12 Apr New owners excited about Dragons
You could not have found anyone enjoying themselves any more at the Dayton Dragons’ home opener than Greg Rosenbaum, Nick Sakellariadis and Mike Savit.
They are the new owners of our minor league team and Sunday they were feeling like their money had been well spent.
“This has been phenomenal, just phenomenal,” said Rosenbaum, who wore a smile between his Dragons shirt and cap. “I’m a veteran of a lot of opening days, but there is more going here than I’ve seen anywhere in baseball.”
Rosenbaum and his wife Marti have season tickets to four Major League teams – the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers – and he estimates they see 100 to 110 big league games a year.
“I’ve been to opening days where the president throws out the first pitch and it doesn’t compare to this,” he said. “From the introduction of the new character that will perform here all season to the jeeps bringing in all the performers beforehand, the (B-25) fly-over, the guys parachuting in with the flags, the new concessions and especially the new scoreboard, it’s all just incredible.”
Savit was just as stoked:
“No offense to any of the other teams I’m involved with, but this is absolutely THE best minor league opener I’ve ever been at. Absolutely the greatest.
“I mean it helps that it’s 70 degrees out. But secondly, there’s the community outpouring. You can just tell this is a big deal in Dayton. I walked through the stands before and people were just happy. They were glad to be here. It all just works here. It’s a great baseball city.”
The three men, all Harvard grads, know business – Sakellariadis and Rosenbaum have had long banking and investment careers – and they know baseball.
Savit has been the managing general partner of a group that has owned and operated six minor league teams over the past 16 years. He’s still the managing general partner of teams in Mobile, Ala., Modesto, Calif. and Niles, Ohio.
Most importantly, the three know people.
Rosenbaum said he figured when the trio’s investment groups bought the Dragons last August from Mandalay Baseball Properties, the founding ownership group that had run the team its first 15 seasons, people were a little wary.
The Dragons not only were a successful operation – their 1,052 straight sell outs are an all-time pro sports record in North America and they’ve sent close to 70 players to the Majors Leagues – but their games were fun for fans.
“I figured the people in Dayton looked as us with a little askance,” Rosenbaum said. “Nick had been a Wall Street banker by trade. I’d been in the investment business. Mike had done a lot of investments with other sports teams.
“People would be like ‘Who are these guys? Will they make changes? Will it be less fun than before?’
“We wanted to show people we were fans just like them. And number one, we weren’t going to do anything to mess up the experience. Bob Murphy (longtime Dragons president) and his people do a great job here.
“Number two, we would try to enhance the experience for fans any way we could. That’s why we got the new video scoreboard.”
He smiled as he thought about the addition: “I’ve bought a lot of televisions in my life, but not one for $1.1 million. There are only 11 scoreboards like it in the United States. The picture is incredible. And that’s not just for the Dragons fans, but us, too. It makes our experience more fun here, as well. We are fans, too.”
This isn’t exaggeration either. He and his wife spent 22 days in Arizona last month and watched 29 Major League spring training games and two more featuring minor league players.
In fact, Rosenbaum and his wife just flew into Dayton on Saturday night. They’d been out in Los Angeles for the Dodgers opening series against San Diego.
Today he had hoped to take his grandson to the Red Sox home opener, but he’s been called to the White House where he and other Jewish groups will get a briefing on the new nuclear arms deal with Iran.
While some Jewish groups are against the pact, others, including the National Democratic Jewish Council for which Rosenbaum will speak, support it.
“I try to live my life at the intersection of politics and sports and every once in a while at that intersection there is a collision,” he said. “Unfortunately I had to make a choice this time….but Tuesday I’ll join my wife in Boston for Game 2.”
Savit flew in Saturday, as well, and he leaves today for the Mobile Bay Bears opener. Later in the week he’ll fly to California to see the Modesto Nuts in their California League home opening series.
Sakellariadis, though, made the most herculean effort to reach Dayton from his New York City home Sunday.
“Today is Greek Orthodox Easter,” he said. “We had a Saturday night mass and I was at church until 1:30 this morning manning the collection plate. Then my wife and I caught the first morning flight to Dayton.”
He smiled and nodded in the direction of the owners’ box where people found a special treat: “I brought our guests some homemade Greek pastries from the local ladies of our church.”
Sakellariadis was the one who got the ball rolling on this baseball partnership. He had always liked the sport and had dreamed about owning a team. When he turned 60, he said he thought it was now or never, so he hired a consultant to look at the feasibility of some kind of minor league ownership.
He met Rosenbaum at a Harvard reunion and presented his idea. Rosenbaum had been with a group that had tried but failed to buy the Washington Nationals when they moved from Montreal so he was interested.
They looked at nearly two dozen minor league teams and said once they saw Dayton and how things were run here, no other team matched up.
Eventually they asked Savit to join them.
“There are 160 minor league teams, but Dayton is in a league of its own,” Savit said. “No other team compares.”
Sunday was the first time the trio got to experience their very own field of dreams and they loved it – because of the show they saw, the communal embrace they felt and, of course, just because it was baseball
“My wife gets embarrassed by this story, but she’s not standing here with me now so I’ll tell it,” Rosenbaum said with a grin. “Every long term relationship is based on some bedrock principle. In long marriages like my wife and I have, there is always some fundamental agreement. For many people, it’s religion. For some, it may be politics or a particular hobby.
“In our case, we both hate the Yankees.”
Sakellariadis, on the other hand, is a big Yankees’ fans.
“Yeah, it’s pretty amazing that we all ended up partners,” he said laughing. “I guess it defies the odds. But for us, it works.”
And, as Savit said earlier, the same can be said for Dayton and the Dragons.