Dayton Dragons: ‘Awesome’ to have more fans back in stands

Heater isn't going on the field yet between innings, but he and fellow Dragons mascot Gem are throwing T-shirts to fans from the top of the dugouts. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Heater isn't going on the field yet between innings, but he and fellow Dragons mascot Gem are throwing T-shirts to fans from the top of the dugouts. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Jacob Hurtubise was halfway to third base in the sixth inning looking for the go or stop sign from manager Jose Moreno. Just then, the double by Quincy McAfee kicked off the wall in the Dragons’ bullpen and away from the left fielder.

The crowd – energized by not being socially distanced around Day Air Ballpark – roared.

All 4,892 fans instantly knew Hurtubise – one of the fastest Dragons ever – would easily score the go-ahead run. Previous crowds this season of a little over 2,000 would have cheered, but it wouldn’t have sounded like it did Tuesday night when the Dragons rallied from seven runs down to defeat Great Lakes 8-7.

Tuesday was the first night Dayton was permitted to sell every seat. While the attendance fell short of the sellout that has defined the organization since its birth in 2000, it was twice the number of fans who had been coming.

“It was awesome, and it was even cooler to see them stick around for the whole game,” McAfee said. “It rained halfway through the game, but the fans still stayed through it. That part right there just shows the fan base as a whole and just how exciting it was to have everyone in the stands.”

Attendance has been steady this week with 4,810 on Wednesday and 5,040 on Thursday. When the 2019 season ended, the Dragons’ celebrated record sellout streak for professional sports was at 1,385. While the streak is technically over, the Dragons announced before the start of the season that they are not counting this season that has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They plan to resume counting the sellout streak at the start of the 2022 season.

Two Dragons fans dance to the "Nutcracker Suite" between innings in the outfield grass during Wednesday night's game. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Two Dragons fans dance to the "Nutcracker Suite" between innings in the outfield grass during Wednesday night's game. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Sellout or not, the players felt the increased energy. Fans on ticket plans are back in their old seats and seeing old friends. More of the suites are in use. Team mascots, Heater and Gem, throw T-shirts into the crowd from the top of the dugouts. The Green Team is back in action with between-innings fun and games with the fans.

“I thought it was super cool,” said Hurtubise, who is playing his first season in the minors. “Obviously, I’ve only heard stories about the atmosphere that Dayton creates when it is at full capacity. You could definitely tell a difference between last night and the first couple series that we’ve had here in terms of how loud it got whenever an exciting play would happen and just the overall energy going throughout the stadium.”

The Dragons conclude their series with Great Lakes on Sunday. Fort Wayne comes to town for a six-game series beginning Tuesday. The Dragons begin a 12-game road trip June 22 and will return home July 6 to begin a 12-game homestand.

Dragons top Loons

Alex McGarry’s first-inning grand slam powered the Dragons to a 6-3 win over Great Lakes on Thursday night.

Michael Siani added a two-runer homer for Dayton.

McGarry, Miguel Hernandez, James Free and Reniel Ozuna collected two hits apiece. Jacob Hurtubise had two stolen bases.

SATURDAY’S GAME

Great Lakes at Dayton, 7:05 p.m., Dayton CW, 980

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