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2014 Team of the Year: Fort Wayne TinCaps

Fort Wayne TinCapsAfter six years, most minor-league baseball teams start to lose some steam, but we’re seeing the opposite at Parkview Field, where the Fort Wayne TinCaps are setting attendance records and becoming more entrenched in the local community. That makes the TinCaps Team of the Year in our annual awards.

The TinCaps (Low Class A; Midwest League) and Parkview Field were instant successes, as fans from the very beginning embraced the new downtown ballpark. But owner Hardball Capital and team management didn’t rest on their laurels; instead, they’ve embarked on a program to consistently renew fan interest in the team, with enhanced game offering and offday activities.

“The TinCaps really embrace the notion of community service as part of its mission,” said Kevin Reichard, Ballpark Digest publisher. “A TinCaps game is great fun for everyone, and on that alone the team would be a winner. But add in the community service and commitment to Fort Wayne, and you have one of the most noteworthy teams in all of baseball.”

“It’s an honor to be selected as Ballpark Digest’s Team of the Year,” stated TinCaps President Mike Nutter. “It sounds cliché to say, but we don’t do what we do for recognition or awards. We strive to make an impact in our community on a daily basis, whether it be welcoming guests to Parkview Field or being out in the community. This area has responded with their tremendous support and we don’t take that for granted.”

Parkview Field has always been a great place to take in a game, and the TinCaps continued tantalizing fans with new experiences and offerings: the BIG APPLE dessert was named Ballpark Digest’s Best New Food Item of 2014, for instance. But, just as important, the team’s mission of community service was expanded in 2014. The team continued its philanthropic focus with hundreds of donations to charitable organizations and events, ticket donations to area underprivileged youth programs, and monetary donations to fund raisers. The TinCaps also enhanced their fundraising ticket program, increasing the number of Little League teams, Scout groups, and not-for-profits that benefited from the team’s easy-to-execute events.

The 2014 season was another banner year for the TinCaps in community and charitable involvement. The TinCaps Reading Program, free to schools and students, and culminating in a free ticket to a game, was a tremendous success yet again in 2014. Impacting over 350 schools and libraries and 106,995 children, the program provides incentives to promote reading. The program is completely free to implement and is fully funded by the TinCaps and corporate partner, Longe Optical.

Along the way, Parkview Field was positioned as a community center on game and non-game days. The facility hosts nearly 600 additional events annually, including large community events such as Downtown Fright Night Halloween events, Night of Lights Festival Fireworks, the Fort4Fitness Half Marathon, CountryFest, 98.9 Bear Birthday Bash, and the Special Olympics Polar Plunge.

The community focus certainly resonated with fans. For the third time in six years, the team welcomed over 400,000 fans through the turnstiles, with 406,715 for the regular season, averaging 5,810 fans per game – both new Fort Wayne records.

“We thank Ballpark Digest for this award, both as avid readers ourselves in our front office, and for what they provide the baseball community with their publication,” said Nutter.

“It’s amazing what the TinCaps have accomplished after the move to a lovely new ballpark,” Reichard said. “Giving back to the community is such an important part of how the TinCaps operate, and we’re very happy to recognize that commitment with this award.”

Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world: Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball and college baseball. Here’s a list of the 2014 awards, both already awarded and to come:

Broadcaster of the Year: Steve Klauke, Salt Lake Bees
Best New Logo / Branding: Akron RubberDucks
Organization of the Year: Big Top Baseball
Best MiLB Promotion: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Best Summer Collegiate Promotion: Kalamazoo Growlers
Editor’s Choice: Granderson Stadium, University of Illinois at Chicago
Best New Food Item: BIG APPLE, Fort Wayne TinCaps

Best Ballpark Improvement: Ferris wheel, Quad Cities River Bandits
Best Ballpark Renovation Under $2 Million: Simmons Field, Kenosha Kingfish
Best Ballpark Renovation Over $2 Million: Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham Bulls

Nov. 12: Team of the Year, Best New Ballpark (announced in weekly newsletter)
Nov. 13: Best Marketing, Executive of the Year

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