|Boston Clipper: Groundskeeper puts Fenway lawn on display|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 24 October 2007 13:25|
The Boston Red Sox groundskeeper's work is on display again this October, his gallery the lush grass of the Fenway Park infield. Using a combination of mowers and the spray from a hose to get each blade just right, Mellor has cut a 90-foot square Red Sox logo into the infield for the baseball playoffs and an eye-catching checkerboard into the outfield.
His designs, which he sketches out with the help of his two daughters, attract a lot of attention, and they landed him a book deal that allowed him to translate his techniques to the suburban lawn. But every good groundskeeper knows the real secret: You mow for show, but you rake for dough.
And when the World Series began on Wednesday night - even before that, during batting practice, in fact - Mellor watched nervously to make sure every hop was true and every step was sure.
``I don't want to see a bad hop - certainly for the Red Sox, but I don't want to see a bad hop for the other team, either,'' he said while Boston and the Colorado Rockies worked out on his lawn. ``Safety and playability are the first priority.''
The Yankees had their Clipper and the Red Sox have one, too.
The grandson of major leaguer Bill Mellor, who batted .361 in 10 games for the 1902 Baltimore Orioles, Dave Mellor also had hopes of playing ball. He was finishing high school, preparing for a Connie Mack tournament and weighing his options for Division I college ball, when he was hit by a car while walking into a McDonald's.
Thrown 20 feet in the air, he landed against a wall and was pinned there by an uprooted railing. ``If I had landed a couple inches the other way, it would have cut me in half,'' Mellor said.
There were seven operations for ``global instability'' in his knee - ``every ligament was gone,'' he said - followed by 2 1/2 years on crutches and another 10 months walking with a cane.
``I'm an 18-year-old kid, my dreams of being in the majors were gone. They were crushed,'' he said. ``My mom and brother said, 'Look at this as a detour, not as a roadblock. Use the recovery time to look at what you want to do.'''
Mellor decided that he still wanted to be in major league baseball, but he quickly figured out that the coaching ranks were monopolized by ex-big leaguers. He enrolled in the turfgrass science program at Ohio State and fertilized his schedule liberally: as many as 27 credits one quarter, to make up for the three years he had missed.
He interned with the San Francisco Giants before landing a job with the Brewers, spending 16 years in Milwaukee, eight of them also with the Green Bay Packers. When prominent Red Sox groundskeeper Joe Mooney decided to cut back his hours, he told the team to go after Mellor.
In Milwaukee, Mellor had 300 acres of parking lots to dump snow that is cleared from the field. In Boston, Mooney taught him to stack it 25 feet high in front of the 37-foot Green Monster, which absorbs heat and helps it melt.
Mellor has learned to deal with the challenges of the New England weather: grass here doesn't always last until Nov. 1, when the Red Sox would host the seventh game of the World Series. And Mellor isn't content to show off a verdant lawn.
It has to tell a story, too.
Mapping an outline with stakes and ropes, Mellor draws his plant pictures using 6-foot and 21-inch mowers to create a contrast between the dark and light sides of the blades of grass.
A No. 9 for Ted Williams' memorial. A Red Sox ``B.'' Checkerboards and spirals and stars.
As he looked out over his crew with pride before the first game of the Series, Mellor set aside for the moment his worries about bad hops and bad weather and realized that he had gotten what he wanted, after all.
``I realize now that even if I hadn't been injured I wouldn't have made it to this level,'' Mellor said. ``When certain things happen, you say, 'Why me?' But if I hadn't been hit by a car, I wouldn't be here now. I wouldn't have met my wife. I wouldn't have the family I have.
``It's a dream come true for me to be at this level.''