The TinCaps have been unable to take the field this year as the coronavirus pandemic forced the postponement of the start of the MLB and minor-league baseball seasons.
For those missing the experience of seeing a game at Parkview Field, however, the team has come up with a way for fans to indulge in some ballpark food in the comfort of their own home.
Since late April, the Summit City's Midwest League team has been selling “TinCaps Family 5-Meal Kits,” with the team's chefs churning out packages that include tacos, all beef hot dogs, pulled pork sliders and Philly cheesesteaks. Each meal feeds four to six people and the five-meal kits retail for $185.
“It's just been great that even though we're not doing anything that we're used to doing (at this time of year), to the extent we're able to help our community in any way that we can, that's what our organization's mindset is,” said Michael Limmer, the TinCaps' vice president of marketing and promotions. “We know that the community helps us and supports us and as much as we can do to support the community, we try to do it.
“We know that people are ready to come back to the ballpark whenever it's healthy and appropriate to do so.”
Limmer and his team began putting the meal kits together on the recommendation of a representative of the Houston Astros' Triple-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express. Although the TinCaps are trying to help the community and give their fanbase a taste of ballpark food, Limmer pointed out that the kits are also a way for the team to bring in some revenue during what has turned into a long, grueling offseason.
“We started looking at this and said, 'OK, we don't know when the season's going to start,'” Limmer said. “We do know that every week we still have bills. And we still have 34 full-time people that we want to still employ when this is all done. The worst-case scenario is we don't play a season and go 19 months without a game. ... The only way to do that is to have some stream of revenue that's coming in.”
The meal kits were an immediate hit and have created at least a modicum of a cash flow for the team. The kits sold out in their first week, and more than 400 were bought in the first three weeks.The team sold 62 over the Memorial Day holiday. The TinCaps have also begun adding beer and wine to the kits upon request for $12 per six-pack of beer and $15 per bottle of wine.
Those wishing to buy a kit must order by 4 p.m. Monday. They are available for pickup on Friday. Limmer noted that the kits come in bags from Vera Bradley, which had donated 1,500 grocery bags to be used as a ballpark giveaway this summer. Instead those have been repurposed into carrying bags for the kits.
Although the kits are a way for fans to experience a slice of the missing baseball season, the TinCaps have also created a way for them to help the larger community. The team has developed a system by which customers can donate a meal kit to a worker at Parkview Health, as the hospital system helps battle the pandemic.
As of Wednesday, close to 40 kits have been donated. Supervisors at Parkview Health are responsible for deciding which employees are in need and directing the kits to them.
“We saw peoples' eyes well up with tears,” said Denise Andorfer, director leadership gifts at Parkview Health Foundation, who has helped distribute the donated kits. “(Recipients) just couldn't believe people in the community were so generous and compassionate. ... (I heard) that one (person) who got it said it was like on Christmas opening the box and unpacking it because there were so many different boxes and goodies in the (kit).”
Of those kits that have been donated, 10 have come from Five Star Distributing, a beverage distributor based in Columbia City that delivers to Parkview Field during the baseball season.
“It was a terrific opportunity to say thank you to the heroes of (our community) who are working on the front line,” Five Star president Stan Ziherl said of his company's donation.
“We're blessed to be doing business, although it's different, and we're just happy to, in a very, very modest way, say thank you to all the people who are sacrificing so much.”
To buy or donate a meal kit, go to tincaps.wufoo.com/forms/p3ymn0k0eul8od.
“It's great watching folks step up and help one another,” TinCaps president Mike Nutter said in a statement. “While we're missing baseball at Parkview Field these days, we hope fans can at least enjoy our ballpark's amazing food and beverages.”
Note: The Padres, the parent club of the TinCaps, will continue paying players in their minor league system $400 per week through the end of August, according to multiple reports. San Diego is just the second team – along with the Miami Marlins – to commit to doing so. The Padres have also pledged no layoffs to their baseball operations staff through the end of October.
“Great move by (Padres general manager) AJ (Preller) and Padres ownership and staff,” Nutter tweeted of the decision to extend minor-leaguers' pay. “I'm not surprised as I've seen this great team and leadership for years.”
In March, shortly after spring training was suspended, MLB announced that minor-leaguers would receive $400 per week and medical benefits through the end of May.
While the Padres and Marlins have committed to paying players through what would be the usual end of the minor-league regular season, the Oakland Athletics announced Tuesday that minor-league players would not be paid starting in June.