Destination Career: Win or lose, his work is always a victory
By Angela Hoffman
Victory Field may be home to the Indianapolis Indians, but Joey Stevenson claims the field as his turf. The 2006 Purdue turf science graduate is Victory Field's head groundskeeper.
Photo provided by Joey Stevenson
Joey Stevenson (left), who earned a bachelor's degree in turf science in 2006, looks out on Victory Field in Indianapolis where he is the head groundskeeper.
"To me, standing and working on a baseball field doesn't compare to any other turf-related job. On game nights when all your work pays off and we are watering the infield skin and there are 14,000 people in the stands, the national anthem is playing, the players are warming up, and the lights are on — you just can't find that anywhere else," said Stevenson.
He first started working with turf at age 15 when he got a job at a golf course. At Purdue, Stevenson wanted to continue his education in turf science, but after a visit to Indianapolis' Victory Field as a college freshman, Stevenson found his passion lies in the ground around a baseball diamond. The level of effort, funding and drive for perfection were the major factors that led Stevenson away from golf turf management and onto the baseball field.
"Victory Field is known as the best minor league ballpark," said Stevenson. "With that in mind, I knew I wanted to learn and work for a quality organization." As a student, he sought out opportunities to develop his skills in the sports turf field. Stevenson worked as an intern for two Major League Baseball teams: the Kansas City Royals and Philadelphia Phillies. From these internships, Stevenson had an opportunity to network with individuals who led him to the position he holds today.
Now, Stevenson is responsible for maintaining premium playing conditions and projecting perfection. He uses the hands-on experience from his internships and knowledge from his degree to maintain Victory Field. "It is my goal to have the field look and play the same as it did on the first game all the way through to the 75th game of the season," said Stevenson.
Having the opportunity to see a lot of quality baseball is one of the perks of the job, but it comes at a price. Stevenson and his crew put in 14-hour workdays for every one of the Indians' 75 home games. "It's almost because you don't feel like you're really at work," said Stevenson. "The bulk of the work is done during the day and once the game begins, our job turns to fun."
Stevenson's game day "fun" involves dragging the infield during the third and sixth innings, taking a dinner break and preparing for post game. Stevenson said he finds true satisfaction in watching how the field plays and looks. He explained that working with his crew is just like working with eight of his friends, which is "icing on the cake."
But those 14-hour days can get even longer if rain is in the forecast. The crew's work can actually start the day before, watching weather reports and spreading the tarp over the field for the night and back again early the next morning to analyze the situation.
He is also responsible for applying the proper types and amounts of fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides to the field. To double check himself before applying fertilizer, Stevenson said he still refers to his school notes. Stevenson stays busy on non-game days spraying, irrigating, mowing and performing many other tasks which are all vital to maintaining consistent grass production.
Despite what some would call late nights, tough decisions and persistent daily care, Stevenson enjoys claiming Victory Field as his turf.