A Day in the Life of Work: Field of Dreams

The secret behind a level playing field at Fenway? Try kitty litter and rubber-tire crumbs.

David R. Mellor

41
Director of Grounds
Fenway Park
Boston, Massachusetts

Baseball runs in the family. My grandfather played in 1902 for Baltimore, and in high school, I hoped to play in the majors. Then a month after graduation, I got hit by a car. My baseball career was over. But in physical therapy, I thought about how I loved being outside, how I grew up taking care of people's lawns, and how I loved baseball. I decided to study horticulture and agronomy and become a groundskeeper.

To take care of the park you grew up worshipping is almost indescribable. During the season, I get up at 4:45 a.m. to check the weather. I'm at the park by 6:30. I spend a lot of time walking the field, looking for dry spots or stressed areas. I keep a log of trouble spots and what we've done about them.

You can't rely on what you learned in a textbook. You have to be creative. In high-traffic areas, where players stand in the outfield, we use rubber crumbs from recycled tires. They cushion the grass so it can take wear and tear. I use green sand and fresh clippings to hide imperfections and pregerminated seeds to make the grass grow faster. We learn how to trick Mother Nature.

When I came to work for the Red Sox in 2001, Joe Mooney, the previous director of grounds, told me that when it rained hard, the Charles River overflowed. The dugouts and camera pits flooded, and sometimes fish washed out onto the field. I thought he was kidding. Then the Saturday before opening day, we got 3 inches overnight. Sure enough, there were eight bass on the field.

After a downpour, my crew uses anything from a pitchfork to help drain and aerate the field to kitty litter to absorb the water. During last fall's playoffs, we even brought in a helicopter to hover above the ground. Whatever it takes, that's what I do. It's just constant problem solving.

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