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FENWAY PARK INSIDER

Leaving it all on the field ...

A day in the life of the Fenway grounds crew

Editor's note: This is the third in a periodic series of articles and photo galleries bringing you an inside look at the Red Sox and Fenway Park. For more, check out the rail on the right of this article or the “Fenway insider” portion of the Red Sox Nation Fan Zone section on our Red Sox index.

You know that moment when you walk up the ramp to your seats at Fenway and the whole special place comes into view? That wide immaculate green of the outfield grass, the crisp red dirt of the infield, the sharp white foul lines. No matter how many games you’ve been to, it’s that little boy/little girl moment of your first game all over again.

Well, thank David Mellor, Charles Brunetti, and the grounds crew for keeping Fenway the picturesque park that it is. Everything at Fenway from the seats in is in the hands of the 35 guys (yeah, they all happen to be guys) who mow, sweep, water, rake, fertilize, paint, and in other ways keep this “lyric little bandbox” of a baseball park looking as pretty as it does.

Mellor had tended Lambeau Field for the Packers, and baseball parks for the Angels, Brewers, and Giants, before coming here four years ago. “There is definitely a special aura because it’s Fenway,” he says. “I still get goosebumps lots of times when I walk on the field.” He grew up “a Red Sox fanatic” and was working toward a pro baseball career before a car accident wrecked his knee after high school. “I loved baseball, I loved mowing lawns, I loved science. What I do now is the next best thing to actually playing the game.”

Mellor followed the legendary groundskeeper Joe Mooney and immediately made his mark, literally, with his artistry at mowing various patterns into the grass; the Red Sox logo, a jack-o-lantern, cool geometric patterns. They did an American flag after 9/11, the number 9 after Ted Williams died. “We have fun with the aesthetics,” he says.

(The trick to “lawn art” is using a roller to bend different areas of the grass in different directions, so the pattern shows up because each section reflects light differently. OK Sox fans, now go try to put your favorite player’s number in your lawn at home! And using Bill Mueller, number 11, is cheating. Too easy.)

But they have to change the pattern every several days, for the same reason the grounds crew does most of what they do at Fenway. “What comes first, always, is playability and safety,” Mellor says. Turns out that crushing the grass down in the same pattern all the time would affect how the ball rolls. So how they mow, how they rake the infield dirt (they call it “the skin”), what they use to paint the foul lines, the meticulousness with which they pick up any tiny pebble or stone that could cause a bad bounce ... a huge amount of effort goes into making Fenway play well along with making it look good.   Continued...

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Boston.com correspondent David Roepik lifts the curtain and sheds light on the inner-workings of one of baseball’s oldest ballparks.
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