12/01/2010 9:46 AM -
They work through the sweltering heat, pouring rain and hurricane-force winds. They spend more time on the field than any ballplayer, yet they receive far less recognition. They turn cement, grass and dirt into a work of art. They are the Grops Crew.
A lot of work goes into a successful organization. People want a great value when it comes to tickets, concessions and entertainment. Of course, a winning team doesn’t hurt either. The Kansas City T-Bones offer all that and more, including a top-notch grounds crew and operations staff, more fondly known as the Grops Crew.
Fans don’t always pay attention to what these guys do. They don’t see the concourse get power-washed or the chalk lines get painted. They may not notice the bunting that hangs from the suites or the perfectly square lines in the outfield. Sometimes, they don’t even spot them raking the dirt in the fifth inning or cleaning up after a game.
Regardless, Director of Stadium Operations Rylan D. Brody (pictured, left) and Head Groundskeeper and Facilities Manager Joey Fitzgerald (pictured, right) work countless hours every week to ensure the T-Bones home is second to none.
Brody, Fitzgerald and Glen Aveson were returning members of the Grops Crew in 2010; but this year, there was an addition. After assisting the T-Bones with clubhouse duties in 2009, Nick Relic joined them. With this move, he now sees even more of what happens behind the scenes.
“The operations guys don’t get the credit they deserve,” Relic said. “They help out for batting practice setup and take down, raking the field in the fifth, tarp pulls - you name it.”
This season, and for the past three seasons, the Grops Crew has also had an additional task. The Kansas City Wizards soccer team played at CommunityAmerica Ballpark during that span, so the field had to be converted to accommodate each sport’s contests.
At one point during the 2010 season, the Grops Crew endured a 21-day stretch that involved four field conversions, and according to both Fitzgerald and Relic, the process takes about 30 hours each time. Fitzgerald and his crew would often be at the ballpark well into the early hours of the morning during the conversions.
Luckily, all this hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed. For back-to-back seasons, Fitzgerald and his crew have been honored with the Northern League Playing Surface of the Year award. And put rather simply, the honor could not be more deserved according to Fitzgerald’s co-workers.
“Joey is as good as it gets,” Relic said.
Through the sweltering heat, pouring rain and hurricane-force winds, these guys will be at the ballpark. Come watch them work. Come notice the details. Come see their masterpiece.