Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Great Lakes Loons 5 at Fort Wayne TinCaps 3 (Midwest League) - August 21, 2017


After a wrecked weekend in the Windy City, I woke early on Monday, ready to take on the next portion of the trip - the conclusion of my active minor league ballpark quest. With the solar eclipse taking place, I decided to leave Chicago early, picking up a rental car downtown at 8 am and heading southeast to Fort Wayne. The drive was uneventful and Sharpy and I arrived in time for the big show. As it turned out, an 88% partial eclipse is only mildly interesting, certainly not worth standing outside for 3 hours. There was only a small change in visible sunlight, so I understand why so many people went out of their way to experience totality as anything less would be disappointing.



Once the cosmic hijinks were complete, we headed downtown to visit Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, low-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The stadium is quite big for a venue at this level, and it has seamlessly integrated into the surrounding neighbourhood. Parking is free on the street after 5 pm, which is the time that local office workers start making their way home, opening up spots for fans. The main entrance (above) is at the corner of Brackenridge and Ewing, but there are a couple of other gates as you make your way around clockwise.



Next to the North Gate (above) is an inflatable Johnny, the TinCaps mascot, sporting the two most important words to the sports traveler (below). The TinCaps took their name from the legend of Johnny Appleseed, who wore his cooking pot on his head in order to keep his hands free.



The real Johnny Appleseed, John Chapman, lived in Fort Wayne in his later years and is buried here, though the precise location of his grave is disputed. The TinCaps use the motif cleverly, with their team store called The Orchard, and one of the group areas known as the Treetops, as it resembles the Wrigley rooftops.



The view from the Treetops is below. Home runs have reached here on a couple of occasions.



On the north side of the complex is The Harrison, a combination retail/residential development, with O'Reilly's Pub a good stopping point before the game. Their patio even faces onto the field should you want to stay there.



Parkview Field was named the top minor league experience by Stadium Journey for the last 3 years, and the TinCaps have a very good relationship with Paul, the Stadium Journey founder. Paul contacted them to let them know of my trip, and they were quite interested in helping me enjoy their gameday experience as much as possible.



Sharpy and I met Mike Limmer, VP of Marketing and Promotions for the TinCaps. Mike gave us a personalized tour of the venue, taking us to a variety of seating areas. First up was the 400 Club, a large patio space atop the centerfield wall that was added just last season (above). Just below is an enclosed space which doubles as the batters eye, reminiscent of Windows restaurant in the Skydome. The view from up top is quite nice, and a couple of home runs have made it here too.



We then took a lap around the spacious concourse, which measures about 1/3 of a mile. One of the promotions they have is Race the Game, where a runner tries to complete 79 laps (the approximate distance of a marathon) from the time when gates open to last pitch.



The concourse is where you will find a great variety of concession items. The free program has a comprehensive list of concession stands, but the must-try item is the apple dumpling (of course), found at the Apple Cart behind home plate. For $3.75 (plus $2 for a la mode) you get a huge apple-filled crust that might be the best bargain in minor league baseball.



There is a small window into the team offices where team awards are displayed. Stadium Journey is not the only organization to recognize the achievements here; the team has won a number of accolades for promotions and overall fan experience.



Mike showed us the other special seating areas, including the top three rows behind home plate, which are known as Legacy Seats (below). They are padded and come with a drink rail, and at $12.50, are another bargain, though naturally most are snapped up by season ticket holders.



We saw each of the special group areas, including the Treetops and the Club, and all were filled with happy fans enjoying their pregame festivities. The Club also has a few historical touches, such as the base from the first game played here back in 2009 and photos of the Fort Wayne Daisies of the All-American Girls League.



Tickets here are among the best value in the minors. Five bucks gets you a lawn seat, $8 puts you down the lines, while $10 gets you an All-Star seat between the dugouts. There is a picnic area down the third base lines that are sold to the general public for $40 for 4 seats, which includes wait service. In terms of seating options, there is certainly something for everyone at Parkview Field.



Atop each section is a picture of Fort Wayne baseball history, usually a player from a group picture.



If you want to know more, just below this is a brief description of the team that is being honoured, such as the Allen Dairymen below. Each section has a different bit of history displayed and it is well worth your time to wander around and read them all. There has been a lot of baseball played here and it is good to see it recognized in this manner.



In front of the Orchard is a giant Johnny bobblehead...



...as well as the Call-Up Worthy display. The TinCaps used to be the Fort Wayne Wizards until they rebranded in 2009 in conjunction with the move to Parkview Field. They have had over 150 players make The Show, though only a few of the early ones are mentioned here.



Overall, Parkview Field is as good as it gets in the minor leagues. Affordable tickets, downtown location, excellent concessions, history on display, plenty of unique options for groups, and a lot of fun promotions make this an absolute must-see for any ballpark traveler. Make sure to get to Fort Wayne for the TinCaps if you haven't already done so.



The Game

The Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers) were the visitors with Dustin May (3rd round, 2016, L.A.'s #15 prospect) taking the hill to face Osvaldo Hernandez, a young Cuban who I had seen start in Tri-City last month. Hernandez had just been promoted and was making his first start for Fort Wayne. May, a lanky 6'6 righty, is instantly recognizable with a big bushel of red hair and a distinctive leg kick.

Both pitchers gave up early solo shots, with Hudson Potts (24th overall in 2016, Padres #23 prospect) going yard for Fort Wayne in the first, while Connor Wong (3rd, 2017, #26 on the Dodgers prospect list) replied for the Loons in the second. Hernandez was frustrated in the third, when Great Lakes plated two despite never hitting the ball hard. Two infield singles along with 3 steals, a balk, and a sacrifice fly gave them the 3-1 lead, and they added two more in the sixth on a Jared Walker (5th, 2014) single off reliever Jordan Guerrero (6th, 2015). A solo homer from TinCap Nate Easley (23rd, 2016, nephew of Damion) got one back, but May stayed in the game, lasting 8 innings with just one walk and only those two solos to blemish his line. Ryan Moseley (8th, 2016 by Baltimore) came in for the save and walked the first two batters, but only one could score on a sacrifice fly as Great Lakes prevailed 5-3. It also looks like the marathon runner fell 3 laps short of the goal.



There were a lot of prospects appearing in this game, but May is definitely the Player to Watch after his 97-pitch performance. His appearance and delivery should make him a fan favourite when he reaches the majors. You can watch the highlights here.

Notes

As part of the experience, I was allowed to throw out one of the ceremonial first pitches, something I had never done before. Thanks to Sharpy for the photo.



I also spent an inning in the broadcast booth regaling TinCaps TV guy John Nolan with stories of my past trips. This was another first and I'd like to thank John for the opportunity, as well as Mike Limmer and GM Mike Nutter for all their help in making this the most memorable experience in my minor league travels.

Next Up

We are off to Dayton today to see the Dragons. Rain threatens, so here's hoping the game gets played, otherwise I'll be scrambling to reorganize the rest of the trip.

Best,

Sean

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