By the 1990s, "retro" baseball venues were coming into vogue, including a minor league ballpark in Buffalo and major league parks in Baltimore and Cleveland. Evoking classic ballparks like Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston, these modern, fan-friendly versions feature open concourses, optimal sightlines and loads of amenities that include luxury suites to sushi bars.
The team paid half the cost of the $18 million for Victory Field, with Indy's Capital Improvement Board picking up the other half. "We wanted to pay our share," Schumacher said. Situated on 14 acres of White River State Park, Victory Field boasts 12,230 permanent seats, lawn seating for 2,000, 28 luxury suites, five suite-level party areas and two large picnic areas. For a day or night at the ballpark, a family of four pays about $70 for tickets, parking and food, compared with nearly $460 for a Colts game.
"They do a good job of investing in the ballpark and keeping it modern," said Josh Leventhal, a writer at Baseball America, which along with Sports Illustrated has named it the "best minor league ballpark in America" in past annual appraisals.
"They have hardcore fans, mostly families, who care about the players and whether the team wins or loses." Baseball America has twice bestowed on the Indians its yearly Bob Freitas Award, for the best overall operations at the Triple-A level, most recently in 2013, citing its minor league–best 637,579 attendance.
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Schumacher has just returned from the Indians' spring training camp in Bradenton, Florida. He's attended every one since 1961, which illustrates the longevity and commitment that are hallmarks of the franchise's success.
"I've stayed with it as long as I have to provide leadership from the top," he stated, "and we have some key employees who have been with us for many years."
Current GM Cal Burleson was hired as ticket manager in 1975. Assistant GM Randy Lewandowski has been with the club for 20 years, initially as part of a summer internship program that has spawned numerous full-timers.
Schumacher has no plans to retire anytime soon, but when he does, his legacy will ring on for years. That's thanks to the Max Schumacher Victory Bell, unveiled at the ballpark in 2011 and rung after every home win. Beyond that, however, the man dubbed Mr. Baseball in Indianapolis envisions a more holistic endurance for the Indians.
"I just want to see a good operation of the team, with a lot of the same guidelines we have in place now," he said. "Low-cost, wholesome family entertainment is what we're all about, and I'd like to see that continue for many years to come. If people stick with that, and I think they will, they'll always be successful."
—By Bob Woods, special to CNBC.com