FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Major League Baseball has announced plans to play this year. What does that mean for Minor League Baseball teams though?
Mike Nutter, the president of the Fort Wayne Tincaps, a minor league affiliate of the San Diego Padres, isn’t sure his team and his ballpark will see any action in 2020.
“Very, very little optimism of minor league baseball in 2020,” Nutter said.
He says MLB can afford to play in empty stadiums because of the television deals that drive so much. That’s not the case at the minor league level, where only a handful of teams have TV revenue coming in.
The minor league season usually starts in April. With zero games from then to now, Nutter says his organization has already lost “a couple million dollars.”
The Tincaps came to a point where they had to start furloughing a majority of their 32 full-time employees.
“Like the head groundskeeper, for example,” Nutter said. “He’s very key to us at all times, but maybe not as much right now as if we had a season. So people can be on a week or two, and then off a little bit.”
So if fans won’t be attending any baseball games in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne or South Bend, what do those teams — the Indians, Tincaps and Cubs — do to stay afloat?
Nutter says a couple of months ago, the Tincaps came up with family meal deals, where fans could order five ready-to-cook meals for $100 and pick them up at Parkview Field. He says that helped their chefs and concession workers stay on the job. But when downtown restaurants and bars were allowed to open back up, the number of people ordering meals through the Tincaps dropped.
So it was time to go back to the drawing board and come up with other ideas to get fans to still come to the ballpark.
“We’ve recently been hosting farmers markets, so that’s drawing upwards of 2,500 to 3,000 people every Saturday,” Nutter said.
If there is, indeed, no Tincaps baseball in 2020, Nutter says his team is trying to come up with other ideas, like having a movie night at the ballpark, where fans can social distance on the field, and watch the movie on the new giant scoreboard in right field.
He’s hoping they will have other events planned for the fall and winter as well.
“I mean, is there a chance I could see our areas packed with holiday and Christmas parties? Yeah, I hope so.”
LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH TINCAPS PRESIDENT MIKE NUTTER: