Teaming Up with the Minors
The bright lights, the perfectly groomed infield, and baselines painted just sois there anything more exhilarating than playing at a professional league ballpark? A lot of your players probably dream of playing on a field like that someday, but for several Ohio high school teams, the dream has already come true.
by Nate Dougherty
The Dayton Dragons minor league club in Ohio offers area high school teams that can sell 250 lawn tickets to club's baseball games the opportunity to play at Fifth Third Field. The experience comes complete with stadium music and team logos on the outfield display screen.
The exchange program started after several high school coaches queried the Dragons about playing a game on their field. The minor league team saw an opportunity for a win-win program, giving local teams a chance to experience their field while increasing attendance at Dragons games. Now, during Dragons off-days and road trips, the stadium is occupied by high school teams and their fans. Twenty-two teams took advantage of the offer last year and 38 did so this season.
"We give each coach a guide form and a couple of ideas, but they sell the tickets however they're comfortable," says Jeff Stewart, Director of Ticket Sales for the Dragons. "The tickets they sell can be for any gamethey could sell five for one night and 10 for another. And some schools choose to sell them all for one game and make it a high school night."
That's exactly what Fairlawn High School in Sidney, Ohio, has done in its two years with the fundraiser. "A community night worked out great because it's a relationship builder," says Fairlawn Head Coach Scott Mann. "You can spend time at a ballgame with people from your community and get to know them. For the kids to play at a professional stadium was a great experience."
Schools can even use the fundraiser to help boost revenue for their own programs. Lawn tickets for Dragons games are normally $7, but the Springboro (Ohio) High School team sold them for $10 to help pay for a recent trip to Florida. "We had every player among our three teams sell five tickets, and that alone took care of our 250 tickets and raised some money for us, too," says Springboro Head Coach Mark Pelfrey.
Mann says he hopes the program will become a model for relationships between minor league and high school teams in other cities. "If high schools and minor league teams are willing to put the time in," Mann says, "they'll get nothing but positives from an arrangement like this."
Nate Dougherty is an Assistant Editor at MomentumMedia Sports Publishing.