Heintz and the summer night
TORRINGTON – The Nidec Building, that bastion of architectural elegance that so dominated the left field scenery at Fuessenich Park, is long gone. The residence beyond the right field fence that for so long seemed more accepting of a love-in than family dinner was long ago spruced up.
Fuessenich itself has been given a make-over with new bleachers and seats, paint and tree removal from the bleachers (especially that pesky little maple between the third and fourth rows behind the home dugout) and long ago became a destination park again instead of the aging joint behind the armory.
Point being much has changed at the park and with the park over the last several decades. Except for the guy standing in the home dugout when it is a Connie Mack night. That would be Bill Heintz who is as much a part of the Torrington summer night as the ice cream cones and sundaes flowing out of the Carvel down the street.
Torrington’s Connie Mack team was born 34 years ago and Heintz arrived on the scene 32 years ago after spending time with Torrington’s Little League and Babe Ruth programs . He has never left becoming a pillar of the park that has changed around him.
Heck, he doesn’t even look that much different except for maybe the hair, still a full crop of silver that was more of the crew cut look on this night. Heintz is reluctant to reveal his age but whatever it is the years have been kind enough to impress and irritate forcing us to wonder what’s his secret and give me some.
“I made it my hobby. I gave up my golf game I was so bad at it,” says Heintz on a lazy summer night as his team prepares to face off against Terryville. “I do nothing else during the summer.”
The commitment goes well beyond Torrington. For 29 seasons Heintz has been the Commissioner of the League that has fluctuated between 8-12 teams over the decades and this season has seven teams – Torrington, Terryville, Amenia, Waterbury, Litchfield, New Milford and the Northwest Connecticut Orioles.
Forever the organizer, Heintz never tires of doing it all. He has partnered up with former Torrington High and Torrington Rebel (Tri-State League) star, Scott Tucciarone, for more than a decade in running the Torrington team.
But the league stuff, organizing, scheduling, etc. is Heintz. He has seen teams come and go, fought for players, fought for use of the park which is also used by Tri-State, American Legion and the Torrington Titans summer collegiate team.
Heintz has never lost his passion nor his penchant for feistiness for the cause. Check out his website (torringtonconniemack.org). There is a section called `Coach’s Rant’ and he takes no prisoners.
Heintz goes after AAU teams which he refers to as `elitist’, blasts the city of Torrington for allowing alcohol at Titans’ games, has a less than flattering reference to the Titans and questions constantly changing rules regarding the bats being used. There is more, but you get the idea.
Check out some of his game summaries. Gentle like a bear in a bird feeder.
It is pure Heintz. He takes no prisoners, he offers no apologies. “You can agree or disagree but in the end I don’t care,” Heintz posts on his rants. One thing about Heintz, you don’t walk away wondering. But behind the bluster is the simple passion of a coach who has put in significant time and effort into a league and team he strongly believes in.
In the end it comes down to a summer night and the game between the lines. Heintz has won a couple of league titles with a program that constantly has had to compete with the Legion program for the city’s elite players. But it is more about the game and guys than the records.
The ones who come to his team usually stay with his team he says.
“They want to play baseball and have some fun and they don’t always get that other places,” he notes.
On this night an improving Terryville team, which Torrington mercy-ruled earlier in the season, gives his club all it can handle before bowing, 7-5. It is not a win that has Heintz doing handstands. He quietly bristles at the mental errors and `easy game’ attitude.
Again the passion. But, Heintz leaves the field happy. Because win or lose there is no place he would rather be on a summer night than on the baseball diamond. Particularly the one called Fuessenich Park. Since the mid 80s it has been a loveable home.
Much has changed in the last three-plus decades. Not Bill Heintz. He is still here, still passionate. Still ready to play ball.