“Packy” earns Opening Day start for Dayton Dragons

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Dragons pitcher Packy Naughton has a final tuneup at Dayton Fifth Third Field on Wed., April 4, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Dayton at Bowling Green (Ky.) on Thursday; home opener on Sat. at Fifth Third Field.

Packy Naughton was too young to remember, but how he was stuck with that first name is the stuff of family legend.

Born in Boston, Naughton’s 2-year-old older brother consistently mangled the newborn’s name.

“Every time he’d try and say Patrick it would end up coming out Packy,” recalled Naughton on Wednesday, the eve of the start of the Dragons’ minor-league baseball season. “It just stuck. I love it. Everyone loves it and it makes me happy.”

»RELATED: 5 things to know about the Dragons

That elevates Naughton to the first team on baseball’s mythical all-name team. A close second to that embedded joyfulness is earning the team’s Opening Day start.

Dayton’s only left-handed pitcher, Naughton, a ninth-round pick in last summer’s draft and former Virginia Tech University ace, will be the starting pitcher in the Dragons’ season opener at the Bowling Green (Ky.) Hot Rods on Thursday.

»RELATED: Bolivar invited to early spring training

The Midwest League Eastern Division teams will play again at Bowling Green on Friday, then return to Dayton and Fifth Third Field for the Dragons’ home opener on Saturday night. That will be the first of an initial six-game home stand that switches to the Lake County Captains on Monday.

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Dragons catcher Hendrik Clementina checks a text message in the Dragons’ dugout prior to a final preseason workout at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field on Wednesday, April 4, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Dragons catcher Hendrik Clementina checks a text message in the Dragons’ dugout prior to a final preseason workout at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field on Wednesday, April 4, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

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Dragons catcher Hendrik Clementina checks a text message in the Dragons’ dugout prior to a final preseason workout at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field on Wednesday, April 4, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Naughton earned the starting nod from first-year Dragons pitching coach Seth Etherton, who groomed most of this pitching staff at Billings, Mont., rookie ball last year. Etherton is the only new Dragons coach, joining returning coaches Daryle Ward (batting), Kevin Mahar (bench) and manager Luis Bolivar.

»RELATED: Bolivar promoted to Dragons’ manager

It’s Bolivar’s second season as the Dragons’ manager. Formerly a Dragons player and hitting coach, he set the bar high in his debut season as manager when Dayton (71-69) advanced to the Midwest League semifinals. That was the deepest postseason run since the Dragons debuted in 2000.

“It’s exciting all over again,” beamed Bolivar during a meet-the-team media day at Fifth Third Field on Wednesday. “It’s a new season. There’s nothing like baseball. We don’t have the baseball weather right now, but I know it’s coming soon. I’m excited and ready to go.”

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Eight players with previous Dragons experience will be on the Opening Day roster, including outfielder Narciso Crook and third baseman John Sansone. Crook led Dayton in home runs in 2016 but has mostly been sidelined with shoulder injuries after being promoted to high Class A Daytona.

Of the newcomers, none is more ballyhooed than right-handed power pitcher Hunter Greene. He had already appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school senior pitcher/infielder phenom when the Reds selected him No. 2 overall in the 2017 draft.

»RELATED: Hunter Greene lands with the Dragons

Still just 18 years old, he’s the youngest pitcher in Dragons history and has generated a ton of interest among Reds fans and elsewhere. He’s scheduled to make his pitching debut on Monday night against the Captains. Out-of-town media have inundated the Dragons with credential requests.

Not known is if he’ll be on a pitch or inning count and how long he’ll be a Dragon.

“I want to see this new group of guys play,” Bolivar said. “We’ve got a lot of talent. It’s going to be an exciting year.”

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THURSDAY’S GAME

Dayton at Bowling Green (Ky.), 7 p.m.

WONE-AM (980)

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