Bloopers, broken windshields and highlights fill Dayton Dragons Opening Day history

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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At look back at some scenes from the past 16 years of opening day for the Dayton Dragons.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Freddie Benavides, the first Dayton Dragons manager, wore a misspelled name on his uniform ("Benevedes"). That wasn't the only hiccup in the first game at Fifth Third Field and for the Dragons franchise on April 27, 2000, as crews rushed to make the stadium as complete as possible.

But the show went on, and the Dragons opened with a 4-3 victory against the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

"Dayton winters have a centerpiece - UD basketball," wrote Dayton Daily News sports columnist Gary Nuhn the day after the franchise's debut. "Now Dayton summers have one, too."

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On Thursday, the Dragons will open their 18th season at home. They don't always open at home, but the first game at Fifth Third Field each season is the beginning of another summer of Dayton baseball.

Players have provided the highlights on these opening days. Randy Ruiz crushed a grand slam against the batters eye in center field against Fort Wayne in 2001. In 2012, pitcher Justice French pitched a near-flawless six innings to lead the team to a 3-0 victory, one of two shutout victories in Opening Day in team history.

That came after the annual mascot arrival, scheduled to be unique each year, surprised him.

“The Hummer that drove past me was a little startling,” French said.

Dayton Dragons mascots Heater and Gem are driven around Fifth Third Field for the team's home opener on April 5, 2012. LISA POWELL / STAFF
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Dayton Dragons mascots Heater and Gem are driven around Fifth Third Field for the team's home opener on April 5, 2012. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Sometimes, the first home game sees some blunders. Pitcher Todd Coffey, who would later play for the Reds, closed out the 2003 opener after he was hit in the head by a teammate's warmup pitch in the bullpen before coming out. In 2004, outfielder Chris Dickerson was finishing batting practice when he smacked a ball over the fence. It broke through a back window of a car stopped at a light on First Street.

The 2006 opener saw the use of replacement umpires during an umpires strike. In the seventh inning, both managers got involved in an argument that looked to a reporter like it caused the umpires to change the minds on a call multiple times.

Fans have sometimes seen their own challenges, given the wild weather swings for the first game. In 2002, the high temperature on the home opener day was 41 degrees.

"I've got my long underwear on," Dennis Hixson of Dayton said outside the stadium, where he waited 2 1/2 hours to see the game, "and every cotton-picking thing."