The Dragons are set to return have their home opener Tuesday, May 11 versus the Lansing Lugnuts at Day Air Ballpark. Photo courtesy of Peter Burtnett, Flyer News.
After the Coronavirus pandemic halted the sports world last spring, all of the sporting world was changed forever. The MLB was never able to get a realistic plan in place for its minor league systems, so the Dayton Dragons have not played a game since 2019.
As a result of the pandemic, the MLB had to get rid of 40 minor league affiliates, cutting its total number of teams from 160 to 120. The Dayton Dragons luckily were not affected and are excited to return to the field this year, although it will be completely different than it was in 2019.
For both the fans, and the players, Dragons games in 2021 are going to have a different look. The MLB is taking a different approach to its minor league affiliates this year. They are using the lower leagues to try and test out some potential rule changes that the Majors could implement in the future.
Some examples include an automated strike zone, infielders needing both feet on the infield as an attempt to respond to the overuse of shifts, as well as even increasing the length between bases. The change that will impact Dragon games is a rule to limit pitchers’ ability to pick off baserunners. Limiting the number of times a pitcher can pick off to two, and if you try a third time without recording an out, a balk will be issued. On top of this the pitcher must step completely off the rubber in order to attempt a pickoff. This change is an attempt to increase the number of steals, and potentially bring more excitement to the game that is losing interest around the country.
Specific to the Dragons and Day Air Ballpark in particular, there are several changes that will be different than the past. To start off, Tuesday will actually be the first game for the Dragons under the name Day Air Ballpark, as it was named Fifth Third Field during the Dragons last game in 2019. Next, they are only allowed to have a 30% capacity, which limits the Dragon fans to 2,600 for their home games. Around the stadium the seats will be separated into groups of 2, 4 and 6 to allow for social distancing and to follow health guidelines.
The experience outside of the game will be changed around as well. The concession stands and everything else in the park will have plexiglass between the employee and the fan, and they are not accepting cash at the concessions. The rest of the fan experience is going to be mainly digitized, the programs, and the typical between inning entertainment like the fan-favorite T-shirt toss will be turned digital on the stadiums video board for the fans to play along with.
After a 617-day wait, baseball will be returning to Dayton, as the Dragons look to begin their season off on the right foot against the Lugnuts. Fans and players alike are looking forward to the Dragons being back in season.