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New bride Elizabeth Swygart throws a ceremonial pitch before the TinCaps game. She married Tim Swygart on Monday. Their reception was at the game.
TinCaps celebrate 2 millionth fan in 5 seasons

Baseball as social gathering

Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Aidan Wissing, 7, gets a high-five from Brad Shank of the TinCaps after winning $2,000. Aidan was named the TinCaps’ 2 millionth fan after the game and had a chance to win $2 million.

Michael Limmer remembers the uncertainty of opening day at Parkview Field in April 2009. The TinCaps knew they had a good product to give fans, he said, but no one knew whether those fans would show up.

Monday, the final day of the 2013 regular season, Fort Wayne’s vice president of marketing and promotions watched as the 2 millionth fan walked through the gates.

“I’ve been thinking about this the last two weeks,” Limmer said on a picture-perfect day for a ballgame, with weather in the 70s and a TinCaps win on the way. “I knew that this community was going to support this ballpark, but until we actually opened up the doors and let people see what this was, you really had no idea what the fan support was gonna be.”

The answer: phenomenal.

Fort Wayne has averaged more than 400,000 in paid attendance in its five years at Parkview Field en route to the 2,002,519 fans it’s welcomed. This season’s 403,596 in paid attendance was the second-highest mark in franchise history and paved the way for Monday’s milestone.

“There’s a good buzz around town about this 2 million, and it’ll be the second time we’ve ever gone over 400,000 for the regular season,” TinCaps president Mike Nutter said. “Kane County, in the Chicago suburbs this year, was the first minor-league, Single-A minor league team, to draw 10 million – and after five years, we’re already up to two. It’s amazing that people come out and they support quality entertainment at Parkview Field.”

In the second half of the season, which tends to be the strongest for attendance since it falls in the heart of the summer months, Fort Wayne averaged 6,599 fans for 35 second-half home games. The TinCaps had 6,083 out Monday, including Aiden Wissing, a 7-year-old who won a chance at $2 million in a promotion the TinCaps put together to commemorate the occasion.

Aiden and his family went home with $2,000.

“I was pretty excited and a little nervous,” he said. “I might share some of it.”

The promotion was just another piece of what’s turned Parkview Field and TinCaps games from baseball matchups into social gatherings, as Limmer put it.

Fort Wayne has embraced the atmosphere through the organization’s first five years downtown.

And the TinCaps realize they’re lucky to have that kind of support.

“We’re blessed to work here and have fans like this,” Nutter said.