Robert Murphy has been with the Dayton Dragons since the beginning in 2000. There’s no way he could have ever imagined a spring and summer without baseball.
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With Minor League Baseball announcing the cancellation of the 2020 season on Tuesday, this will be the first year of the century without the Dragons, a Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds who have sold out every home game in their existence — a pro sports record 1,385 straight games and counting — and entertained about 11.5 million fans in 20 seasons.
Seeing the empty Day Air Park, known as Fifth Third Field until January, hasn’t been easy for Murphy.
“It makes you somber,” said Murphy, the team president. “You walk around the stadium and you see these pictures of great plays and the fans having an amazing time here at the ballpark, and you know that just on the other side of that wall, it’s very, very quiet.”
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While the news that broke late Tuesday afternoon wasn’t surprising, it was still disappointing for Murphy.
“I guess you always hold out hope that something could happen in a positive way with the season — even if it was a short season, just like they’re playing in MLB,” Murphy said. “But when you put it in perspective of this pandemic, we have to be mindful that the health of our fans and the player personnel has to come first. So I think we’re disappointed. We’re saddened. But I think we’re confident that the right decision is being made to protect our customers.”
The Dragons announced they will contact all season-ticket holders, suite-lease holders, group leaders, hospitality renters and single-game buyers about their options.
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“This information will be sent via postal correspondence, be placed on the Dragons website, and posted on all Dragons social media locations in approximately two weeks,” the Dragons announced.
Although the cancellation of the season will hurt players, coaches, Dragons front-office employees and disappoint fans, many others will feel the loss.
“We have retirees that make additional income working the game,” Murphy said. “We have college kids that are doing the same thing. You look at the other things like all the nonprofit organizations that work in the concession stands. They’re not going to be able to make the money they have traditionally worked hard for that goes to their organizations and gets turned back into our community. So you see all these people that that are going to be missing out on the revenue or on the income opportunities that are available to them by working here. That, of course, is extremely disappointing to us.”
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To bounce back in 2020, Murphy said the Dragons will need the same support and fan enthusiasm that has made them one of the most successful minor-league franchises in history.
“Look at that sellout streak,” Murphy said. “The reason that happens is because of the great support that we’ve received from the fans in this community and the corporate support that we get from this community. We believe — and people acknowledge this — that we have made a difference in the quality of life here, and we have made this a great place, the Dayton region, to live, work and play. We have made this a great place for organizations to be able to raise money. This has been a great place to bring family and friends together. We want to continue that great tradition and build on our 20 years, but it’s going to require people staying behind the team and supporting the team.”
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