In the old days, professional baseball games had a bit of entertainment between innings, but the focus was always on the on-field activities. In today’s fast-paced world, there is something going on from the time the first patrons arrive at ballpark until the seats are empty.
“You’ve got to give a little something for everyone,” said Dayton Dragons executive vice president Eric Deutsch.
“We kind of have this show of 18 inning breaks. You’ve got two minutes blocks to entertain people with the video board, mascots, contests, the Green Team, dance troops, the Retirement Village People and Roofman. We get babies on the field, and adults and senior citizens, and have them be a part of the action. The players get involved. The umpires get involved. It’s a lot of fun.”
Another chance to impress
The Dragons opened its 14th season on Thursday, April 4, on the road against the West Michigan Whitecaps. The Dragons home opener will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 11, when the team hosts the Great Lakes Loons at Fifth Third Field in downtown Dayton.
No matter the score, the fans in the stands are always a winner, thanks to the local ball club’s dedication to making each game a fun-filled, family-friendly experience
“We’re really big on what you can control, like customer service, the seating presentation, the entertainment presentation, the food and beverage experience,” Deutsch said. “The things that are out of our control are wins, losses and the weather. For the past 13 years, we’ve had winning seasons and losing seasons and attendance has never really wavered.
To say the approach worked is something of an understatement. Every game since the team debuted 13 years ago has sold out. The Dragons closed its 2012 season with its 913th consecutive home game sell-out. This is the longest such streak in professional sports history.
Deutsch said, “(Dragons president) Bob Murphy has this phrase, ‘paranoid marketing,’ so the minute people come for games starting in April 2013, we have to make sure they have a great time from April until September so they come back for 2014.
“We work really hard and try to create a lot of new things from food and beverage experience and entertainment experience to ticketing products and our various events,” Deutsch said. “We have our school assembly program, our scout overnights, our 5K, the beer tasting event and movie nights. We’re trying to create more things for people to engage with each and every season so they’ll continue to come back.”
Q&A with anthem winner
More than 300 people turned out this year to audition for a chance to sing the national anthem at a Dragons game. Seventy area performers were selected in the annual tryouts sponsored by the Dayton Daily News. The opportunity to sing the national anthem for opening night at Fifth Third Field went to Olivia Loeffler, a fifth-grader from Loveland.
The 11-year-old, who has been singing since she was 3, attends McCormick Elementary School in the Milford School District. She began performing in musical theater when she was 6 and has appeared in productions at Children’s Theatre of Mason and Children’s Performing Arts of Miamisburg. This was her first time auditioning for the Dragons.
“Olivia has always loved to sing, but we don’t really know where she got her singing talent,” her mother, Pam, said. “There is a little bit of music ability on my side of the family, but (husband) Marc and I don’t have any at all.”
Here is a brief Q&A with the young singer:
Q: How much preparation did you do before trying out?
A: “I’ve sung the national anthem at tennis tournaments and other things before, so I already knew the song. When I was little I sort of practiced it with my mom. I got it in my memory, so it’s really easy for me to sing it now.”
Q: What was it like when you went to audition and saw all the people waiting to try out?
A: “My mom had told me I was going to be singing in front of everybody. That kind of freaked me out a tiny bit, but then I got used to it and I was just so happy because it was really fun to sing in front of everybody.”
Q: Who is your favorite singer?
A: “I have a lot of favorite singers, but I like the song called ‘Feel This Moment’ by Christina Aguilera and Pitbull.”
Entertainment highlights 2013
April 11: Opening night: Olivia Loeffler, the 11-year-old winner of the Dayton Daily News National Anthem contest, will sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” The Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Honor Guard will present the national colors. Other opening night attractions include skydivers, face painters, stilt-walking balloon artists, jugglers and a petting zoo.
May 15: K-9 Crew: The high-flying trick dog show, a Fifth Third Field favorite in 2012, displays acrobatic feats.
June 2: The ZOOperstars: The inflatable animal characters with names such as Alex Frogriquez, LeBronco James and Ken Girrafey Jr. return to Dayton. The ZOOperstars will be back for a repeat performance on Aug. 8.
July 21: BirdZerk!: The dancing, feathered prankster, a favorite at minor league ballparks across the nation, presents his high-energy hijinks.
Other Fifth Third events
May 10: Girl Scout Overnighter: Scouts spend the night at the ballpark and watch a movie on the video board.
May 24: Boy Scout Overnighter: Scouts spend the night and watch a movie on the video board.
June 24-25: Dragons Experience Youth Baseball Clinics: Learn more about the finer points of baseball from current Dragons players.
July 13: The Subway-Dragons 5K run/walk: Join Subway spokesman Jared Fogle for an annual trek through downtown.
July 29-30: Dragons Experience Youth Baseball Clinics
Aug. 3: Great American Beer Tasting sponsored by Heidelberg Distributing: Sample from a large selection of craft and imported beers during this annual event.
Aug. 10: Donatos Movie Night at Fifth Third Field: This year’s feature is the baseball classic “The Sandlot.”
Aug. 18: Health and Fitness Carnival: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield sponsors this annual wellness event.
Team: Dayton Dragons, a Class A minor league baseball team.
Owner: Mandalay Baseball Properties, LLC.
Division: Midwest League.
Ballpark: Fifth Third Field, 220 N. Patterson Blvd., Dayton, opened on April 27, 2000. It has a capacity of 7,230 seats, plus 29 luxury suites and three party decks.
Manager: José Nieves joins the Dragons as skipper this season. He replaced Delino DeShields, who was with the team for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
2012 record: 60 wins-78 losses.
Mascots: Heater and Gem.
Single games: $7 lawn, $9.75 plaza, $10.75 and $11.25 field level, $11.75 and $12.25 box/reserve and $13.75 and $14.25 premier seating.
Full season package (70 home games): $682.50 plaza, $752.50 and $787.50 field level, $822.50 and $857.50 box/reserve and $962.50 and $997.50 premier seating.
Half season package (35 home games): $341.25 plaza, $376.25 and $393.75 field level, $411.25 and $428.75 box/reserve and $481.25 and $498.75 premier seating.
Partial season package (17 home games): $165.75 plaza, $182.75 and $191.25 field level, $199.75 and $208.25 box/reserve and $233.75 and $242.25 premier seating.
Other packages: Eight- and nine-game ticket packages and group rates are available. For more information, call the Dayton Dragons box office (937) 228-BATS (2287) or go online to www.daytondragons.com.
HOW TO GO
What: Dayton Dragons home opener (vs. the Great Lakes Loons)
Where: Fifth Third Field, 200 N. Patterson Blvd., Dayton
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 11
Cost: $7-$14.25 single tickets
More info: (937) 228-BATS (2287) or www.daytondragons.com