Trimming the field of dreams

Each afternoon and evening, athletes, fans and family take to the fields, courts and diamonds to indulge in a number of sporting events. Much praise is given to the players, coaches and managers, but little acknowledgement is given to the few who make it possible. For nearly a decade, Indian River’s custodial crew has been diligently working behind the scenes, day in and day out, to ensure safety, magnificence and appeal to not only the school grounds, but athletic fields as well.

Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton: Scott Kreiser rakes the diamond with IR’s make-shift rake. They rake the field to keep the dirt dry.Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton
Scott Kreiser rakes the diamond with IR’s make-shift rake. They rake the field to keep the dirt dry.

As Scott Kreiser, chief custodian since January, can confirm, operating a crew to oversee an entire school is not an easy task. When there’s field maintenance on top of that, it only serves to magnify the responsibility that much more. From fertilization and grass-cutting to painting and toothing, a multitude of tasks come with keeping the fields shipshape.

“Students see us around the school,” he said. “We have plenty to do inside the school, but tending to the competition fields is one of our responsibilities.”

Kreiser is accompanied by three others when it comes to looking after the fields: Paul Hudson, Tommy Burton and Jamell Harmon. Keeping the inside of the school clean and mowing the rest of the school grounds is among their lengthy agenda, but there’s something about a fresh-cut baseball outfield or a lush, neatly trimmed 50-yard line that makes spectators feel a little closer to the game.

“Managing time is hard,” he said. “All it takes is a little rain, and you’ll find yourself backed up.”

Caring for the fields was never a regulated task for the school’s employees until seven years ago, when former chief custodian Brad Wharton made it part of his responsibility.

“He’s the one who really got it started,” he said. “The fields wouldn’t look as nice as they do if it weren’t for him. He deserves a lot of the credit.”

The fall and spring sports seasons typically beckon Kreiser and his crew outside, although sports fans will find them tidying up at the conclusion of a wrestling match or basketball game in the winter, too.

During the football season, lines are painted every Thursday or Friday before the games. Homecoming games call for more elaborate paint jobs, with checkerboard features in the end zones.

Foul lines on the diamonds are touched up roughly every other week, though cutting the grass is usually done every three to four days. The grass is fertilized every two months to ensure the familiar green hue will welcome the athletes each game.

At the end of each season, the fields are reseeded, too. When cycling through a list of tasks each day, it will ensure that there’s always something to touch up, inspect or improve.

Toothing is a method of caring for the infields on baseball and softball diamonds. A tractor pulling a makeshift rake is used to help dry the dirt quickly in the infield. A specific depth for the teeth is set, based on the dirt’s texture and wetness. They are then screen-dried to help smooth out the dirt.

“We take pride in what these fields look like, and we enjoy it,” Kreiser said. “Some of us even have a little side job in grass cutting. We all enjoy watching the games, too. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s also very rewarding.”