The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, April 29, 2020 1:00 am

Opening moments nearly weren't captured

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

In the hallway at Parkview Field, just outside the office of TinCaps president Mike Nutter, hangs a group of photographs, framed together, depicting the first game played at the field April 16, 2009.

The most prominent – stretched across the bottom of the frame – is a panoramic shot from center field that stretches from one bullpen to the other down the outfield lines, capturing a full crowd, a clear early-evening sky and the TinCaps up to bat.

The group of photographs, including the panorama, was taken by Bill Heins, a former Northrop teacher who is now a photographer, who almost didn't go to the game. He originally read that the game, the TinCaps' first home opener against the Dayton Dragons, was sold out. He tried to get a ticket anyway and ended up on the waiting list before the team called him the day before the game with a ticket available right behind home plate.

Heins took his camera with him, not knowing whether he would take many photographs.

“As a photographer, you never know,” he said. “It's much better to have it with you and not need it than the other way around.”

He arrived before the gates were openedand stayed until the postgame fireworks were over, soaking in the community atmosphere.

“There were tons of people there, everyone was in a good mood, everything was new,” Heins said. “It was just an electrifying game. The home team won, and it was actually the start of a fantastic season because they won everything that year.

“It was just a wonderful hometown activity, at a beautiful ballpark.”

The TinCaps beat the Dragons 7-0 in that first game at their new downtown ballpark behind a two-run homer from third baseman James Darnell. The victory was part of a 10-game winning streak to open the season for Fort Wayne on the way to a 94-46 regular-season and the franchise's only Midwest League championship.

Shortly after the start of the game, Heins walked around the ballpark concourse and made his way to center field, where he captured the photos that would eventually come together to form the panorama. 

Heins had also taken pregame photos from behind home plate of Mayor Tom Henry and former Mayor Graham Richard throwing out ceremonial first pitches. He added those photos and others – among them a nighttime photo from behind the first base line and another of TinCaps mascot Johnny waving to the crowd – to the panorama and framed them together. That group of photos sat on an easel outside Henry's office that summer.

At the beginning of last season, the photographer realized it was the 10th anniversary of that first game and made an appointment with Nutter to see if the TinCaps' executive would like a copy of that group of photos. Nutter readily agreed and the photos went up outside his office.

“I thought a copy really belonged in the stadium,” Heins said. “I enjoyed (taking the photos), I'm pleased that it now is a historic document, really.”

The same group of photos also hangs together in Heins' house, prominently displayed over the couch in his family room.

Note: The TinCaps announced Tuesday the release of what the team is calling “TinCaps Family Meal Kits” for customers to buy the type of food they might be able to get at Parkview Field during the regular season.

Each package of meals, which retail for $185, will feature five full meal kits. Each meal kit feeds up to five people. 

The meal kits include taco ingredients, hot dogs and bratwursts, pulled pork sliders, barbecue brisket and chicken breast, along with cups, souvenir helmets, drinks and desserts.

Orders must be placed by 4 p.m. Monday to have the five-kit packages available by Friday. In addition, the TinCaps partnered with Parkview Health so that the public can donate a TinCaps Family Meal Kit to a health care worker and their family.

To order, go to

The TinCaps also partnered with Community Harvest Food Bank to distribute food to those in need in the Silver parking lot across from Parkview Field on the last two Mondays.

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