Dragons weather the cold, defeat West Michigan, 8-7
By Marc Katz
Sunday, April 08, 2007
DAYTON — A company man to the end, Dayton Dragons manager Donnie Scott defended the decision to play Saturday night despite sub-freezing temperatures.
"This is good for development," Scott said. "You have to play in this (kind of weather) in the World Series."
Actually, football players play in this kind of weather, and also have their fields littered with small chunks of ice, as Fifth Third Field was when the game began.
But the Dragons had all their seats sold (a few hundred actually came out to use them).
So, with plenty of warmers on hand and hot chocolate in the dugouts, the Dragons shivered through an 8-7 victory over the West Michigan Whitecaps in a Class A Midwest League game that featured three hits by cleanup third baseman Juan Francisco.
Scott said we are just seeing the tip of Francisco's iceberg, so to speak.
"Just watch," Scott said. "He can juice a baseball like you wouldn't believe. He hasn't elevated one yet, but he can put it over the batting eye in center. He's going to be one of the better hitters Dayton has seen come through here. He's only 19."
Francisco, a left-handed hitting third baseman, knocked in one run with a double in the first, singled in the third and stole a base and knocked in a second run with in infield single in the fourth.
He said the cold hardly bothered him.
"Just a little bit," Francisco said with teammate Gerardo Cabrera helping with the translation. "I was just trying to stay focused."
The Dragons stayed focused after starter Jordan Smith fired a bounce-backer past first-baseman Logan Parker with one on and two out, leading to three runs in the first.
"We were down three and it was like, 'No problem,'" Scott said.
It wasn't. The Dragons scored four in the bottom of the inning and scored the winning run in the eighth when catcher Tony Esquer led with a double and pinch-runner Billy Rojo later scored on a wild pitch.
"It's pretty neat to be a part of this team," Scott said. "I don't think it's going to do anything but snowball."
At least on this night, it didn't do that.
Jim Baker, of Alpha and Omega Building Services, bought a box full of college baseball-style jackets and presented each of the Dragons with one, just in time for the cold weather ... Scott called closer Jose Rojas' pitches "Bugs Bunny" for the way they "bounced around. He had such movement on his ball."