ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Opening Day of baseball is a lot of fun for most North Texans, especially those shedding responsibility and joining the action at the ballpark. But one group of Rangers fans have been handed a tremendous task that requires a little bit of patience and a very green thumb.
This is Matt Albright’s first year as a member of the Texas Rangers grounds crew, but he already understands the importance of his new job. “It’s Opening Day, it’s a big day,” he said Friday, just a few hours before the first pitch. “Gotta keep everything nice and make it look good for all the fans. Sell-out crowd. So, we gotta keep everything looking tip-top shape.”
Friday’s season opener against the Chicago White Sox will be Albright’s second game on duty, after being put to the test this past Tuesday night when the Rangers played an exhibition against the Mexico City Red Devils. The up-and-comer explained what it means to be part of the grounds crew. “We set up the field for batting practice before the game, and then during the game, we drag the field in the third and sixth innings to kind of help get the dirt ready again,” he said. “Then, after the game’s over, we clean up the field and put the tarps back to keep the field nice and tidy.”
And while some ballparks have switched to artificial surfaces, the players at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington step out onto real grass. “Best field in the league for sure, no doubt about it,” Albright said, clearly proud of his work.
A team of eight or nine full-time crewmen tend to the field year-round, making sure that it looks just as nice in January as it does in June. Additional crew members are hired for the season. “We mow the field every day,” Albright said. But only those full-timers get to ride the mowers. “I think it takes like a special degree to do all that stuff,” he jokingly added.
But it’s all hands on deck for Opening Day, making sure that the ballpark’s diamond is in the best possible shape for both the players and the fans. “It’s all before the game,” Albright explained. “Right now, we’re just trying to get the field ready and get the tarps clean, make sure everything looks nice.”
Managing the field is tough work, but even the grounds crew can’t help but enjoy the festival of Opening Day. “I’m pumped! I’m already enjoying the perks,” the Arlington resident said, as White Sox shortstop Alexi Ramirez practiced just a few yards away. “I get to chill out here and watch the guys hit balls all day. Not everyone can say that.”
Maintaining one of the biggest and best lawns in the country must make his home’s front yard feel like a simple ground ball, right? “It’s actually funny because I don’t do my yard at my house, my mom does,” Albright said. “But it looks nice!”
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