NTID News – June 10, 2010
RIT/NTID Student Dylan Heuer, a Visual Media major, at Frontier Field shooting the Rochester Red Wings for his summer co-op. Photo by Mark Benjamin, NTID.
Dylan Heuer hopes his training this summer with the Rochester Red Wings will help move him up to the big leagues.
But he isn’t being scouted for his athletic ability. Heuer, 20, a fourth-year Visual Media major at RIT/NTID, is spending this summer working as team photographer for the Wings, the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
Baseball is in his blood. The infatuation began when he attended a baseball camp when he was 9 in his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. There, Heuer met players from the Iowa Cubs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. He maintained those contacts and in 2006 became a bat boy for the team. A year later, he moved up to the press box and compiled statistics for the team and provided images for the scoreboard. He even got to be bat boy four times for the Chicago Cubs.
Just the mention of the word “baseball” sets off a flood of emotions.
“There really are no words to describe my love for the game,” he says. “Baseball is life. It’s a great game. It’s fun. You never get tired of it. I can play baseball all day long if I want to and I can do it every day for the rest of my life and I still won’t get tired of it. I love the sight of the baseball field. It is the greatest place in the whole world for me. I love the smell of freshly mowed green grass on the field. I love the fresh chalk on the baselines, the white of the bases, the pine tar, the bats, the gloves, the mud on the baseball, the leather on the baseball, the seams on the baseball.I could hold a baseball in my hand all day and never put it down. Anything can happen in baseball. You never know what’s coming and that’s what I love about it. I simply just love the game. That’s it. I love it.”
Dreaming of baseball this past winter, Heuer looked at the Red Wings’ website and learned the team routinely has several college interns in the summer to help shoot video for broadcast on television or on the team website, make graphics for those productions, supply music for the fans or manage the scoreboards during the home games at Frontier Field.
“Dylan responded through our website for a production internship,” says Jeff Coltoniak, director of game day production for the Red Wings. “He mentioned his experience in Iowa right off the bat. That interested me because he already had an idea of what we do.”
Heuer emailed Coltoniak his portfolio of photos he had taken and Coltoniak set up an appointment to meet Heuer.
“I didn’t know he was deaf until my secretary said my appointment was here and did I know he was deaf,” Coltoniak says. “I didn’t know, but I didn’t feel sidetracked by it. After I showed Dylan around a little bit I could tell communication in a one-on-one setting wasn’t difficult. We only had to write something down a couple of times. But my mind was racing a little bit, how would he fit in to what we do here while at the same time, make it work for him to make sure he’d get a lot out of it?”
Any fears were soon dispelled. Heuer proved to be ambitious and motivated, and his work spoke for itself.
“He has met and exceeded any expectations I had for this season in terms of quality, variety and overall selection of photos,” Coltoniak says. “His work is really unmatched for any season I’ve been with the team. Dylan is a great baseball fan and has a great eye for the game. He knows the position he needs to be in to capture those photos. He has a sense for the team, who are our best players and how to best feature them in game action. The quality and variety of his work is unparalleled.”
Prior to his internship, Heuer gained photography experience as a photographer for the RIT Division I Men’s hockey team, which played in the Frozen Four.
“Sports photography is very hard to master. You have to be ready for the right moment. You have to anticipate what will happen. You have to know the sport very well,” he says. “A good picture is where I capture the moment, where I showed the true essence of the game and at the same time, show the emotion of the player while he’s doing it.”
Heuer says baseball is more difficult to shoot than hockey because it’s slower and you don’t know where or when the play will occur. “I can’t count the times I’ve focused my camera on one specific player, such as the shortstop because I think the action will happen there. But it never does.”
His best shots are posted on the team’s website. Sometimes they appear in print media, websites, magazines or even baseball cards. Heuer has started and posts some of his photos there as well.
Heuer became deaf when he was 7 months old due to meningitis; he received a cochlear implant when he was 3. Coltoniak admits he was concerned about Heuer’s safety on the field. “If foul balls or a bat was coming at him, it could be very dangerous,” he says. “But Dylan has an excellence sense of what’s going on and not put himself in danger.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been some close calls.
“Just this past week, I had my camera focused on the third baseman, so I was looking through my lens and I didn’t have my (cochlear implant) on because I like it to be off, it helps me to stay focused on the game,” Heuer says. “The batter hit a foul ball that went right past my head by about a foot or so and I didn’t hear the crack at all. The players were like, ‘Dude! The ball just went past your head! Didn’t you hear it?’ I was like, ‘No, I didn’t, I’m deaf!’ Then we both had a good laugh after that.”
Often Heuer reports to the stadium on game days early to watch the batting practice. During the game, he’s hard to keep up with because he doesn’t stay in one place very long. He can be in the dugout, along the first-base line, behind the netting behind home plate or up in the press box.
Along the way, he’s looking at the action on the field and spends a couple moments saying hello to the fans he recognizes, including friends and deaf fans he meets. He even chatted in sign language with Ryan Ketchner, a deaf pitcher from the Toledo Mud Hens when Toledo was in Rochester.
“He’s a very nice guy,” Heuer says of Ketchner. “We talked about the game of baseball, a little bit about Rochester and RIT and cochlear implants.”
Although Heuer is spending this summer where he loves – at the ball park – he’s setting his sights for the future: he wants to move to Minnesota after graduation and get a job with the Minnesota Twins as a photographer or graphic designer.
“I wish nothing but the best in the future for Dylan,” Coltoniak says. “I really hope he can meet his goals.”
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