Dragons manager Luis Bolivar addresses an exhibition Celebration Game of Dragons alumni vs. the upcoming team during a press conference at Fifth Third Field on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Dragons will play alumni team as part of 20-year celebration

“I don’t know,” Bolivar said during Wednesday’s press conference to announce the exhibition game the between the upcoming Dragons and alums. “I can be out in the field, but it’s different when you step to the plate.”

This season’s “Team 20” will play an alumni team comprised of former Dragons players who are still active with the Reds. The preseason exhibition contest will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 30 at Fifth Third Field.

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That’s the first of a season-long salute to the 20th anniversary of Dayton’s minor-league baseball team.

Former Dragons who are expected to play are outfielder Taylor Trammell, catcher Tyler Stephenson, third baseman Jonathan India, catcher Chris Okey and outfielder TJ Friedl.

All those former Dragons were first- or second-round draft picks by the Reds except Friedl. Signed as a free agent, he was named the Reds’ Minor League Hitter of the Year after last season. More Dragons alumni will be named later.

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Bolivar began an eight-year association with the Dragons as a player, then hitting coach and is in his third season as manager. Former popular Dragons who have since retired as players also will make special appearances at Dragons home games.

Dragons President Robert Murphy addresses the season-long celebration of the 20-year history of the team on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

The Dragons have hosted the popular Futures Game of Reds’ top minor-league prospects and even the Midwest League All-Star Game. The “Celebration Game” will be a first.

“It’s part of our organizational culture that we want to always get better,” Dragons President Robert Murphy said. “We always are going to raise that bar and bring new and different and fresh ideas.”

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The Reds’ minor league pitchers and catchers will report to spring training at Goodyear, Ariz., on Feb. 28 and all other minor leaguers a week later. The Dragons’ roster will be announced after the conclusion of spring training.

The Reds purchased the Greeneville (Tenn.) minor-league affiliate from the Astros last season and designated it for rookie ball. Other minor-league teams in the Reds’ organization are the Louisville Bats (Class AAA), Chattanooga Lookouts (AA), Daytona Tortugas (Advanced-A), Dayton (A), Billings (Mont.) Mustangs (Rookie) and Goodyear (Rookie).

Dragons manager Luis Bolivar wouldn’t commit if he’ll play in the “Celebration Game” against an alumni team. He’s been a player, hitting coach and manager with the Dragons for eight of the team’s 20 seasons. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

“Just in pure numbers, we’re going to have more high quality and high-dollar picks coming through Dayton,” said Reds’ vice president and assistant general manager Sam Grossman. “With Dayton just down the road (from Cincinnati), we feel there’s such an alignment and connection. You really feel it from the (Dayton) fans that as (players) develop in the system they may just be right down the road in three or four years. That’s something that’s really special.”

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Murphy said the Dragons have drawn more than 11 million spectators to Fifth Third Field since the team made its debut in 2000. The club set an all-time sellout streak in 2011 and enter this season with 1,316 consecutive sellouts, which represents every home game in Dragons’ history.

The Dragons will open their Class A Midwest League season against the visiting Bowling Green Hot Rods on Thursday, April 4. Joining Bolivar on the coaching staff are returners Seth Etherton (pitching) and Kevin Mahar (bench coach). New is hitting coach Mike Devereaux.

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