[Editor: This post was submitted by loyal Nation member Nick Elam. Nick is in his tenth season as a part-time member of the Reds ground crew after making the jump from the Dayton Dragons. Nick describes his specialties as baseline area preparation and eating sunflower seeds. Thanks, Nick! ]
On April 7, Doug Gallant, who has served as the only head groundskeeper during the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ modern grass era (Cinergy Field in 2001 and 2002, and Great American Ball Park since its inaugural 2003 season), will move on from life in The Show.
For the past 14 seasons, Doug has been the best in the business. Members of the Reds, members of visiting teams, fans, and other interested parties regularly compliment the condition of the Great American Ball Park field. GABP has seen only nine postponements among its nearly 1000 games hosted. Over the years, GABP has also evolved from a ballpark to a full entertainment venue, hosting special events big and small Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which is only possible because Doug always capably prepares the field in advance of the event, and restores the field to playing condition afterward. These feats donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen by accident; they happen because Doug is also the hardest-working groundskeeper in the business. While many MLB head groundskeepers work either the day or night shift, Doug works every shift there is, often leaving the ballpark Ã¢â‚¬â€œ if he leaves the ballpark Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 16, 17, 18 hours after he arrived.
I met Doug on a January afternoon in 2006 – one of those many instances when he was faithfully tending an otherwise quiet and lonely ballpark. After a brief job interview and tour around GABP, he welcomed me as a part-time member of his grounds crew. Soon after, I became part of a tight-knit group who enjoy baseball (without making the mistake of being overly sentimental about it) and camaraderie (definitely without being overly sentimental about that), all following a tone established by a boss who is sneaky funny, always caring, and never overly sentimental himself.
Shortly after the start of that season, the grounds crew was asked to, um, expand its repertoire, and dance to the Village PeopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“YMCAÃ¢â‚¬Â while dragging the infield after the 6th inning of select games. Many of us on the grounds crew had little dignity to spare, and we feared we would lose what dignity remained by dancing in front of tens of thousands of fans. Colin, a former grounds crew great, recalls that Doug sensed our unease, and before our initial foray, Doug grabbed a drag and led us out to show that he wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let us do anything that he wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do himself.
Doug has been there for us in many other ways. He has seen many of the long-time grounds crew members grow up, get married (and witnessed the event firsthand), and start a family (as far as I know, he has not witnessed this event firsthand). He has helped a number of aspiring groundskeepers launch and advance their career, and his legacy will be maintained in part by several of those proteges who have entered the turf management field.
J-Bone, a nine-year grounds crew veteran, puts it best when he says Doug is a Ã¢â‚¬Å“great boss, and an even better man.Ã¢â‚¬Â For many of us, DougÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s legacy will simply be his understated thoughtfulness. He has always been accommodating and understanding when life events and circumstances affect grounds crew members. He worked to ensure the grounds crew was able to enjoy occasional unexpected gestures to acknowledge our hard work Ã¢â‚¬â€œ even though he was always the last to enjoy such gestures himself. When a special event or impending weather system would necessitate groundskeeping long after the final out of a Reds game, Doug would often allow part-time workers (who had arrived at the ballpark long after he did) to head home, while he and his top assistants (including Jon Phelps, Derrik Grubbs, and Robbie Dworkin Ã¢â‚¬â€œ some of the hardest-working gents around) closed up shop.
These are just a few of the reasons weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve come to respect our Sodfather so much. And these are just a few of the reasons heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be missed so much. But weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re happy Doug is seizing a well-earned opportunity to spend more time with his own family, and to grow his own turf management business. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a first-ballot Reds Hall of Famer, for sure.