It's hard for a baseball fan not to be in awe of a good ballpark.
"You walk out here and this is what you see," said Andrew Warcken, of Brooklyn Park, as he gestures to the stands, the lights, and the infield of Target Field. "The first time I came in here, I took a picture and just stood here and soaked it all in."
When Warcken saw Target Field for the first time, it was covered in snow as fresh as the paint on the stands. Target Field was brand new and it had a brand new grounds crew to go with it.
"I've always been a baseball fan," said Warcken. "There was a job posting online one night and on a whim I filled it out."
Warcken had very little landscaping or groundskeeping background, but grounds crew supervisor Larry DiVito said Warcken had a good attitude that's been an asset to the crew.
"He's great to have around because he lifts everyone else up," said DiVito. "We bring these guys in and they do small jobs to start. Our hope is that over time those who stick with it have the aptitude to take on more and more."
A member of the crew
In the three seasons since the Twins have played in Target Field, grounds crew jobs have been competitive with little turnover. Having a job at the heart of Twins baseball might be coveted, but it is by no means easy.
"Anything you do or don't do right shows up on camera," said DiVito. "The higher up you go, like on the third deck, you can pick more things out. A lot of what we do is the perception of players, but then there's perception of the public. So we're managing two different things. Players looking at ball roll, ball bounce, consistency of dirt, and how the field feels and plays. We worry about the players first and then asthetic side."
Keeping the field pristine
Andrew Warcken is originally from North Dakota, but he's called Brooklyn Park home for the last several years. His schedule as a stay-at-home dad allows Warcken to work 40 to 45 home games a year.
"We try to make it look like whether its your first or fifteenth game, it looks the same exactly whenever time you show up," said Warcken.
When Warcken arrives at the field, he reports to the breakroom behind the bullpen to get his assignment. The assignments rotate through a variety of duties like manning the foul lines for baseballs during the game to watering the field to moving the batting practice cages on and off the field before the game.
"You get a wide range of work, so you aren't stuck with the same job everytime," said Warcken.
Warcken enjoys interacting with the crowd and fans, like when he can hand a foul ball to a fan or when he can help a child change out bases at the end of the fifth inning. His favorite job, however, happens when the weather turns foul.
"Tarp running is fun," grins Warcken. "[The tarp] is heavy, but when you have 13–14 people pushing it it's nice workout. We try to cover the field in under a minute."
Some of the more meticulous duties require grounds crew members to pick up sunflower seeds that players have spit out or to scoop up the white dirt that makes up the foul line after the game.
"I think the fans appreciate what we do," said Warcken. "I'll do it until I can't. I'm paid to watch baseball and I couldn't ask for a better gig."
Shannon Slatton, reporting
Wednesday, May 16, 2012