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TinCaps Reflect on Success, Look Ahead to Future

Zach Bernard/WBOI News

As Major League Baseball enjoys its annual World Series, the Fort Wayne TinCaps are spending their October celebrating another successful minor league season before the winter.

Season ticket holders and friends of the Fort Wayne TinCaps gathered in the Suite Level Lounge to watch Game 1 of this year’s World Series. While fans of both the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals enjoyed a spread of food famous from each city before the first pitch of the night, team president Mike Nutter was meeting with attendees and talking about the TinCaps success this season.

“We’re about to go into hibernation for a few months. We’re actively, as a staff, selling and doing our thing,” said Nutter. “It’s a ‘thank you,’ and we’ve been blessed here with the turnout from people and the way the community’s embraced us.”

The TinCaps went 77-61 and qualified for the Midwest League playoffs for the seventh consecutive year before losing to West Michigan in the first round. Despite the loss, Nutter spoke with great pride over the TinCaps’ sustained success since moving to Parkview Field in 2009.

“I thought we were great. For seven straight years – there’s 160 minor league teams, there’s 30 or 32 major league teams,” said Nutter. “We’re at seven straight [playoff appearances], one minor league team is at five, and the St. Louis Cardinals are at five in the country. And I think that’s wild.”

In addition to the playoff appearance streak, Baseball America ranked Parkview Field as one of minor league baseball’s top ballparks for the fourth time in five years.

Of course, earning such acclaim requires constant maintenance, and the TinCaps have a big renovation plan in the center field hospitality area next season.

“The Summit on top of the 400 Club will be a major thing. It’ll be a group area on top of that,” said Nutter. “It’s a $650,000 private investment, no city money, no public funds, all private. You can go from ‘the place to be’ to a ‘has-been’ in a hurry.”

The Summit is expected to be ready by the TinCaps’ home opener next season.

Building and moving the TinCaps to Parkview Field was met with opposition in the initial planning and building process, but Nutter believes the team’s continued success and the ballpark’s acclaim has drastically changed the community’s perspective of the park.

“I don’t want to misrepresent that people don’t care about winning, it just means more here than anywhere else I’ve been,” Nutter said. “So when we won 101 games it went crazy. The logo and name that everyone hated was the #1 selling logo in the country in ’09, and here we are in the seventh season and we’re still in the top 20.”

Indeed, his players enjoy Parkview Field as well.

The TinCaps put together the best home record in the Midwest League with 46 wins across 71 home games during the 2015 season. But Nutter doesn’t attribute his team’s home field success as exclusive to Parkview Field… He says it’s all about the team culture.

“I’m telling you right now, I honestly believe this and I’ve had people tell me I’m nuts: Something goes on here,” Nutter said of the TinCaps culture with great enthusiasm. “When this place is rockin’, is it the home field advantage that the Yankees used to have? Yeah!”

Nutter hopes that winning culture leaves local residents with a sense of pride.

“I’ve had people shake my hand and say, ‘I moved from town 25 years ago, I remember downtown. I never thought we could have anything this nice,’” said Nutter. “They’re going to be treated with respect, they have hard earned dollars and if they spend them here, that’s great, and we’d love them to walk away proud of their hometown team.”

Following the long winter, the TinCaps will return to Parkview Field for its 2016 home opener on April 9 against the Lake County Captains. And if you’re wondering what he thinks about this year’s World Series, he’s predicting the Royals will defeat the Mets in six out of seven games.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered, and hosted Morning Edition for the past few years. In 2022, he was promoted to Content Director.
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