Wednesday, the day tickets for the 2020 TinCaps season went on sale for the first time, dawned with the sun shining over Parkview Field. If any of the fans who showed up to buy tickets looked out the window, they could have convinced themselves it was a game-day morning in June.
Fans who did show up to the park were treated to a free breakfast courtesy of the team that included waffles, bacon, fruit and more. The season kickoff breakfast, which the TinCaps started shortly after moving into Parkview Field, has become an annual tradition that marks the impending end of the offseason.
TinCaps President Mike Nutter joked that every year he wonders whether anyone will come, but there were dozens of fans filtering in and out Wednesday morning, including some who had been to the event several times.
Jessica Gervais and her two children, Eddie, 5, and Eliza, 1, have made a habit of coming to the breakfast for the food and to reserve tickets for the Fourth of July game. Eddie, wearing a TinCaps hat, was allowed to miss preschool to attend, while Eliza met with Johnny TinCap and was initially wary of the smiling mascot before becoming excited.
“We think it's fantastic,” Gervais said of the breakfast. “It's great to get the whole family involved, to come out, eat breakfast, hang out with Johnny and other fans of TinCaps baseball and just get excited for another season.”
It's been an offseason of significant changes at Parkview Field.
Among the fresh features at the 11-year-old ballpark will be a new high-definition video board to replace the board that had been in place since the stadium opened. That board is still under construction, but there will also be a new sound system in the stadium that is already in place.
“The few days that we cranked up the sound system, it was nice,” Nutter said. “It was rocking in here, literally and figuratively.”
Another difference in the fan experience will be extended netting along the baselines, an effort by the team to improve fan safety. Sections 103, 104, 112 and 113 will now be protected by netting.
Nutter said the team has received mixed reviews from fans about the netting, with some worried that it will obstruct their view and wondering why those in attendance can't simply protect themselves by paying attention to the game. He believes the benefits of the netting far outweigh any potential drawbacks.
“It's not all cellphones and things like that,” Nutter said of reasons a fan might be distracted from the game. “Baseball games are long, sometimes too long. Attention spans can be diverted. ... A father and son can be talking about the game and you take your eye off of it.”
The TinCaps open their 12th season at Parkview Field on April 13 against the Dayton Dragons. They'll once again be led by manager Anthony Contreras, who will be the first manager to lead the Fort Wayne franchise for more than four seasons.
The roster figures to once again be full of talented youngsters as the Padres' farm system continues to rank among baseball's best. Among those projected – though not certain – to begin the season in Fort Wayne is 2019 No. 6 overall pick C.J. Abrams, a precocious shortstop who ranks 22nd among Fangraphs' top 100 prospects.
“The case of Mr. Abrams, hopefully we'll see him, praying we will see him here,” Nutter said, laughing.