Dragons a long-running hit in Dayton

  • Marc Pendleton
  • Staff Writer
6:08 p.m Tuesday, April 4, 2017 Sports
Tyler Stephenson of the Dragons (left) is congratulated by Luis Gonzalez after scoring last season. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

The Dragons open their season at 7 p.m. Thursday by hosting the Lake County Captains at Fifth Third Field. Here’s five things to know about Dayton’s minor-league baseball team.

It’s a hit: It was easy to get on Marge Schott’s bad side. Just mention minor-league baseball within a relay throw of her beloved Riverfront Stadium at Cincinnati. Perhaps it’s just coincidence the Dragons made their debut in 2000, one year after Schott ended a colorful — and sometimes wincing — run as the Cincinnati Reds managing general partner, president and CEO.

The Dragons have been the Reds’ low-Class A affiliate ever since.

ROSTER SET: For Thursday’s opening day

The streak: No mention of the Dragons should go without addressing this. You’ve heard it before and it’s worth repeating: Every Dragons home game that’s ever been played at Fifth Third Field has been a sellout. That’s 1,177 consecutive games, which set an all-time North American sports sellout record in 2011 and surpassed 1,000 in 2015.

That doesn’t mean tickets are unavailable; they are. It does mean enough corporate sponsors and season-ticket holders have invested into the Dragons to assure repeated sellouts before any first pitch. That streak’s on you, Dayton; well done.

Moving on: Everyone in minor-league baseball wants to leave where they’re currently anchored, preferably with a promotion. Filling open roster spots at all levels for many reasons is why there’s a tremendous turnover in players during the season. Coaching staffs often get reshuffled afterward.

That’s what makes the return of 11 former Dragons for opening day unique: Catcher Tyler Stephenson, pitchers Tony Santillan, Jesse Adams, Lucas Benenati and Ryan Hendrix, first baseman James Vasquez, second baseman Brantley Bell, infielders Luis Gonzalez, Avain Rachal and John Sansone, and outfielder Jose Siri. Another, catcher Jose Duarte, is on the inactive list.

New manager: Luis Bolivar is a three-tool Dragons guy. A Midwest League all-star during his playing days, he was the first former Dragon to also land a coaching position as hitting coach. That was upgraded to manager when he was named to succeed Dick Schofield earlier this year.

Prospects: The entire roster is tagged with this mantle. Best of the best is Stephenson, a No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft who couldn’t overcome a hand injury soon after joining the Dragons last season. A right-hander, Santillan will be the opening day starting pitcher. He has the best heat in the Reds organization, topping out at 100 mph.

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