A few uniforms were hung on hangers in the mostly bare lockers inside the clubhouse at Fifth Third Field earlier this week.
Some game equipment – mostly cracked bats and batting gloves – were strewn about. Some – not a lot – of trash littered the carpet. It was also quiet.
The Dayton Boys of Summer were gone.
»RELATED: Dragons eliminated from playoffs
Fifty-two played for the Dragons this season, 27 pitchers (plus two position players in mop-up duty) and 25 position players. There were 14 outfielders.
They played their last game Monday, at Bowling Green, Kentucky, losing 4-0 in the afternoon. Then came the bus ride to their temporary home.
By 9 p.m. Monday, players and coaches were saying goodbye to each other, hoping to meet again in a few days at the Arizona Instructional League or, more likely, at spring training, 2019.
»RELATED: Looking for a call-up
John Wallace, the team operations manager, led the coordination from the regular season to the offseason. He even picked up a player at his hotel room Tuesday morning at 4:30 to make a 6 a.m. flight home.
From a team standpoint, it was not a fulfilling season for the Dragons. They did not make the playoffs after falling just one game short of the championship round last season under first-year manager Luis Bolivar, who took Dayton to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
He knew this year’s team did not have the roster it had in 2017, but was confident with several top prospects – including No. 1 draft pick Hunter Greene from 2017 in his rotation - the team would be strong.
»RELATED: Greene out for season
After losing its first three games, the Dragons won nine straight to jump into a tie for first place in the Midwest League Eastern Division, starting to exhibit its tendency – streaks. That nine-game winning streak folded into an eight-game losing streak.
The team was 31-37 at the half, opened the second half with four straight losses and finished the season with six losses in its last eight games to go 27-43. Overall, Dayton was 58-80, 15th best in a 16-team league.
As a team, the Dragons hit .248, eighth best in the league. The pitching ERA was 4.73, which was last.
Of course, not all those players failed or were cut loose. Just among that bagful of outfielders, Michael Beltre, Malik Collymore, Stuart Fairchild, Narciso Crook and Randy Ventura were all promoted. Designated hitter Hendrik Clementina and righty relief pitcher John Ghyzel both made the post-season All-Star team.
Now, everyone’s headed home, or awaiting the Arizona Instructional League.
Wallace said it might be more heartbreaking not to make the playoffs, but it’s easier getting players home.
“We look over the flyer/driver lists with about a week to go,” Wallace said. “It varies, but about half the guys fly home, half drive. Your Latin guys all fly, and they have to go home first before they return. Getting flights to Venezuela is tough. A few years ago, we couldn’t get two-three guys out of here through the Dayton airport. We finally flew them to Arizona and the Reds found flights for them from there.”
With the playoffs, all seasons end suddenly; advance plans are difficult to make.
In a few days, Wallace will oversee the cleaning of the clubhouse. Players can take caps and T-shirts and hoodies and batting gloves and shorts with them while leaving behind playing jerseys and pants, belts and equipment that doesn’t belong to them.
Some leave behind a pair of cleats or two.
“Fans give them a lot of stuff,” Wallace said. “Sometimes they take it, sometimes they don’t. You’d be surprised at how much stuff they have.”
A cleaning service will be summoned. In two weeks, the clubhouse will be ready for next season and closed for the winter.
Next game, April 4, 2019, vs. Bowling Green.
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