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At Winter Meetings, TinCaps Also Named National Finalist for Latino Fan Engagement and Earn Honor for Midwest League Hospitality
December 6, 2022

Fort Wayne TinCaps President Mike Nutter has been named Minor League Baseball’s 2022 Executive of the Year. Minor League Baseball made the announcement on Monday, while Nutter received his award on Sunday night at the Baseball Winter Meetings Opening Night Reception and Awards Program hosted by the Hilton San Diego

Fort Wayne TinCaps President Mike Nutter has been named Minor League Baseball’s 2022 Executive of the Year. Minor League Baseball made the announcement on Monday, while Nutter received his award on Sunday night at the Baseball Winter Meetings Opening Night Reception and Awards Program hosted by the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.

Minor League Baseball (“MiLB”) consists of 120 teams across four classification levels (Single-A, High-A, Double-A and Triple-A) that are affiliated with Major League Baseball’s 30 teams.

The Executive of the Year honors the MiLB club executive who best embodies the inspirational leadership, strategic innovation, business-driving vision, and exemplary service to their club, community, and the game of baseball. It’s one of only four major awards presented by Minor League Baseball, along with the Future Star Award, Organization of the Year, and CommUNITY Champion.

“I consider this national award a win for the entire Fort Wayne community,” Nutter said. “My name might be on it, but it certainly wouldn’t be possible without the support of the TinCaps’ ownership group, as well as the team’s Vice Presidents, Brian Schackow, Michael Limmer, and David Lorenz, our entire front office staff, and the hundreds of team members who make Parkview Field the special place that it is.”

Nutter was nominated by peers in the High-A Midwest League, becoming one of 11 national finalists, and was then selected by an awards committee.

“My wife, our two children, my parents, and the rest of our family are essential to this award, too,” said Nutter, whose wife and daughter were in attendance on Sunday for the pleasant surprise, as award winners weren’t notified of their nomination in advance.

Nutter, 50, has worked for Fort Wayne’s MiLB franchise since 1999, when the team was known as the Wizards. Over the course of more than two decades, he’s led the organization through its transition into Parkview Field in 2009 and simultaneous rebrand as the TinCaps. More recently, he navigated the club through the Covid-19 pandemic, among other obstacles.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Mike for this most deserved accolade,” said TinCaps Managing Owner Jason Freier. “This Executive of the Year Award is a testament to Mike’s years of dedication and service, not only to the TinCaps, but the entire Fort Wayne region and our nation’s pastime. Mike has no shortage of attributes that make him a phenomenal leader, including how he cares for others. This extends toward all our team members and every fan who enters Parkview Field. And that’s just part of what distinguishes Mike as an executive.”

Under Nutter’s leadership, the TinCaps previously earned MiLB’s Organization of the Year Award in 2016 and claimed the CommUNITY Champion for charitable service in 2015. Parkview Field has also perennially been rated as the No. 1 fan experience in MiLB. Meanwhile, since Parkview Field opened, Downtown Fort Wayne has seen more than $1 billion in private development.

Originally from Northwest Ohio, Nutter was inducted into the Northeast Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019 and received the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana’s Individual of Integrity Award in 2016. He previously garnered the Midwest League’s nomination for MiLB Executive of the Year in 2004, ’09, and ’15.

In 2022 the TinCaps continued their mission of being stewards in the community. A philanthropic highlight of the season was partnering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana chapter to host a wish send-off party for a local 6-year-old who’d been battling cancer. The TinCaps gave him and his family VIP treatment before and during a game as he found out he’d then be going to San Diego to meet his favorite big league players on the Padres.

Nutter himself has volunteered with a litany of local non-profit organizations, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Erin’s House for Grieving Children. This sets the tone for the rest of the TinCaps staff, with every full-time team member volunteering with at least one local non-profit.

A new initiative for Nutter and the TinCaps in 2022 was holding a Mental Health Awareness Night. That game the TinCaps wore specially designed jerseys that were auctioned off to benefit the local chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), which had a presence in the ballpark to share resources and information with fans. The team also sold “Strike Out the Stigma” shirts to raise additional funds for NAMI.

Nutter has been particularly vocal in support of this cause, advocating for his full-time staff members to focus on their own wellness. The TinCaps already had mandatory days-off on select non-game days during the season and allowed for missing a few games during the season, but those numbers increased in 2022. Similarly, while Mike has always had a literal open-door policy in his office, this year he added to that with the simple gesture of having a fridge stocked with sugar-free energy drinks and protein-rich shakes. This not only helped fortify staff members during homestands, but also led to more conversations about everyday life, beyond work.

Nutter conveyed this message to all team members at Parkview Field, including hourly staff. Recently, the TinCaps even have created a full-time role with an emphasis on making gameday workers feel more valued and appreciated. The team also increased pay rates for hourly staff.

Developing and mentoring young professionals in the industry has always been a passion for Nutter. This year marked another instance of 100-percent of the team’s college-graduated interns finding job placement, or a grad school program. That includes hiring one intern to the full-time staff, which is now more than half comprised of individuals who started with the organization as either an intern or part-time team member.

It was fitting for Nutter to receive this honor in San Diego, as Fort Wayne has been a Padres affiliate since 1999.

Nutter’s career in Minor League Baseball pre-dates his time in the Summit City. He began as an intern 30-plus years ago. Upon graduation from Bowling Green State University, Nutter initially worked for the Brevard County Manatees and Nashville Sounds. He spent one season as Fort Wayne’s Assistant General Manager before a promotion to General Manager/President.

“All these years later, I still feel like that kid, who, in 1992, went to intern for the Kane County Cougars and got the bug for Minor League Baseball,” Nutter said. “My journey, and this award, has been an absolutely incredible blessing. In Minor League Baseball, we have an amazing opportunity to make a positive impact in our communities. That’s something I’ll always treasure. I don’t think I quite have another 31 seasons left in this role, but I’m very excited for our years ahead with the TinCaps at Parkview Field.”

Nutter and the TinCaps are scheduled to begin their 2023 season at Parkview Field on Tuesday, April 11 (6:35 p.m.) against the Lake County Captains (Cleveland Guardians affiliate). Fans can already purchase 12-game and 17-game ticket plans online at Half-season, full-season, and group outings are also on sale. Click here to see the 2023 TinCaps Hospitality Guide.

In addition to Nutter’s Executive of the Year Award, MiLB also announced Monday that the TinCaps and their alternate identity as the Manzanas Luchadoras (“Fighting Apples” in Spanish) were one of six national finalists for the 2022 Copa de la Diversión (Fun Cup). The cornerstone of MiLB’s Latino fan engagement initiative, “Copa” has established an innovative new platform authentically connecting MiLB teams with their diverse communities, embracing the culture and values that resonate most with U.S. Latinos. A total of 85 MiLB teams participated in Copa in 2022 – Fort Wayne’s first season in the program.

The TinCaps were also a national finalist for MiLB's Best Promotion as the team's "Fort Wayne Daisies Throwback Night" was nominated by the Midwest League.