David Mellor’s road to Fenway began when his big league dreams were crushed by the bumper of a car outside a fastfood restaurant.
Just a month out of high school, Mellor was walking a McDonald’s when he was struck by a car entering the parking lot, and thrown 20 feet into one of the restaurant’s brick walls. The car then hit a handrail, pinning Mellor’s knee against the wall.
At 18, he had hoping to play baseball in college. But it would be two-and-half years before he could walk without crutches. His pitching days were done.
“When it first happened I was pretty mad at the world,” said Mellor, now 51. “But my family told me ‘You’ve got time to find a career you’re passionate about.’”
Mellor loved baseball, had enjoyed science classes in high school and had worked as landscaper mowing lawns during his youth. He loves the smell of fresh grass, even though he’s allergic to it. He would eventually enroll at Ohio State University, where he studied agronomy and landscape horticulture. From there, he would work for the Milwaukee Brewers grounds crew for 16 years. For the past 15 years, he’s been the director of grounds — the head groundskeeper — at Fenway Park.
When Mellor, who lives in the 495 suburbs with his wife and one of his two daughters — tells you he is the luckiest guy in the world, you believe him.
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“I still get goosebumps, every day,” he said.
Despite growing up in Piqua, Ohio, Mellor said he’s always been a Sox fan. His grandfather coached college baseball in New England, his father was born in Rhode Island and his mother and her brothers lived in Andover before moving to the Midwest.
During the season, his job is a seven days a week gig. “We’re dealing with a growing plant,” was how he explained it.
Wednesday found Mellor and his crew — he manages about 40 people during the season — preparing the grounds for the April 13th Opening Day. After the harshest winter in recent memory, signs of baseball — and spring — are everywhere at the park.
The growth blankets that prevent wind burn and reduce frost during the winter have been removed from the outfield. A handful of guys do a once-over the grass with leaf-blowers. The intent is to “fluff up” the sections of ground that were held down with pins that secured the blankets that covered the field during the winter. The season’s first cut of the grass will occur later in the day.
Fenway is starting to look as it will during the season, but there’s still much to be done. His staff still needs to laser grade the warning track. The tarps and insulation need to be removed from the infield. Where the field transitions from grass to clay needs to be manicured. Parts of the outfield need to be resodded. It’s a lot of meticulous, detail-oriented work, he said. He doesn’t seem to mind.
“One of the best parts of my job?” he asked, gesturing toward the field from the third base side stands Wednesday. “Helping people create memories out there.”