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Last updated: Fri. Oct. 03, 2008 - 10:04 am EDT

Picking a name out of history

TinCaps honors Johnny Appleseed

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Sounding off

Do you like the TinCaps nickname?

Vote on The Journal Gazette’s online poll at www.journalgazette.net/tincaps, or send responses to the sports department by e-mail to jgsports@jg.net; by mail, 600 W. Main St. Box 88, Fort Wayne, IN 46801; or by fax, 260-461-8648.

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Mike Nutter wasn’t sure he wanted a name change.

But then the general manager of Fort Wayne’s Class A minor league baseball team had what he called a “eureka” moment. With the team moving to a new downtown park next season, he thought it was the perfect time to make a change.

A process that began in the spring, like a baseball season does itself, ended appropriately enough in the fall with TinCaps unveiled as the new nickname Tuesday during a news conference at Grand Wayne Center.

TinCaps is a nod to pioneer Johnny Appleseed, who was known for wearing his tin cooking pot on his head. Born in Massachusetts in 1774, John Chapman became known as Johnny Appleseed as he moved westward planting apple trees along the way. He died in Fort Wayne in 1845 and is buried there.

“There’s no point in changing the name to something else that is generic,” said Jason Freier, the CEO of Hardball Capital, which owns the team. “The single-most suggested name was Generals. We had people suggest Falcons. … It’s a great name, but it’s being used.

“For us to find something that had both the Fort Wayne tie and allowed us to create our own unique identity, we were not going to change the Wizards name and give up 16 years unless at least those two criteria were met. We felt we had few options that satisfied that, but obviously we chose the one we thought did it best.”

The team’s primary colors are green, red and brown. The primary logo will be an apple wearing Appleseed’s trademark tin cap.

One person, who has not been identified, suggested the name during a name-the-team contest in the summer. Nutter said the team received 2,574 entrees.

The franchise looked for a name that included community history, a strong brand and was unique.

Octane, Fuel and Current were among those in the final round. The franchise had been named the Wizards since it moved from Kenosha, Wis., in 1993.

“It was a process, it took us awhile to get here. But we’re very happy to have it out there now,” Nutter said. “This was not one of those deals where ahead of time we knew what it was going in. We didn’t.

“… When we got to the national expert, he said nobody has done the apple, which is about as all-American as it gets with our national pastime. Nobody has that logo.”

It’s been a season filled with changes for the franchise. In addition to the new name, the team will be headed to a new ballpark, recently named Parkview Field, downtown next season. The franchise also agreed to a two-year deal to remain the low-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres.

It remains to be seen if TinCaps is a hit with the fans.

“We’re having fun with it,” Nutter said. “The name is great, we think the logo is good, it will take people getting used to it, but we believe the experience of what we do and who we are will lead people to continue to think, that’s cool.”

lpope@jg.net


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