitors but the Dragons staff correctly view themselves as ambassadors of their franchise and strive to make every guest experience memorable and positive.
After the sojourn up stairs we settled into a pitching duel of sorts.
My interest in baseball came from my mom and although my dad seems to enjoy the Dragons he would prefer puttering around in the garden more than watching a game on most days. Hamilton does excite him though because his speed is so unusual and exhilarating to watch. Problem is after the pick off in the 6th his worst fear began to surface. The prospect of extra innings. He would rather see the other team win than ever witness an extra inning game. My 3 year old and 5 year old boys were equally done with the spectacle yet the game had moved into the 7th inning still deadlocked. They liked a lot of the features of the game from the mini dugout dancers to the crazy games on the field. They became extremely excited when Roofman made his appearance across the stadium rooftop as the sun began to set. But as much as they enjoyed these distractions, 2 hours in one place is asking for a monumental effort on their part. Enter Billy Hamilton in the 8th, the crowd going crazy after he manufactured his run and the joy at the ultimate victory. They had a lot of fun.
My three year old was featured on the big stadium screen at one point during the game and was so busy trying to figure out why the camera man was pointing the giant camera at him that he forgot to actually move…or breathe…for several seconds. He also was a bit concerned when the two dragons on the scoreboard began breathing smoke while their eyes glowed red, following Rodriguez home run in the 4th. He was much more at ease when the Dragons completed the victory and the eyes lit up again in the 9th.
A couple of other events completed our visit to the game. In the 6th inning when the sellout was confirmed in a brief pause, the Dragons all came out of the dug out to wave and thank the fans. I was happy to see Special Assistant to the General Manager Eric Davis present in his Reds uniform as well and the crowd was pleased to see him. The second event took place after the game in the memorabilia/gift shop by the front gate. Starter Kyle Lotzkar was signing autographs and posing for pictures after the game and my boys were stunned by him. In my boys eyes I am a big guy standing slightly over 6 feet tall so imagine what they thought looking up at Kyle who according to the media guide stands 6’4”. They were impressed. After signing a shirt, hat and scorecard the boys thanked him and an exciting evening of baseball came to a close. Judging by the looks of wonder on their faces they will continue to be Dragons fans (and the Dragons will continue to sell out baseball games) for a long time to come.
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