FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — For Fort Wayne TinCaps President Mike Nutter, Oct. 2, 2008 could have been better.
That morning, Nutter and other officials with the Fort Wayne Wizards gathered at the Grand Wayne Convention Center to unveil a rebranding from the Wizards to the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
Although Nutter — who has been with the organization since 1999 — had been told to expect some initial pushback from disgruntled fans, he said the negative responses were “relentless.”
“We were getting hammered. I mean there wasn’t one positive thing on WOWO that day … We got home, and we checked the answering machine and I mean relentless: vulgarity, swear words, ‘change this,’ ‘you’ve got to be the biggest idiot ever,'” Nutter said.
The day of the announcement, former WOWO radio host Pat White told WANE 15 callers on his show suggested fans would instead call the team the “Potheads” or the “Tin Cups.”
“That is the most horrible name they could pick,” one WOWO caller said.
Nutter said he even received messages from CEOs of local businesses asking the team to reconsider the name change.
Initial reaction to TinCaps name in 2008
Although WANE 15 spoke to a few people in 2008 who were initially fond of the TinCaps, a WANE 15 poll at the time painted a grim picture of the team’s initial popularity.
The poll received over 1,000 responses online, and nearly 90% of the respondents said they would have preferred a different name.
Other names being considered included the “Octane,” the “Crab Apples” and the “Generals.”
Despite the initial reactions, management braved the storm and trusted in the new name, and Nutter said it did not take long before fans started to change their minds.
Nutter said the first sign that people were being more positive about the TinCaps happened right before the first season in 2009 when fans were able to participate in an open house of Parkview Field.
“It was like ‘wait a minute, this is pretty special and I’ll give it a chance,'” Nutter said.
By the end of the TinCaps’ first season, Nutter said the TinCaps had the top selling logo in Minor League Baseball to go along with having 101 wins across the regular season and postseason.
Nutter said the TinCaps also had much more success with its team store than the Wizards, which also dealt with controversy and pushback over its name when the team first came to Fort Wayne.
“I didn’t realize how much flak they had caught … People were sending me stuff about letters to the editor quoting Deuteronomy and the occult and Satanic worship and things like that and I’m thinking, ‘I only knew Dinger the Dragon,'” Nutter said.
In the last 15 years, Nutter said the support the TinCaps have received from the community has been incredible.
“It’s been so awesome,” Nutter said. “The support that we’ve received from fans, media, ticketholders, partners, sponsors … we couldn’t have dreamed of this kind of success.”
In 2008, TinCaps owner Jason Freier told WANE 15 the real judge of the TinCaps’ success would be the “test of time,” and Nutter said the TinCaps were able to withstand the test of time and exceed expectations.
“All those questions about the name, the ballpark and would there be enough parking and that kind of stuff, we’ve put to bed, and it’s been incredible,” Nutter said.