Alumni & Friends
From his seat near the visitors’ dugout at Target Field, Larry DiVito (B.A.,’ 93) gets a close-up view of conditions that go unnoticed by the average baseball fan.
DiVito, the head groundskeeper for Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins, notes nuances in the game that tell him if the mound is too hard, the infield grass is too high or there is too much moisture on the infield dirt. He monitors up-to-the minute weather conditions and communicates with umpires. He is also watching player body language — the true key, he says, to understanding his field’s performance on a given night.
In professional baseball, where the average salary in 2012 was $3.4 million, the grass length can be the difference between a hit and an out, and a bad bounce can decide a game. It’s DiVito’s job to make sure things run smoothly. and when they don’t, it’s his job to fix it.
“I’m building an on-going mental notebook on how the ball is playing, how it’s bouncing, whether the players are comfortable or not,” he says.
The team doesn’t often complain, he says, but variables like the length of the grass, the outfield pattern and how much the infield has been watered before a game are comfort issues for players. If a pitcher thought the mound was too hard during a game, DiVito, who has worked for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, already knows.
“By watching the game, I like to say I’m a step ahead of problems,” DiVito says.
DiVito is part of an elite fraternity of head groundskeepers in Major League Baseball responsible for maintaining the two acres of grass in baseball’s summer cathedrals. The Redwood City native has always been into baseball. He played two seasons at Foothill College before coaching and catching the grounds-keeping bug at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He transferred to SF State to earn his degree in urban studies and sociology.
“Learning to interact and communicate with people from diverse backgrounds is very important in my line of work,” he says. “The time I spent at San Francisco State was beneficial to me later on as a manager when I directed crews in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.”
After graduating, DiVito moved to the East Coast where he landed a job with the Pawtucket Red Sox. He stayed seven years before moving to the big leagues with the Dodgers, and then on to the Washington Nationals where he stayed until 2010 when the Twins moved from the Metrodome to Target Field.
In Minneapolis, DiVito deals with all kinds of variables from troubleshooting how to clear five inches of snow off two acres of playing surface in March to handling the effects of thunderstorms in the summer. But on nights where the weather is calm and the field is pristine, DiVito can enjoy the game he loves from one of the best seats in the stadium.
“As long as guys are making good plays and the footing is good and the ball bounces the way I want it to,” he says, “watching infielders make plays is enough satisfaction for me.”
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