Last Thursday, the Portland Sea Dogs had their first game of the season. It was a sunny, but frigid evening, but the stands were full and the team was ready. The field looked like any other baseball field: four white plates, neatly mowed grass, the geography of the game a tidy perfection. Rick Anderson has worked as the head groundskeeper for 20 years, and it’s not simple work making the field game-ready for all 142 games. It takes weeks to clear the snow from the field each spring. It requires the entire Hadlock Field’s staff to pull the 180 square foot tarp across the field when it rains. Anderson and his team paint each base with special white paint, shape the pitcher’s mount according to regulations, and ready the field for each game and practice.
Before the field became what it is, Anderson was growing up just yards away in housing complex for Parks and Recreation employees. His childhood home was torn down years ago to make room for more sports (an ice-skating complex), but he returns to his home turf everyday. His work is this field, and I imagine its grass and clay and dirt work their molecules under his fingernails and onto the soles of his shoes, the proof of hard work in servitude of the game.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR JOB.
Well, basically, it’s readying the field for games, as far as making sure everything is safe and pretty aesthetically it looks good. We always work the mound daily with the clay. We mow daily. We prep bullpens, we drag the infield dirt and we do all the maintenance on the turf like fertilizing. We have an irrigation system that we monitor the water levels. We pretty much do that all daily. We are making sure the playability is the best it can possibly be. We’re at a high standard. They have big investments with the ball players, so we have to be right on. We certainly don’t want anyone to get hurt due to a groundskeeper error. We are very technical and we keep on top of everything all day, every day. But you know, we take a lot of pride in what we do. It’s just enjoyable to be working in this type of atmosphere.
TELL ME ABOUT WHERE YOU GREW UP.
I grew up approximately 50 yards from this ballpark. My dad was in the Park and Rec business for many years and the house went along with it, we maintained the greenhouses as well. It’s just funny that I ended up 50 yards from where I grew up. The park complex is gone and there’s an ice arena where it was.
IS BASEBALL IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I just like the game. It’s just a fun game. Baseball people are good people. It’s a lot of strategy involved. Just the raw talent that you see. That’s what I get out of it. Seeing the players come through and move through the system is very exciting. I say we work with the players because we’re here everyday. And just to see the advancement and make their goal. And to think, hopefully, I might have been a part of that.
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU WALK ON THE FIELD EVERYDAY?
It’s a good feeling, just being outside. And you really feel like you are part of the team. There’s nothing better than after we’ve done all our work and we overlook all we’ve done, it’s like a painter with a raw canvas and when you are all done, you look and think, “This is what we achieved.” And it’s beautiful.
HAVE THERE BEEN SPECIAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS WITH THIS JOB?
I think one of the biggest accomplishments with this job is when we have to deal with the snow. Unfortunately we had to do several snow removals. And it’s very difficult because you have to be careful. You don’t want to do any damage because you don’t have time to repair the damage. It’s very tedious. Where do we put the snow? There’s no place to put it. So we literally have a couple of snow blowers and we take it out a bucket at a time. It’s like trying to move the sand from Mount Desert, Maine with a teaspoon. It takes a few weeks to get it ready for the opener.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Work-wise, it’s achieving the most playable conditions you can accomplish for the players. Life-wise, obviously, it’s my family. It’s tough for them, because doing this for 20 years, you give up your summers. They have to be patient and put up with a lot. Thank God I have a great family. And that’s most important to me.
WHAT LESSON ARE YOU LEARNING, OR HAVE YOU LEARNED RECENTLY?
One of the lessons, I would say, it’s just keep up with your people skills. Work together and be positive. There’s so much going on in the world, you don’t need any more negativities. And I like to interact with people and keep everything on a positive note. It’s very important to me to communicate and communicate well. And just people in general, treat them well.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Keeping my family happy and healthy and spending time with them. Try to do the best you can and provide and have good relationships with your kids and wife. That’s where I’m at.