That good baseball vibe that has emanated from Fifth Third Field in downtown Dayton will celebrate 20 years of operation this season.
That would be the Dayton Dragons, the parent-club Cincinnati Reds’ Class A minor-league gift that keeps on giving since the first pitch was thrown at the Monument and North Patterson Boulevard landmark in 2000.
Season-long festivities begin with Thursday’s season opener against the Bowling Green Hot Rods at 7 p.m. in the first of two successive Midwest League Eastern Division home games.
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Here’s five things to know about the Dragons season:
1. The major-league season started last week. Minor-league rosters are filled by players who didn’t make the big-league cut and divvied throughout each parent club’s many affiliates, from rookie ball to Class AAA. The Dragons announced their opening-day roster on Tuesday.
This time last season the Dragons buzz was all about No. 1 pick (2017) Hunter Greene. It still is, for the wrong reason. He won’t return to Dayton or anywhere else after the Reds announced on Monday he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery and sit out this season.
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Guessing which Dragons newcomers eventually make The Show is part of the Dragons fun package. Ninety-seven former Dragons have eventually worn the wishbone C, including former National League MVP Joey Votto.
2. Luis Bolivar has become synonymous with the Dragons, and for three great reasons. He was an all-star excelling at multiple positions, then became the first former Dragons player to return as an assistant (hitting) coach. He topped that by succeeding Dick Schofield as manager in 2017 and remains in that role for the third straight season .
Joining Bolivar are holdover coaches Kevin Mahar (bench), Seth Etherton (pitching) and newcomer Mike Devereaux (hitting).
3. Entertainment is the name of this game, and the Dragons excel at that. Mascots Heater and Gem, the Green Team, Roofman, Wink and ATMO are embraced by admiring youth at home games. Dragons President Robert Murphy has a wall full of awards that honor a commitment to a family friendly experience.
New this season is an expanded “Dragons Zone” for children behind the centerfield wall. Fireworks shows will be lit after six games.
4. Sellouts are the norm at Fifth Third Field. There’s been 1,316 consecutive, or every home game the Dragons have played. Need a single-game ticket? That’s available at the box office, as are a variety of multiple-game ticket packages.
5. Can’t attend a game? No problem. Tom Nichols , veteran broadcaster and director of media relations, makes the call on WONE-AM (980). Twenty-five home games also will be televised live on CW Channel 26.1, Spectrum Ch. 13 and 1013, Direct TV and DISH Ch. 26. The first is Friday’s game.
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