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COLUMN

Let it go: TinCaps name is staying

Excessive whining won't change quirky, creative moniker.

Thursday, November 13, 2008 - 10:42 am

Jason Freier, one of the owners of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, hears your whining about the baseball team's new name.

I mean, he hears your opinion.

Whining is my word, not his. I listen to complaints about TinCaps and how ridiculous the name is and how it reflects poorly on Fort Wayne (as if others care one iota about our minor-league nicknames) and I hear whining.

Freier, you'll be glad to know, doesn't think you're a bunch of whiners, and he respects your opinion.

He also believes you'll calm down over time. On that, I have to agree. Outrage over “Wizards” was palpable when that name was first introduced, then evaporated. Indignation over the TinCaps will subside, too. We might even come to appreciate TinCaps and return to complaining about where policemen park their cars at night.

I suggested to Freier in a conversation last week that the negative reaction to TinCaps is a byproduct of people who are still ticked off about Harrison Square in general. He says that analysis is flawed.

“There are definitely people who are very supportive of the (Harrison Square) project who say, ‘Why couldn't you have gone with Generals or Cannons or something that sounds like Fort Wayne?'” Freier said. “There is a significant segment of folks who are very supportive who just don't get what we're trying to do here. They don't see what we think we see.”

Here's what Freier, chief executive officer of ownership group Hardball Capital, sees:

• A playful name that fits with a minor-league baseball landscape that includes Muckdogs and Blueclaws, Sand Gnats and Biscuits.

• A tie-in to Fort Wayne with Johnny Appleseed. If the cooking pan on his head is folklore rather than fact, it's part of our culture. If it takes a sentence to explain to someone what TinCaps means, are we really so time-crunched we can't do that?

• Endless possibilities for making the name and logo (Angry Applehead, I call it) something fun to incorporate in all aspects of the new Parkview Field.

“Until people have the opportunity to get into the stadium - they're used to a generic name like Wizards - they don't recognize the kind of fun and different atmosphere we'll be able to create with a name like this,” Freier said. “As we sent our logos and things to Rawlings and New Era, the response we've gotten is ‘Wow, that's really cool. It's a great identity.' People who do this all the time have given us very good feedback.”

The week the name was announced, TinCaps General Manager Mike Nutter received 100 to 150 e-mails. “One or two liked it,” Nutter said. He even received a profanity-laced complaint on his home phone.

Since then the volume of negative responses has slowed, but the sentiment remains out there in letters to the editor and “The Rant” in The News-Sentinel.

Freier was encouraged over the past couple of weeks by a poll run on Minor League Baseball's Web site that asked people to vote for their favorite new team logo. The choices were TinCaps, Reno Aces, Visalia Rawhide and Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

The TinCaps won with 57 percent of the 1,387 votes. Obviously, MiLB.com doesn't have the traffic of ESPN.com, but one can assume it was a core of minor-league baseball fans who enjoy the sport enough to visit the site during the offseason.

When you look at Fort Wayne's three major sports nicknames - Komets, Mad Ants and TinCaps - our city has a carefree, creative flavor. I wasn't around then, but I'm sure Komets with a “K” seemed unusual at the very least. Turns out, it was ahead of its time.

One of the men the TinCaps owners talked extensively with during the name-selection process was Tom Dickson, who owned and spearheaded the names of the Lansing Lugnuts and the Montgomery Biscuits. Say what you will about TinCaps - and you'll say it - this wasn't a name picked on a whim.

“Bear with us, trust us, and give it a chance,” Freier said. “At the end of the year, will there be people who still don't like it? Probably. I'm sure in Montgomery there are people who still say, ‘I can't believe our name is the Biscuits.' You're never going to please everyone, but I think this is something that's going to resonate with a lot of people in the community as the seasons go on.”

Keep grumbling for now, if you must, about how the name doesn't capture the essence of our city. But do you really want to switch to the more immediately descriptive Fort Wayne Whiners?

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. E-mail Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.