IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve written many times on the Reds Listserv List about how impressive I think the Dayton Dragons franchise is run. From their customer service to their stadium employees to their stadium itself, this franchise just seems to do everything right. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been to 10 major league parks and 7 minor league parks and none are even close in duplicating the experience of a Dragons game. The Reds could learn a lot about customer service from their Single A franchise.
This year, after 2-3 years on the waiting list, we were finally able to buy a partial season ticket package for the Dragons. There are 5 of us that bought tickets, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in the upper deck (section 201) and last night was our first game.
We arrived at the ballpark about 1/2 hour before game time. There was no line getting in, the ticket taker welcomed us to the ballpark, and we were handed our free program. The program gives up to date stats, that nightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pitching matchups, small write-ups on most of the players, a scorecard, standings, pictures of fans, etc. And yes, they give you this for FREE when you walk in the ballpark.
We stopped to gather our little group a few steps inside the front gate and a smiling Dragons employee came over and asked if we needed any help, if we knew where our seats were, etc. We said we were fine and since we had some time (usually for week night games, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re rushed to get to our seats by the first pitch) we decided to look around.
One feature that I hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seen before at 5th 3rd Field was a jersey giveaway. They have a free signup right outside the Ã¢â‚¬Å“DragonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s DenÃ¢â‚¬Â souvenir shop for a jersey theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to give away that night. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if they do this for every home game, but it appeared as if they did. They also appear to have an autograph signing with a player after every game outside the DragonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Den.
We wandered into the souvenir shop to look around. It seems to have much more interesting selection of apparel than they did when we were here last year. They have various types of Dragons hats (styles and colors), clothing, and the normal Styrofoam hands, bats, balls, etc. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve not seen a larger selection at any minor league park IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever been to, most arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even close.
We stopped and got a beer and headed up to our seats. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re almost as far from the plate as you can get on the top deck, but the seats are still great. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see into the far right field corner, but other than that, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great view. We also found out something else great about sitting in the upper deck, food service!!
There are folks up there that give you a menu and you can order your food through them (they input it via a wireless Palm Pilot type instrument) and, at least last night, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s delivered right to your seat. (The only other place IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had anything like this was in the Club seats at Camden Yards.). They do add a small surcharge for the service (They added .25 to the price of a beer, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure what they added on for my sandwich.) and everything isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t on the menu. (They didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have pizza on the menu, but Linda, our food service person, told us she wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that busy, so sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d run and get it for us. Typical Dragons employee serviceÃ¢â‚¬Â¦above and beyond the line of duty.) They take cash or credit cards and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very, very convenient. Maybe too convenient.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve probably been to 15 Dragons games over the history of their franchise and their employees from the ticket takers, to the concession stand workers, to the users, to the vendors are always incredibly helpful and you feel that these folks actually enjoy their jobs.
The Dragons put a premium on having something to keep you interested going on all the time. They show people in the stands on the Jumbotron between pitches, have something going on between every inning. They have contests, giveaways, dance contests, comedy skits, etc. If you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t laugh at some point in the evening, your name is Scrooge or Grinch.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s too early to say much about the team itself. Going into last nightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game they were 1-4, but had the lead in at least 3 of their losses, so theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been competitive. The talent level looks to be much higher than last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team that was atrocious. Whether they can win with the developmental limitations the Reds have put on them is still open to debate, but hopefully they will translate into less arm problems for the pitchers and more selectivity by the hitters.
Last nightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s starter for the Dragons, Damian Ursin, should have posted his first professional win. (He was a combined 0-8 the past two years.) He threw 5 innings of one hit, shutout baseball, only walking one. He left with a 1-0 lead, which grew to 2-0, before Western Michigan, one strike from losing the game, tied it in the top of the 9th. The DragonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hit very well last night and struck out a lot (one of the complaints about the Reds selectivity instructions is that it leads to tons of strikeouts), but did play some stellar defense in the infield.
We stayed through the bottom of the 9th, but by then, we were too cold to stay any longer. The temperature was 55 at the start of the game, with a strong wind blowing, and got colder as it went along. We headed for the car in the top of the 10th, figuring that we had 16 more games to attend, and it was getting late.
The Dragons did win the game in the 11th for their first home win of the season. Sunday, our next game, is supposed to be sunny and the mid-60Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait to go back.