The Fort Wayne TinCaps capped off their debut season in Parkview Field at Harrison Square by winning their first ever Midwest League crown with a three-game sweep over the Burlington Bees in the championship round, leading to a long celebratory bus trip back from Iowa.
"I had never worked for a team that got out of the first round in the 18 years I've been in the game, and the Wizards only got out of it once in the 10 years since I've been here," said TinCaps president Mike Nutter. "So this feels pretty good and it was a really fun bus ride home."
The TinCaps led the minor leagues with 101 victories, winning the first and second half titles. They outpaced their nearest rival by 13 games and set 16 franchise records. Along the way, they featured some of the best players in the Padres' system, Mat Latos, Jaff Decker, Simon Castro and James Darnell.
"I think from day one in spring training we just really jelled," said Dascenzo. "All the guys we had this year were really baseball players, so they just couldn't get enough of the game and being around each other."
"I mean for a seven o'clock game, we had all the guys in the park around 12:30 or 1."
One of the big factors in getting the players into the park earlier was the gleaming new facility in downtown Fort Wayne.
"It's an amazing facility, beyond the call for any level of the minor leagues," said Grady Fuson, the former Padres vice-president for scouting and development, the parent club of the TinCaps, who made a few trips to the Summit City this year. "It was put together with extreme intellect and vision and is not only fan friendly, but player friendly. The indoor cages, weight room and the clubhouse are just tremendous."
The new park and a winning team led to a spike in attendance, averaging 5,408 fans as compared to 3,720 last year, only finishing behind perennial league leaders Dayton and Kane County.
Probably the most difficult task Dascenzo faced all year was being asked to select a single player that was his biggest surprise.
"Oh, I can't do that, there were just so many good guys this year. You can go up and down the roster, all 53 guys that we had in here sometime throughout the season, and everyone helped us out in some way."
Dascenzo has managed the club for the past three years and easily experienced his greatest success this year as compared to any other.
"To m the biggest thing that I have learned over time is you have to establish a relationship with the guys off of the field to be able to get the most out of them on it."
"We tried to really work with two main rules, play hard and have fun. And we had some pretty good results with that philosophy."
Dascenzo is expected to move up to Double-A San Antonio in 2010 – a place that will reunite him with many of his Fort Wayne championship brethren.
John Conniff and Denis Savage collectively chose Doug Dascenzo as our Manager of the Year
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