Teach Me: A day with Wilmington’s head groundskeeper [video]

You may not know Steve Gold, but chances are you’ve seen his work.

For the past 22 seasons, Gold–or Goldy as he’s known around the office–has been the head groundskeeper at Frawley Stadium, longtime home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Wedged between the Christina River and a heavily trafficked stretch of Interstate 95, Frawley may be the most visible minor league baseball stadium in the country.

“I think they said 80,000 cars a day go past,” Gold said. “And sometimes I get a text or voice mail from friends saying hey, field looks great. Or, sometimes you get a call or a text that says hey what’s going on on your field?”

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Just like the ballplayers for whom he preps the field, Gold’s triumphs and miscues happen in front of thousands. But you wouldn’t know it from his “aw-shucks” demeanor. Asked why he gravitated to grounds keeping, the soft-spoken Floridian gives the verbal equivalent of a shrug.

“There’s some beautiful buildings in downtown Wilmington, but I just couldn’t imagine sitting down at a desk all day,” Gold said. “Doing stuff like this, it makes me happy.”

And he’s been doing stuff like this for an awful long time.

At the young age of 10, Gold started wheeling a push mower around his neighborhood to make money. He was first introduced to grounds keeping via his mom, who worked at the Baseball City spring training complex in Central Florida. At first glimpse, he knew immediately what he wanted to do with his life.

“I saw those guys and their mowers and they were brand new,” Gold said. “And I said, man they could just keep on cutting grass all day long and it kinda made me wanna just get on there and start cutting grass.”

He joined his first grounds keeping crew at 15, as soon as he could legally hold a job. He’s been at it ever since.

“I couldn’t think of something else that I could be doing,” Gold explained. “This, this is it. That’s all I know.”

For Gold, the main attraction has never been the game. He’s a baseball fan, he says, but not a rabid one.

Instead Gold enjoys the freedom, the open air, and the handicraft that goes into grounds keeping. When he gets a night off during the season he’ll visit other fields–from the big leagues to the minors–and watch the grounds crew work. He hones in on their tools, keeping a close eye on the homemade contraptions many groundskeepers use to tame their fields.

“You have to be an innovator. And sometimes you have to make things,” Gold said. “In this industry I see a lot of people making some things to make their day go by or make that next game happen.”

In the video above you’ll see how Gold makes a typical game happen, from morning lawn care to night-time clean up. It’s a look inside the 16-hour days that Gold has been pulling since he was a teenager, and a peek at what it takes to maintain the sparkle on Wilmington’s roadside gem.

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