When a team sets a national record for most consecutive sellouts, year-end recognitions are to be expected. So it’s no surprise that the winner of the 2011 Organization of the Year from Ballpark Digest is the Dayton Dragons (Low Class A; Midwest League), the most successful team in Minor League Baseball.
The Dragons set a sports record — minor and major alike — when Fifth Third Field hosted the team’s 815th consecutive sellout on July 9, beating the record set by the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. That the Dragons set the record was no surprise to anyone following Minor League Baseball: the team’s customer service both during the season and in the offseason are legendary, as the Dragons cultivate an amazingly high level of fan loyalty.
“Attending a Dragons game is an event,” said Kevin Reichard, publisher of Ballpark Digest. “The Dragons know the fan experience goes beyond the front gates: their offseason ticket-sales program is among the best in baseball. Their game-day operations bring excitement to the ballpark every single night.”
“The Minor League Baseball industry includes many great operators and staffs, so it is a tremendous honor for the Dayton Dragons to be selected for this award,” said Robert Murphy, Dragons President. “Dayton is a great baseball market and has the absolute best sports fans in the country … our success is a credit to our fans, our community, our ownership group, and to our corporate partners.”
The Dragons have led all of Single-A professional baseball in attendance for each of their 12 seasons, finishing in the top 10 among all 160 minor league clubs every year. The Dragons have broken the all-time Single-A season attendance record four times and currently hold the mark. They surpassed the 7-million mark in all-time attendance in 2011 as well.
This isn’t the first time the Dragons front office has been recognized by Ballpark Digest. In 2008 the parent company of the Dragons, Mandalay Baseball Properties, was named Organization of the Year. That year also saw the Dragons receive a Ballpark Digest award for Ongoing Excellence.
“Really, we could give the Dragons an award every year for organization of the year or ongoing excellence,” Reichard added. “They do things about as well as they can be done.”
There are other organizations worthy of recognition for their 2011 accomplishments:
The Trenton Thunder (Class AA; Eastern League) enjoyed an uptick in attendance this season, ranking seventh among all Class A and AA teams. Along the way the team sold out eight consecutive games and set a single-game attendance record. The Thunder front office is certainly among the hardest working in Minor League Baseball with a slew of celebrity appearances (Liz Gilbert, Harold Reynolds, etc.), imaginative promotions and noteworthy in-game entertainment. The Thunder certainly kicked things up a notch in 2011.
The Madison Mallards (summer collegiate; Northwoods League) continue to shine in the summer-collegiate world. This year the team took on the ultimate challenge: rebuilding Warner Park on their own dime. They did so and still changed things up with some subtle changes in the in-game entertainment. It worked.
ABOUT THE BALLPARK DIGEST AWARDS
Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Readers are asked to submit nominations for awards in specific categories; Ballpark Digest editors then go though the submissions (numbering some 400 pages of documentation last year). The awards cover both individual accomplishments as well as team accomplishments. This is the fourth season for the Ballpark Digest Awards. A complete listing of Ballpark Digest Awards can be found at ballparkdigest.com/awards.
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