After 15 seasons, this is what we can expect from the Dayton Dragons:
- A full house at Fifth Third Field every home game.
- Low Class A minor-league baseball that is surprisingly good at times but not consistent.
- An evolving roster that loses its best prospects via promotions and is home for those whose major-league potential is to be determined.
Dragons players and coaches scattered after the season-ending 13-4 win at Lake County last Monday. Some of the players returned home and won’t play again until spring training. Others went to the Reds Player Development Complex at Goodyear, Ariz., for the Fall Instructional League.
Jose Nieves completed his second straight season as manager. Pitching coach Tony Fossas has had two stints with the Dragons, totaling five years. Hitting coach Luis Bolivar was in his first season in that position, but it wasn’t his first with the club. He was the first former Dragons player to return as a coach.
Here’s a look at the highlights of the Dragons’ 2014 season:
The streak: More than anything else, the Dragons are known for their consecutive sellout streak. Every home game ever played by the green and black has been a sellout, at least on paper. When the season’s final home game on Aug. 29 was done, the streak had reached 1,051.
That’s the most in professional sports history. Second best is the Red Sox at 820 from 2003-13.
The Dragons drew 573,709 spectators, averaging 8,437 over 68 home games. Those numbers led all of Class A baseball for the 15th consecutive season.
They were here: Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture after being hit by a batted ball in spring training. Sure enough, he was a rehabbing Dragon for two early May games. Infielder Jack Hannahan also played in four July games.
Coming off a wrist injury, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was in the lineup for one game, Aug. 17. He had two hits, including a double.
They’re No. 1: Never before had the Dragons had more than a pair of Reds’ No. 1 draft choices on the roster. This season there were four: pitcher Nick Travieso (2012), outfielder Phillip Ervin (’13), pitcher Nick Howard (’14) and shortstop Alex Blandino (’14).
Prime time: The Dragons were chosen as one of 15 teams to host a game on the new “Minor League Baseball Game of the Week.” The games were carried live on the CBS Sports Network.
Dayton’s July 10 game against the South Bend Silver Hawks was its first to be nationally televised. And it resulted in Silver Hawks pitcher Blayne Weller no-hitting the Dragons and delivering a 7-1 setback.
It’s a record: In the Eastern Division of the Midwest League, the Dragons were 68-70 overall; 36-32 in the first half (third in the division) and 32-38 in the second half (sixth).
The second-half wildcard playoff contention unraveled in August when the Dragons were 12-19. In a five-team race for the final wildcard berth, the Dragons were 2-5 in the final week and lost out to Fort Wayne by one game.
Can’t beat that: Travieso (14-5, 3.03 ERA) led the league in wins, only the second Dragons pitcher to do so. He also owns the most career wins for Dragons pitchers (21).
Left-hander Amir Garrett (7-8, 3.65 ERA) also had two complete-game, seven-inning shutouts and led the Midwest League in shutouts.
Right-hander Sal Romano (8-11, 4.12 ERA) didn’t miss a start for the Dragons the last two seasons. He set a club record with 28 starts this year and led the league in innings (148.2).
Team leaders: Outfielder Jon Matthews led the team in hitting (.314) among players who were anchored at Dayton for the majority of their seasons. Outfielders Beau Amaral (.329) and Sebastian Elizalde (.311) were the team’s two best and were promoted before the All-Star break.
Ervin (.237) led the Dragons in RBIs (68), stolen bases (30) and games (132).
Remember when: Six former Dragons made their major-league debuts: Tucker Barnhart, Carlos Contreras, Daniel Corcino and Yorman Rodriguez (Reds), Scott Carroll (White Sox) and Miguel Rojas (Dodgers).
In all, the Dragons have had 68 alums make it to the big leagues since 2000.
Where are they now? The Bakersfield Blaze are playing in the semifinals of the high Class A California League playoffs and have a lineup full of former Dragons.
Amaral (center field), Jeff Gelalich (right field), Sean Buckley (DH), Sammy Diaz (third base), Elizalde (left field) and Joe Hudson (catcher) were regular this season with the Dragons until being promoted to Bakersfield, where they also all start. In all, 20 of Bakersfield’s 22 members who have played in the postseason are former Dragons.
On deck: There will be a new ownership in place next season. Palisades Arcadia Baseball purchased the team from the founding Mandalay Baseball Properties last month.
MBP has promised more of the same on the field and off. Team president Robert Murphy apparently will remain in that position, as will much of the behind-the-scenes sales and support staff.
If the new owners maintain anything close to what Mandalay offered, the Dragons will continue to be a big minor-league baseball hit in Dayton.