SPORTS

Indy groundskeeper Joey Stevenson uses mower to make baseball field art

11/19/2014 02:50 EST | Updated 01/19/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Some use a paint brush or keyboard to create their vision. Joey Stevenson rides a lawn-mower.

The 31-year-old head groundskeeper for the Indianapolis Indians minor league baseball team is a three-time winner of the Class AAA Sports Turf Manager of the Year Award, presented by the Sports Turf Managers Association and Minor League Baseball.

He was also the inaugural winner of STMA's "Mowing Patterns Contest" in 2013.

Stevenson, who has not entered this year's competition, says his winning entry was a "typical mow pattern for us."

It looks far more intricate, requiring several different kinds of mower.

The one used for the tight diamond pattern in the infield is like a golf green mover, which cuts a pattern some 26 inches wide.

"It's just simple and crisp," said Stevenson. "And when the sun hits it right, it really makes it pop."

He says the most difficult part is the beginning. He picks a spot in the outfield and mows towards it.

"It's just a lot of practice," he said. "When I first started mowing, I guess back in high school, and trying to mow a straight line, I was God-awful at it. But practise and practise and you just get the hang of it."

In the outfield, he starts just behind second base and aims for the two light poles in left-centre and right-centre field.

All in all, it takes about 90 minutes to mow the whole field with one person on a big mower in the outfield and a second on the smaller infield machine.

"We call it the diamond cut," he said. "When you're standing at home plate it kind of looks like diamonds."

They do it every day that the minor-league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates is playing at home. When the team is away, they do it every other day.

Stevenson's crew changes the design every homestand.

His job is more than mowing, of course. He learned his skills at Purdue University's turfgrass science program and had internships with the Philadelphia Phillies and Kansas City Royals before joining the Indians.

Victory Field is a picturesque downtown ballpark that opened in 1996. It has 12,230 permanent stadium seats and room for approximately 2,000 fans in festival-style lawn seating in the outfield.

The STMA is the not-for-profit professional association for 2,600 men and women who manage sports fields, including Canada. It has a more traditional set of annual awards but opted to launch the mowing patterns contest for something a little different.

"We realized that a lot of our members are doing fun patterns, really unique mowing patterns," STMA CEO Kim Heck said from Lawrence, Kansas. "Our current awards program, that's not really a component or an element. So we decided to do something a lot easier and a lot more fun."

Instead of filling out the lengthy application for the normal awards, an STMA member can submit a mowing pattern entry through Facebook.

The 2013 contest drew 68 entries depicting work mostly on baseball fields although football, lacrosse, rugby and soccer fields were also represented.

More than 3,000 votes were cast by the public with 11,422 page views for the contest.

The patterns were done for game day, rather than specifically for the contest.

The deadline for entering this year's contest is midnight Nov. 21. The winner will be announced Dec. 2 and featured in a future issue of SportsTurf, STMA's official monthly publication. The winning design will also have a custom poster featured at the 2015 STMA Conference & Exhibition in January in Denver.

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