No Johnny TinCap this season

It looks like Johnny TinCap, the Fort Wayne Minor League Baseball sports mascot, will be furloughed the rest of the year. MLB announced June 30 that none of its teams will play this season, which means the front office will be looking at ways to host other events to keep staff working.

You can’t take anybody to the ballpark this season, and that means a loss of nearly three dozen full-time and over 500 part-time jobs locally alone.

Minor League Baseball announced that its 160 teams, including the Fort Wayne TinCaps, won’t be playing ball this season.

“We were hopeful and optimistic that the TinCaps would be able to play games at Parkview Field this season, but that won’t be the case,” TinCaps President Mike Nutter said in a news release.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball’s plan to play a 60-game 2020 season, and the logistics necessary to make the MLB season possible, means the league won’t be making players available to the affiliates, so no Minor League Baseball games can take place in 2020, including in Fort Wayne.

“This isn’t just about fans losing the chance to watch baseball games,” Nutter said in the news release. “It’s about the 34 full-time staff members and their families that rely on the TinCaps for their livelihood. Our 500-plus part-time seasonal employees that make Parkview Field the No. 1 fan experience in the country. All of these people we care about won’t have games to work this season — that’s what is so impactful about losing the season.”

The TinCaps are just one of 160 communities around the United States and into Canada that will lose their Minor League Baseball season in 2020.

“The TinCaps play in the Midwest League, which is made up of 16 cities across seven states,” Nutter said. “Each community rallies around its team, gathering at the ballpark on spring and summer nights with family and friends. That atmosphere and environment will be gone this year, and we’ll certainly miss welcoming 400,000 fans and friends to Parkview Field.

“Fort Wayne Professional Baseball has been a staple of summers in Fort Wayne since 1993,” Nutter said. “While this is a major setback, we just have to look ahead to what re-opening Parkview Field will look like. We were already anticipating increased health and wellness measures in the hopes we could still play this season. But those same best practices will serve the facility well when we can finally welcome fans back to the ballpark.”

The team plans to announce additional events at Parkview Field now that the calendar has been cleared of TinCaps home games.

“We have an amazing facility to host a wide range of events,” Nutter said. “Our focus will continue to be providing the community with chances to come enjoy the ballpark together, just in different ways than we have done in the past.”

Individual tickets purchased for any game during the 2020 season can be kept and exchanged for any game during the 2021 season, once that schedule is determined. Holders of tickets packages, leaders with group hospitality dates, and corporate partners are being contacted with options for each particular circumstance.

“While we were hopeful the season could still happen, we had to consider this was a possibility,” Nutter said. “It will be a challenge to determine how we manage our organization and staff during a span of 19 months between games.”

With the loss of the 2020 season, the TinCaps last game was in September 2019, and the first game of next season is expected to be April.

“Despite common misconceptions, we are not subsidized by Major League Baseball or our MLB affiliate, the San Diego Padres,” Nutter said. “We’re like every other small business that’s struggling in these difficult times. We have a staff of creative, hard-working, problem solvers. This is a new kind of problem to solve, but I have confidence we’ll be welcoming fans back to Parkview Field before we know it and putting on the best show in Minor League Baseball.”

The TinCaps continue to review guidelines from the State of Indiana and Allen County Department of Health as it relates to events that might be possible at Parkview Field.

“We hear daily that people are itching for a reason to be at the ballpark,” Nutter said. “We’re able to continue providing the Fort Wayne Farmer’s Market a home each Saturday, which is certainly a positive. We’ll find ways to use the ballpark as a community gathering place — what it’s intended to be. When it makes sense to host large-scale events again at Parkview Field, we will certainly be ready.”

Rotary Club of Fort Wayne plans to resume live weekly meetings at Parkview Field at noon July 6 while continuing to hold them on Zoom as well. Parkview staff would set up the room and serve a buffet lunch.

Now, members and guests will be seated with a limit of 3 people per round table, which normally seats 8, said TinCaps spokesman John Nolan. Employees will be wearing masks and gloves and will serve the food rather than people serving themselves at the buffet. No items such as water pitchers and salt and pepper shakers will be placed on tables.

The TinCaps are continuing to offer their meal kits at least through July, Nolan said. The program allows kitchen staff to work.

For a limited time, the kits, which include some ballpark favorites such as hot dogs and soft pretzels with other entrees, will be available in portions for two people as well as family-sized. TinCaps “Two-Person” Meal Kits provide five meals for $100, while “Family” Meal Kits are designed to serve 4-6 people with five meals for $185, tax included. Orders placed by 4 p.m. July 6, or when meals are gone, will be available for pickup July 10.

The TinCaps were originally set to begin their 140-game schedule, with 70 home games, on April 9. The regular season was scheduled to conclude on Labor Day, Sept. 7.

The team, formerly the Fort Wayne Wizards, have been playing in the city since 1993; the franchise rebranded as the TinCaps in 2009 and moved into the newly built Parkview Field.

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