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02/04/09 5:30 PM EST
Twins tab DiVito as groundskeeper
Team created position with move to outdoor Target Field in '10
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Twins hired their first and only head groundskeeper for Metropolitan Stadium back in 1961, it came as a result of the entire franchise moving to Minnesota from Washington, D.C.
Almost 40 years later, as the team prepares to return to outdoor baseball in 2010, the Twins looked back to the nation's capital to find the man who will make sure the new playing surface is among the league's best.
The Twins announced Wednesday that they hired Larry DiVito to be the head groundskeeper at Target Field. DiVito comes to Minnesota after having spent the last three years as the Nationals' head groundskeeper.
"This looked to me like another great opportunity to build a field and really put down some roots and start fresh with a new team," DiVito said. "I've heard a lot about the quality of life here in Minnesota. I think it's going to be a great place to live and I'm very excited about it."
DiVito's hiring comes after the Twins had gone nearly 20 years without a heads groundskeeper due to their move inside the Metrodome. There is plenty of excitement in Minnesota for the return to outdoor baseball, and DiVito is looking forward to playing such a large role in that transition.
"Just like the players, the guys working on the field feed off the enthusiasm of the fans," DiVito said. "It's always nice when people are pumped up to be at a new ballpark, and I think that's going to be especially true here in Minnesota as fans get to be back outside again."
The Twins received over 150 applications for the opening of heads groundkeeper before narrowing the search down to 10 finalists, and then finally selecting DiVito.
DiVito will be entering his 15th year in professional baseball in 2009. Prior to taking the job with the Nationals in '06, he worked as the grounds crew supervisor for the Los Angeles Dodgers for four seasons. He began his career in professional baseball in 1995, when he took over as head groundskeeper for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox in Rhode Island.
Building a field in a new ballpark is nothing new for DiVito either. He helped the Nationals open up their new ballpark in 2008.
This will be a slightly different experience though, DiVito said, since the Twins have gone so long without playing on a grass field. Part of his responsibilities will be to hire an entire grounds crew while also procuring new equipment for the ballpark.
"I think that was a big thing about the job that appealed to me," DiVito said. "We did that to a degree here in Washington, in that we moved into a new field this year. But I wasn't really starting from scratch like I will be in Minnesota."
But unlike in Washington, DiVito also won't have to worry about the maintenance of one field while he helps to build a new one. The Metrodome has a small staff to oversee the Fieldturf and convert the field to its football setup, but none of the maintenance is the responsibility of the Twins. So DiVito can turn his attention completely to the building of the playing surface at Target Field.
"The great thing here is I have the opportunity to be focused on the details of the field design and planning this spring," he said. "And in the summer during the construction phase, I'll be there to oversee that, as well."
Target Field's grass, a Kentucky bluegrass hybrid, is currently being grown on a Colorado sod farm in subsoil that's nearly identical to its downtown Minneapolis destination. The plan is to have the grass transported to Target Field in August, when it will be planted in time for it to take hold before the cold weather arrives.
As for the weather challenges that he's bound to endure during the early months with an open roof stadium, DiVito said he already has some experience with that thanks to his seven seasons in Pawtucket, where he saw his share of snow.
Target Field will certainly provide some advantages that DiVito didn't have in Pawtucket to help get the field ready for play. That includes a state-of-the-art drainage system underneath the field, as well as a state-of-the-art heating system. Still, DiVito knows that like every other outdoor ballpark in northern climate, those early months won't be easy.
"It's going to be a great challenge, but one that I'm looking for to taking on," DiVito said.