INDIANAPOLIS — The lawn is everything.
This simple, four-word guiding principle is drilled into the minds and actions of every member of the grounds crew working for the Indianapolis Indians minor league baseball team.
At the start of every season, the two dozen crew members — anywhere from five to 12 work a game — are reminded to walk on the dirt track surrounding the field.
Don’t tread on the lawn.
When the crew waters the infield dirt before each game — to prevent dust from flying into players’ eyes — the hose is draped across shoulders so it doesn’t drag on the ground.
After each game, the crew rakes the edge of the grass to brush away dirt that has flipped from players’ cleats or flown from wild slides into bases.
Nothing — garden tools, bags of calcite, your feet — is to touch the grass except, of course, for the huge tarp that protects the grass from rain.
“There’s a saying that grass grows by the inch and dies by the foot,” said Joey Stevenson, head groundskeeper for the team.
Stevenson, 29, has been named two years in a row as Sports Turf Manager of the Year for Triple A fields by the Sports Turf Managers Association. Stevenson and assistant Joey Gerking teach interns and crew workers to respect the short, finely manicured Kentucky bluegrass.
Stevenson is married. He and his wife, Shelbi, have two dogs and live in Fishers.
At their wedding, guests were bemused to walk in and see a 4-foot wide strip of sod in the aisle. It had been freshly watered shortly before the wedding party proceeded to the front. Visitors were greeted at the door with a sign that read, “Keep off the grass.”
Stevenson first toured Victory Field as a student in turfgrass science at Purdue University. He gained a deeper philosophy about fields when interning with the Philadelphia Phillies. He has worked at Indianapolis’ scenic ballpark since 2007.