As a kid growing up in Thomasville, N.C., Seth Hibbett never traveled north of West Virginia. But that’s not to say he wasn’t familiar with the terrain when he landed a job as a groundskeeper for the Boston Red Sox.
Hibbett knows baseball, having played regularly as a kid. And Hibbett, who graduated from NC State earlier this year with a degree in turfgrass science, understands what it takes to maintain the grounds for an athletic facility. Hibbett worked on the golf courses at Pinehurst Resort while he was in school at NC State, and had done an internship with the Red Sox.
“The big difference is a baseball field is an acre-and-a-half, two acres, tops, whereas a golf courses has 100s of acres of grass and turf and bunkers to maintain,” he asays. “A major league baseball fields involves a lot of fine-tuning of things.”
But, Hibbett says, “the basic principles are going to be about the same.”
Hibbett was surprised to see how small Fenway Park was when he first arrived in Boston. “It’s very personal,” he says. “It has a lot of history to it. It’s a very cool park.”
Hibbett’s duties range from mowing the grass in the outfield to fixing the dirt on the mound. But he spends the majority of his time – as much as 90 percent of his days – working on the dirt in the infield, around home plate and on the mound. “We are making sure that they are up to specifications and that the moisture is right,” he says.
Some pitchers, he says, ask them to make specific modifications to the mound on the days they pitch. But he says that they typically try to keep the field and the dirt the same from game to game.
Hibbett’s work is typically done before the game begins, with a part-time crew coming in to handle anything needed during the game. So Hibbett is often not there when the Red Sox play. When he does stick around, Hibbett sits along the first-base side about halfway down the line — a similar view to those in ground level seats at $200 a ticket.
“Seeing players that you’ve kind of known about your whole life, seeing them in person, it’s very surreal,” he says. “It’s pretty cool.”
Hibbett says he was not a fan of any particular team growing up as a kid, but that his loyalties are with the Red Sox now. And he likes their chances as the postseason approaches.
“I think the Red Sox will make a real shot at the World Series,” he says. “They have a deep, consistent roster and a solid rotation.”