From any of the 12,230 seats, the Indianapolis skyline just beyond center-field is vibrant with city lights. But the manicured green lawn, mowed in a crisscross pattern before every home stand, lures spectators’ eyes back to the field.
The lawn is everything.
“The other thing they’re lucky with — they’ve got good sun and air movement,” said Cale Bigelow, associate professor of agronomy at Purdue University. “Some stadiums, they don’t have that luxury. They might have high walls or shade patterns but Joey’s got a nice environment to grow grass.”
Bigelow finds summer interns for the Indians. The interns, working though the university’s Department of Agronomy, are aiming for a bachelor’s degree from Purdue’s College of Agriculture where they take such classes as turf irrigation and weed science.
The number of students signing up for turf studies boomed in the affluent 1980s when more golf courses and city parks began cropping up. Back then, there were more than 80 in the Purdue program. Today's austere economy has halved enrollment. Most students grew up playing sports but they may not know, at 19 or 20, if the sacred fields of their youth will become their future office space.
Matt Dudley, 20, of Muncie, is Purdue’s intern this year at Victory Field. He played baseball for Wapahani High School in Selma, and worked at a golf course last summer but he isn’t sure he’ll seek a career in turf work.
He reports to work by 9 a.m. and stays after midnight when there are night games.
“When the team’s away it’s not a demanding job but when the team’s in town, it’s a lot busier,” he said. “Doing the long home stands, when you gotta go 11 straight games and you go on five hours of sleep, it gets a little rough after awhile but you kinda get used of it.”