HOW DO YOU JUGGLE YOUR HOME LIFE WITH WORKING LONG HOURS?
“When it comes to the 70-hour (or more) weeks, when you really chop it up, are we busting our tails the entire 70 hours? No. But we’re on call — when all hell breaks loose, you turn into a first responder. You turn into the guy that 7,000 people in the stands are looking at and saying, ‘You can’t get that ready. That’s standing water, you can’t play on that!’ You feed off that and the next thing you know, your eyes roll back into your head like a shark and you make it happen. Then you come home and see your family. That’s what makes it worth it.” – Jake Holloway, Single-A Greensboro (North Carolina) Grasshoppers
“Make the most of your time off. Even if it’s just for one day, or an afternoon. Do something with your family that you all enjoy. Trust in your crew members’ training and delegate tasks that free up time for you to focus on other things. If you’re having issues, talk to your supervisor and others in the turf industry to help find a solution.” – Britt Barry, Single-A Dayton (Ohio) Dragons
“Trust your staff. We have many events when our team is on the road. I try to never work these events and trust my staff to handle any additional dates. Most of our crew are paid by the hour, so if we get them extra hours and pay, it’s a win-win. Luckily, I have a very supportive family in the summer months who enjoy baseball and dinners at the ballpark.” – Anthony DeFeo, CSFM Double-A Tennessee Smokies
WHY IS THE MILB SPORTS TURF COMMUNITY SO CLOSE-KNIT?
“The turf community around here is close. We let each other know of problems we have. We’re likely to lend a hand when it’s needed. We’ve had a Triple-A groundskeeper meeting at STMA the last two years. It’s a good group of guys.” – Cameron Brendle, Triple-A Durham (North Carolina) Bulls
“We are a very tight-knight group — I guess birds of a feather flock together. I think social media has brought our community closer together. I can remember when I first started, only knowing the groundskeepers that were in my league, or close to the stadium I worked in. Now, with social media, I can get to know other groundskeepers nationwide. Although many times we talk shop, more of the conversations are therapy sessions.” – Anthony DeFeo, CSFM Double-A Tennessee Smokies
“A fraternity is the best way to put what being a groundskeeper is, especially in MiLB/MLB. Sharing ideas and experiences is very beneficial, and crucial, to the industry. It ensures that we’re all trying to better ourselves and others. I enjoy talking with and sharing with other groundskeepers, because even though we do the same job, we all do it differently. We can pick up tricks to improve our operations.” – Kelly Rensel, Single-A Great Lakes (Michigan) Loons
“Everyone knows the grind we’re in… it’s comforting knowing that whatever issue I’m dealing with, others have also faced it and will have several different ideas to successfully overcome it.” – Britt Barry | Single-A Dayton (Ohio) Dragons
COMPLETE THIS SENTENCE: “BEING AN MILB HEAD GROUNDSKEEPER IS…”
“Very demanding — of your body, your time and mentally. But there’s no greater reward than completing a project, getting the whole place dialed-in and seeing your finished product. You become very invested in your field.” – Michael Huie, Triple-A Tacoma (Washington) Rainiers
“According to my wife, it’s all about the look on your face after the first day you’re able to get out on your field after the winter is over.” – Chris Walsh, Double-A Akron (Ohio) RubberDucks
“The best career I’ll ever have.” – Kelly Rensel, Single-A Great Lakes (Michigan) Loons
HOW DO YOU WORK WITH VENDORS AT YOUR OPERATION?
“The vendor-head groundskeeper relationship is important for two reasons. One is that it’s important to find suppliers that believe in your vision and are willing to work with you. The second thing we look for is a company that’s going to support the team. I’m looking for ways to stretch the budget. One way to do this is by getting assistance from vendors. It could be as simple as them buying shirts for our crew and sponsoring field days. Every little bit helps.” – Anthony DeFeo, CSFM Double-A Tennessee Smokies
“Everyone’s always welcome. Usually about three months before the season I pick who my dirt guy is going to be, who my fertilizer guy is going to be and who my equipment guy is going to be. Sometimes one company can do more than one of these. I’m always open to have someone come in; I lend my ear to anybody and I keep everybody in mind. I keep a good relationship with everyone that comes through my door.” – Tyler Lenz, Double-A Midland (Texas) RockHounds
HOW DO YOU GET AND HANG ONTO GOOD STAFF?
“The pay isn’t great. People come to interview and I offer what I can. They say they can get more from a golf course. Once you get people, what do you do to entice them to stay? You try to give them a couple days off, or be flexible in giving time off. Ever since I lost my assistant, I’ve been doing it with three or four guys that have been with me for almost seven years. It’s hard to find people. You make the best of it.” – Michael Morvay, Single-A Lakewood (New Jersey) BlueClaws
“Being in MiLB, assistants go on to further their careers and the kids you hire for the summer move on in life. So, you’re put into a position every so often of having to start over — the older you get, it seems to be a different process every time. I’ve been able to hire and retain good employees from year to year. I look to recruit people who are enthusiastic and eager to learn, regardless of experience, and aren’t just there for free baseball and a tan. Retaining good employees is a delicate balance, as you become like a family. I try to make an environment where it’s not all about work. We get our jobs done, but we have a good time as well. Cookouts, darts, food trucks, basketball games and festivals are just a few of the things we do together during the long season.” – Chris Walsh, Double-A Akron (Ohio) RubberDucks
“We all work together really closely. When new guys come in, we try and communicate and have teaching moments. We go out to eat one night a week. We go to a Carolina Hurricanes NHL game to show our appreciation for all the hard work they do. We just try to keep the crew sane during the crazy hours.” – Cameron Brendle, Triple-A Durham (North Carolina) Bulls
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE WHO IS JUST STARTING WITH AN MILB ORGANIZATION?
“I would tell them to be prepared for the long hours and that you’re not going to get paid $100,000 a year. I’d also tell them to be open and willing to learn and to take advice and constructive criticism.” – Michael Morvay, Single-A Lakewood (New Jersey) BlueClaws
“Get a game plan together and clearly communicate it with your superiors.” – Kelly Rensel, Single-A Great Lakes (Michigan) Loons
WHAT DO YOU WISH SOMEONE TOLD YOU WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED IN MILB?
“My first head groundskeeper position was with the Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps. I learned a lot since those days — through both just gaining experience and by networking with other groundskeepers. One thing that I battled with there was keeping the right moisture in the skin while still being able to work on it. That all comes down to your conditioner levels. Over the past years, I’ve learned what a major impact working conditioners into the soil profile can have on getting through rainy games — and even getting that even flood coat on during postgame.” – Michael Huie, Triple-A Tacoma (Washington) Rainiers
“Nothing prepares someone for their first season in MiLB. I didn’t know how strenuous it would be, not only mentally but physically. It’s a grind. It gets to you. It was a shock at first, but once the season got done, I said, “That was pretty fun, let’s do it again next year!” – Tyler Lenz, Double-A Midland (Texas) RockHounds