T's turf manager happily toils in anonymity
WLOS - Baseball fields take a beating year-round. McCormick Field, home of the Asheville Tourists, hosts 70+ minor league games a year in addition to the occasional college or high school match-up. The man in charge of making sure the surface is ready for each of those competitions is Matt Dierdorff. Entering his fifth year with the T's, Dierdorff works on the field year-round but doesn't seek praise for the fruits of his labor. "I guess it's my personality," he sighed on the morning before Asheville's home opener. "I don't need to be thanked, I don't need to be praised or anything. It's a good fit."
The stakes are higher, however, when the home team plays. The Tourists are all professional players under contract with the Colorado Rockies, so their health is a main priority. "The number one priority is to make it safe," Dierdorff explained. "Everything else plays second fiddle to that, even the aesthetics. If it's not safe it all eventually comes back on me if somebody gets seriously hurt."
To keep the field in peak condition, Dierdorff and his small staff mow the outfield and infield every day during the season, except the occasional Sunday early afternoon game. They also water down the infield several times a day and ensure the warning track around the field is smooth and divot-free. "It's pretty amazing how water works," remarked Dierdorff. "The weight and the pressure of the water pushing down on the clay [in the infield] will actually pack it down."
The Pennsylvania native's journey in baseball, which includes stops in Trenton and Lancaster, actually began on the golf course. After spending three years on a greens staff at a country club, Dierdorff went back to school at Rutgers University. He majored in Turf Management, which required an internship. "So I figured I'd give baseball a try," he laughed. His first season in professional ball was 2008.
Despite a decade of dirt, water, grass, and spray paint Dierdoff still loves coming to the ballpark every day. "It's nice being out here on weekends when you're by yourself. It's pretty peaceful out here." Fans always seem to pause for a split second as soon as they walk out into full view of the field. The greens are greener, the brown dirt cuts a perfect contrast, and the white lines accentuate the whole picture with a rigid assertion. Even though he's the artist behind the masterpiece, Dierdorff even has to stop and soak it in at times.
"This is probably cheesy, but after we get everything ready for the game I'll go up by the press box and take a quick picture," he grinned. "It's just to remind myself that that's the endgame."