“There’s a sense of local community with being in the minor league,” Michael Byrnes, Oklahoma City Dodgers’ president, explained. “Major League Baseball is SO BIG, and when I consider the best things about minor league baseball, I think about access — the ability to meet players and have those memorable moments that can happen at the ballpark … .” Exemplifying this connection is the fact the team had a 90% retention rate of season ticket holders after the league canceled the 2020 season.
The team has created a strong presence in Oklahoma City through its OKC Dodgers Baseball Foundation. Since starting in 2015, this organization has given thousands of in-kind donations to schools, churches, and libraries. A vital fundraiser is the 50/50 Raffle, with the game’s jackpot getting split between the winning fan and the foundation — in 2019, it brought in over $100,000.
The OKC Dodgers Rookie League, operated with the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation, ranks as one of the foundation’s most popular initiatives. This youth baseball league contains four different age divisions, and the Dodgers provide jerseys, hats, and equipment. Besides the opportunity to play baseball, kids also learn the P.L.A.Y. values: Participation, Leadership, Accessibility, and Youth Education. Additionally, the foundation assists local child-focused projects such as READ OKC and the Oklahoma City Public School’s Coat-a-Kid program.
The Community Night Out represents another core program because it provides baseball tickets to families who typically couldn’t afford to attend a game. More than 2,540 tickets were distributed to families through local nonprofits in 2019.
For over a decade, the Dodgers also have partnered with INTEGRIS Health for the Home Run For Life program. Five individuals who have triumphed over a significant medical issue each season get honored at a game. The team and partner Oklahoma Fidelity Bank donate $100 to the Our Neighborhood Empowered nonprofit group for every home run hit as part of the Home Runs For Charity program, which has raised $4,700 so far during the 2022 season.
During the 2022 baseball season, the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark also hosts “Cielo Azul de Oklahoma City,” a celebration of Hispanic/Latino culture and traditions held over nine games. The team’s Pack The Park Pink night promotes breast cancer awareness and raises money to support the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Military members receive in-game recognition on Hometown Heroes Military Celebration Night.
Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark itself also plays a crucial role in contributing to the community, especially ecologically. When the team joined the PepsiCo Recycling Program in 2015, more than 30 recycling bins were placed around the ballpark to increase the recycling efforts. Beyond cutting down on waste, this initiative also supports the Nature Conservancy’s work to keep drinking water clean in America’s watersheds and the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, which offers assistance to disabled U.S. veterans.
The 2022 season also saw the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark going cashless. While geared to improve the fans’ experience by speeding up concession stand transactions, this move also delivers a positive environmental impact. Cashless payment systems can lower energy and water consumption, which would have been the byproduct of creating physical money.
The team’s most extensive sustainability project has been with the stadium itself. Between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, a major renovation of the 20-year-old Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark included several “green” elements. Drought-tolerant sod made the field surface more weather resilient, reducing maintenance work. The team “re-purposed” the old field dirt by selling jars of it, proceeds benefiting the OKC Dodgers Baseball Foundation.
The upgraded field surface also improved rain drainage from nine inches per hour to 24 inches — most of this water gets reused. The new gravity-based water reclamation system features seven large tanks holding approximately 30,000 gallons of water.
These tanks, buried under the right field, store water used by an updated irrigation process, saving nearly 1.9 million gallons of water yearly.
“This new state-of-the-art reclamation system allows us to be on the forefront of water conservation efforts in our city,” Byrnes stated. “Storing and reusing this valuable resource is the environmentally responsible thing to do, and we are proud of this new addition to our ballpark.”
Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark’s impressive qualities are not a secret either. The stadium was picked as the best Triple-A ballpark in a fan vote conducted by Ballpark Digest in 2020. “We take an immense amount of pride in Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and how it can be utilized to improve the quality of life for our community,” stated Byrnes after the stadium won this honor.