By Chris Sourk
When people come to a baseball game, they come to watch the game and enjoy the atmosphere, especially at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. However, one could easily take for granted the field that the players play on, especially at CommunityAmerica Ballpark where we’ve come to expect an incredible looking playing surface.
The main man responsible for how the field looks and plays is head groundskeeper Glen Aveson, along with his four-man crew. And while a casual fan may take such a task for granted, the T-Bones organization does not, as they recently named Aveson the club’s Employee of the Month.
On being named Employee of the Month, Aveson, who is quick to deflect all praise and direct it toward the entire grounds crew, said, “It was a nice honor and I’m very thankful. I have to give all of the credit to the front office staff, ownership and my crew for their support in allowing me to do my job to the best of my abilities.”
While he was in college, Aveson had aspirations of being a coach. He landed a coaching job at his alma mater, the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan., where he had been a player. While coaching at Saint Mary, though, he accepted an internship with the T-Bones grounds crew as a way to gain more understanding of how to manage a field.
“As a coach at a small-level college,” Aveson said, “you have to know how to take care of your own facilities.”
Aveson took that knowledge of working on the field and facilities back to his coaching job at St. Mary’s. Everything changed when the T-Bones called him three years later with the offer of becoming their head groundskeeper. It didn’t take long to accept the job.
“Coaching got put to the side and now I’m the heads groundskeeper,” said Aveson.
A normal day for Aveson and his crew of four consists of “a lot of dirt maintenance,” but there is much more that he and his crew do to get the field prepared for play.
“We mow the field every game day, fix up the bullpens, and even rake the warning track and get the trash off of it,” he said. “Post-game, we do the bulk of major field prep including the mound and plate, so the clay stays moist and doesn’t dry out on us during the day. We clean up the dirt and get the dirt off the grass, really clean it up and make it easier for the next day.”
Aveson and his crew are among the first people to the ballpark and the last to leave, and he credits his crew for their help and willingness to work as the keys to everything getting done.
“My crew this year has been absolutely phenomenal. It really helps out when we are on the same page all the time” said Aveson. “Being an intern out here and learning the dedication that it takes and the hours you have to put in, I was really able to communicate that through the interview process with these interns and really pick out guys that I thought would be dedicated. These guys have been willing to wake up at 3:00 in the morning to pull a tarp, working 14-15 hour days when the team is in town. They’re guys that don’t complain and just get straight to work.”
While the long days can take a toll, Aveson finds find his job as rewarding as any.
“The rewarding part is knowing that the players like the surface they’re playing on. It looks good for the fans, but if it looks good and plays bad it’s not something that we want,” says Aveson. “As long as the players are happy and the coaches are happy then that’s where the satisfaction comes from, being able to get that first pitch underway, and then sit back and watch them play on a smooth surface is the greatest satisfaction.”
With this summer’s hot and dry weather, Aveson and his crew have been dealt a challenge with maintaining the field’s grass.
“Obviously with the summer we have been having, keeping the grass going and keeping it green is always a challenge,” said Aveson, who added that when it comes to the grass, they have to be careful about using the tarp. “The tarp can promote disease. You can’t just throw it on and take it off whenever.”
With the always changing weather in the state of Kansas, Aveson and his crew constantly keep an eye on the radar for storms that are brewing near the stadium.
“It’s just about trying to understand the radar,” Aveson said. “There’s no real science besides just trying to make a call with the resources that you have. Storms at this time of the year seem to have a mind of their own.”
Aveson is truly thankful for the support of the front office in all areas, and he couldn’t be more appreciative.
“The front office staff is absolutely supportive,” he said. “It makes it much easier to know that they are going to be there for you. And it goes in all aspects; this front office is a team. Everyone is there to help each other. They need something from me, I’m there, and vice versa.”
Aveson enjoys his work as head groundskeeper, and he couldn’t be happier working with the T-Bones. One day, though, perhaps he’ll get back into coaching.
Aveson says, “I’m very happy with where I’m at and maybe one day it’ll work out to do both.”