Today’s first award in the annual Ballpark Digest Awards goes to the organizations we feel typify Ongoing Excellence. To say there was a long list of contenders for this award is an understatement, and we’re pretty confident that we’ve made the right choices: the Rochester Red Wings (Class AAA; International League) and Dayton Dragons (Low Class A; Midwest League).
Today’s first award in the annual Ballpark Digest Awards goes to the organizations we feel typify Ongoing Excellence. To say there was a long list of contenders for this award is an understatement, and we’re pretty confident that we’ve made the right choices.
The Rochester Red Wings (Class AAA; International League) and its predecessors have been part of the International League since its earliest days, and over the years some truly great Hall of Famers have played for the Wings. As an organization, Rochester Community Baseball embodies everything you’d want from community ownership of a franchise. With over 8,000 shareholders, the Red Wings enjoy outstanding support from fans, support that over the years has translated into a great ballpark and increased turnstile attendance in each of the last six years. It helps that the Red Wings make annual changes to the ballpark: this past season the team installed a group party deck, expanded the picnic areas, set up a peanut-free area in the outfield berm and outfitted a concession stand to offer allergy-free items. Plus, the Red Wings expanded operations to Batavia to take operational control of the NY-Penn League’s Muckdogs, saving baseball in Dwyer Stadium. The Red Wings expanded concessions and increased promotion for the team, increasing attendance and revenue to the point where baseball appears to be save in Batavia. All of this while turning a profit and being accountable to shareholders in a very public way. The long, distinguished history of the team combined with these more impressive recent accomplishments led up to cite the Red Wings ownership and management with an award for Ongoing Excellence.
The other award recipient should come as no surprise, as the Dayton Dragons have been a continual model for how a baseball team should operate since the day the team entered the Midwest League. Last season we cited the Dragons as a prime reason for Mandalay Baseball Properties winning our award for Best Organization, and like clockwork COO Robert Murphy and crew went out and had another noteworthy season. In fact, the team set a new attendance record at 8,623 fans per game, selling out every seat before Opening Day and generating a waiting list of 9,400. Interest in a team doesn’t happen by accident, and one big reason why we cited the Dragons for Ongoing Excellence is because the team woos fans as if there were 8,500 empty seats per night to sell. Instead of a traditional letter and invoice to renew season tickets, the Dragons traditionally send a unique renewal-package art piece. In the past these items included: Photographic essay books, a customized newspaper called The Dragon Times, a collection of mascot baseball trading cards, a booklet with an interactive CD-ROM, and a scrapbook from the Dragons primary mascot, Heater. The team also takes a different approach to sponsors, limiting the number to 40 and making sure each has a dominant presence at Fifth Third Park. Entertainment at the games changes regularly, thanks to the introduction of new mascots and a staff of 20 devoted purely to entertainment on game days. This summary barely touches on what the organization does day in and day out, but it’s enough to tell you why the Dayton Dragons deserve this year’s award for Ongoing Excellence.
The other worthy finalists for this award were the Albuquerque Isotopes, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Mandalay Baseball Properties and the Texas League.
The 2008 Ballpark Digest Awards announcements run through Halloween.