Dayton Dragons still attract fans despite record

Dayton Dragons still attract fans despite record

For teenagers living in Kettering, it can be hard to find something to keep occupied over weekends, other than parties, bowling, or hanging out at The Greene. Until spring and baseball season comes around again, that is, because with spring time comes Dayton Dragons games.

Adults and teenagers alike find a Dayton Dragons baseball game to be one of the more exciting ways to spend a Friday or a Saturday night.

The Dayton Dragons have sold out every game for the past 12 years … so someone who isn’t from Dayton would naturally assume that the Dragons are a superb baseball team with an unmatchable record, right? Unfortunately for the Dragons, this is not the case. Currently, the Dragons are a sad 17-29.

However, even with their less-than-astounding record, the Dragons do have something going for them: they broke the all-time North American record for consecutive sold-out games on July 9, 2011, due to their overwhelming popularity in the greater-Dayton area. The Dragons hit 815 sold-out games in a row and continued that number through the end of their 2011 season, ending with 844 sold-out games in a row.

Breaking this record gave the Dragons a spot as a top-five finalist for the Sports Business Journal’s Team of the Year award. Other finalists included the Texas Rangers (MLB), the Boston Bruins (NHL), Stewart-Haas Racing (NASCAR), and the Sporting Kansas City (MLS).

Sadly, they Dragons lost to the Boston Bruins when the award was announced May 23 at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square. The fact that the Dragons were recognized at all, however, is a big step up for the minor league team. Not many people may have been aware of this award, but since they were even in the top five may have brought new attention to the team.

All in all, the Dragons aren’t the worst minor league team, but they certainly aren’t the greatest. However, there is something about the game, other than the playing, that has fans coming back for more.

Dragons know how to have fun

A Dragons game has more to it than just the sport. After and in between every inning, there’s always something going on, whether it’s toddlers dancing, potato sack races or even races around the diamond on bouncy balls. The Dragons games always have something fun and interactive for the fans … and that may just be part of the reason why they constantly sell out. But, does the interactivity of the games take away from the actual sport of baseball?

Because the Dragons are a minor-league team, their expectations of playing well are slightly diminished. For someone who rarely attends Dragons games and goes to more “sophisticated” games for teams like the Cincinnati Reds, a Dragons game might seem a little childish.

Since the Dragons have so much going on other than the game of baseball itself, it would be safe to assume that most of the team’s fans enjoy the interactivity more than the sport itself. Kids look forward to the end of the inning, because there’s always something fun going on.

Interactivity is a big part of keeping fans at the stadium until the 9th inning, especially since the team is rarely in the lead. Fans look forward to catching T-shirts when the staff launches them into the crowd, or during the summer, they look forward to the fireworks after the baseball game ends. And let’s not forget crowd-favorite foods like Skyline, Donatos, and especially Dip ‘n Dots in mini Dragons helmets.

Fairmont junior Jenny Hunley feels the Dragons games are able to bring people together, along with keep their attention (at least somewhat) on the sport itself, which some believe is losing its appeal as the “Great American Pastime.” Despite not being a baseball fan herself, Hunley said that when she attended a game, the energy from the crowd gave her an overall enjoyable experience. “I was surprised to find that with all the different kinds of people there, most of whom would never really get along with each other in public, were easily bonding with each other, moving social standards and expectations aside to simply invest in a sport,” said Hunley.

Not all Kettering teens are die-hard fans of the Dragons, however. Junior Indigo MonBeck, who attended multiple Dragons games as a child, said the experience wasn’t nearly as memorable for him. “I remember the mascots do a lot of dancing around, take pictures with the kids and shoot T-shirts into the crowd. It’s pretty cool,” said MonBeck. “But I really only remember the mascot dragons and how awesome the costumes were.”

Mascots: Do they help or hurt?

Heater, the Dragons’ mascot, is a crowd favorite among little kids. He’s a fun, 7-foot-tall dragon that is almost guaranteed to pop up multiple times during the games. Usually, he participates in events (and usually cheats for comedic effect) with the little kids and dances on the dug-outs in between innings. His niece, Gem, shows up during games a little less regularly than Heater, but she entertains the little kids and plays along with Heater’s tricks.

Hunley, who was afraid of the mascots when she was younger, feels that Heater and Gem keep the younger audience entertained. “I think it definitely helps to keep children’s attention while their families are enjoying the actual sports – considering how long a child’s attention span can last in comparison to an adult’s,” said Hunley.

The mascots give children the opportunity to get involved in a sport that they may or may not completely understand. It gets them into what’s happening on the field, holds their interest, and even brings a new fan base for this American tradition. Without the mascots, the kids might not find baseball interesting, and the sport might lose an entire generation of fans – at least in the Miami Valley.

In the end, whether someone is a baseball fan or not, Hunley feels that a Dragons game is worth the experience. “I think Dragons games are a terrific way for families and friends, sports fans or not, to bond and enjoy good ol’ fashioned American culture,” said Hunley.