One of the surprising things about all the activity in the front office of the Fort Wayne TinCaps is that most of it doesn’t have much to do with baseball.
“The San Diego Padres — our major league affiliate — they figure out who is on the teams, who is playing shortstop, when to take pitchers in and out,” said Mike Limmer vice president of marketing. “If I don’t feel like our first baseman is hitting well, we can’t do anything about it. We look at baseball as a skeleton in which we can fill in all the other fun stuff.”
Like many minor league baseball stadiums across the country, Parkview Field has become more of an entertainment destination than a shrine to America’s pastime (which is not to suggest that it isn’t a shrine to America’s pastime).
It’s a good bet that many of the people who gravitate to Parkview Field from April to August every year wouldn’t even describe themselves as avid baseball fans.
Why are they coming, then? They’re coming for the ambiance and the bonhomie. They’re coming for the food and drink. They’re coming to enjoy downtown.
They’re also coming because it’s all relatively inexpensive. Extremely casual baseball fans don’t bring their families to major league games on a lark. They don’t do this because taking out a second mortgage on your house so you can afford major-league sports tickets is a serious business.
Team president Mike Nutter said that what keeps him up at night is “the complacency factor.”
“You try and run the mix,” he said. “How do you keep doing the stuff you know is successful but also inject new foods, entertainment, and promotions?”
Nutter’s loss of sleep is fans’ gain.
Here is a guide what’s new and what’s tried-and-true for the 2019 TinCaps season. THEME NIGHTS
Minor League Baseball games are where you go for promotions. Major League Baseball can’t do anything too crazy because there’s so much money involved. But in the minor leagues, teams have the freedom to offer promotions that are a little out there.
Limmer said theme nights bring in people who might not otherwise buy tickets for a particular game. Theme nights provide additional incentive to attend, he said.
“We feel like families go to a TinCaps game as one of their summer activities,” Limmer said. “We call a theme night a magnet game. If you’re a fan of one of these themes, it might draw you.”
This will be the first year that the TinCaps will offer certain themes multiple times. Star Wars Night, Princess Night, and Superhero Night will each be offered twice, Limmer said.
“We talked to fans who said they’re really bummed that we don’t repeat certain themes,” he said. “People’s schedules didn’t always match up. So we picked these three. They’re multigenerational. They appeal to everybody.”
’90s Night will return this year on April 5. A Seinfeld Trivia Quiz in the 400 Club has been added to that promotion.
“It’s a special ticketed event,” Limmer said, referring to the Seinfeld quiz. “We can have 100 people in there that can get food and drink. There will be prizes.”
The team is bringing back a night devoted to the sitcom Friends and adding a night that celebrates professional wrestling.
“When we announced the promo schedule,” Nutter said, “someone reached out right away and said, ‘What in the world are you doing a pro wrestling night for?’”
It’s because Tony DesPlaines, a member of the TinCaps marketing team, was able to convince wrestler Road Warrior Animal (aka Joseph Michael Laurinaitis) to make an appearance.
A tribute to the sitcom The Office will happen in June.
“The guys in marketing sent out a teaser for the Office night we’re doing and everybody went nuts,” Nutter said.
Nine games will involve specialty jerseys that will be auctioned off or given away, Limmer said. ENTERTAINMENT
New acts this year include the Russian Bar Trio, three acrobats from the Canadian circus troupe, Cirque Eos, who appeared in season 11 of America’s Got Talent.
The phrase “Russian Bar” refers to a piece of equipment the trio uses, not to an Eastern European saloon.
There’s also Tyler’s Amazing Balancing Act. That’s a Pennsylvania man named Tyler Scheuer who discovered at an early age that he had a talent for balancing objects on his face that would not normally require such balancing: chairs, ladders, wheelbarrows, etc.
Daniel D., a “hip-hop violinist” that the team added last year, will return in August.
“We’re always trying to find new things,” Limmer said. “(Daniel D.) was a lot of fun. He performed a few times between innings and played during the fireworks. We were glad that we could bring him back.”
A number of acts that have been around since the TinCaps were called the Wizards, including Jake the Diamond Dog, will make their annual pilgrimages to Fort Wayne in 2019.
“BirdZerk! is back another couple of times,” Limmer said. “Birdzerk! and ZOOperstars are actually operated by brothers. Quick Change, where they do quick costume changes — they’ll be back.” FOOD AND DRINK
Nutter said there will be a new “food alley” devoted to finger food and sweet snacks near the kids’ area on the left field side of the stadium.
“Sweet dough pretzels with different toppings, apple pie bites, mini pretzel bites, and funnel cake fries,” he said.
There will also be a new bar devoted to Yuengling products on the first base side of the concourse, Nutter said.
Parkview Field doesn’t really offer any of the crazy culinary mashups that can be found at other ballparks: gyro French fries, a mac-and-cheese sandwich, or burgers with pizzas as buns.
The most popular food item at Parkview Field by far is chicken tenders and fries, Limmer said.
The main food focus in the front office is on increasing speed and efficiency.
“I wish I could say we have this great new burger with 12 patties, topped with soft serve ice cream,” Limmer said. “But our focus in the off-season has really been on, ‘How do we make those lines move quicker?’ I know that doesn’t make for a great headline: ‘TinCaps look to shave a minute-and-a-half off of wait time.’ But it’s something that I think people will appreciate.” TASTING EVENTS
Tasting events, devoted to various alcoholic libations, have been dependable draws at Parkview Field.
This year, Limmer said, there will be two beer tastings, two wine tastings, a martini tasting, a margarita tasting, and a bourbon tasting.
The bourbon tasting is the newest addition and “strangely enough, it is the one that sells out most quickly,” Limmer said. BARK IN THE PARK
During two games this season, attendees will be allowed to bring their dogs into the park, Nutter said.
“Those are cool,” he said. “We always have a number of animal shelter and rescue organizations represented out there. Pets are huge. Some people without kids spend a lot on their pets. Some people with kids spend more on their pets.” NEW SOUND SYSTEM
Nutter said the ballpark will get an entirely new sound system this year.
“All new,” he said. “Speakers all throughout in the external areas but also internally in all the suites and meeting spaces.” THE FUTURE
By the 2020 or 2021 seasons, Parkview Field will have all new video, Nutter said.
“The board out there on the parking garage and new LED boards on the outfield,” he said. “We’re about to get year 11 out of most of our stuff. So we have to think about shelf life.”
Nutter again references complacency.
“We don’t want to lie back and say, ‘Well, I’m sure people will keep coming,’” he said. “We want the next ten years to be just as big or bigger as downtown continues to grow.”
“We’re not going into season 11,” Limmer said. “The way we look it it is: We’re in year one of the second ten years. We’re looking at how we can take it to the next level.”
Limmer said he anticipates that fans will have more opportunities in the future to interact with games and stadium activities on their phones. Perhaps they will be able to use their phones to enter contests, choose songs, compete with other attendees, and vote on between-inning activities, he said.
2019 TinCaps Theme Nights
Friday, April 5 ’90s Night
Friday, April 19 Animation Celebration
Friday, May 3 Country Night
Saturday, May 4 Star Wars Night*
Thursday, May 16 Indianapolis Colts Night*
Friday, May 17 Superhero Night*
Thursday, May 23 Friends Night*
Friday, May 31 Princess Night*
Friday, June 14 Pro Wrestling Night w/special guest Road Warrior Animal*
Saturday, June 15 Turn the Park Pink*
Friday, June 28 The Office Night*
Friday, July 5 Star Wars Night*
Friday, July 19 Christmas in July*
Monday, July 29 Princess Night*
Monday, Aug. 5 Superhero Night*
Friday, Aug. 9 Harry Potter Night*
2019 TinCaps Tasting Events
Friday, April 19 Wine Tasting
Saturday, April 20 Bark in the Park
Friday, May 3 Beer Tasting
Sunday, May 5 Margarita Tasting
Tuesday, June 4 Martini Tasting - Women’s Night Out
Sunday, June 30 Beer Tasting
Wednesday, July 17 Bourbon Tasting
Wednesday, Aug. 7 Wine Tasting - Women’s Night Out
Sunday, Aug. 18 Bark in the Park
2019 TinCaps National Entertainment Acts
Saturday, May 18 Tyler’s Amazing Balancing Act*
Saturday, June 1 BirdZerk! *
Saturday, June 15 QuickChange*
Saturday, June 29 Russian Bar Trio*
Saturday, July 20 Jake the Diamond Dog*
Saturday, July 27 QuickChange*
Saturday, Aug. 3 ZOOperstars!*
Saturday, Aug. 17 BirdZerk! *
Saturday, Aug. 31 Daniel D., Contemporary Violinist*
Sunday, Sept. 1 Jake the Diamond Dog*