The Red Sox offered Zacary Baladenski an internship, and since March, he has worked as a part of the grounds crew at the venerable baseball stadium.
The next time there is a Boston Red Sox game televised from Fenway Park, take notice of a bearded young man tending to the pitcher’s mound.
That young man is Zacary Baladenski, a 2014 Paris High School graduate.
Baladenski is living his field of dreams this summer as an intern for the Red Sox. The internship is connected to his associate degree program at the Technical College of Missouri in Linn, Mo., where Baladenski is pursuing studies in commercial turf and grounds, with a focus on sports turf management. He will be a sophomore this fall.
Baladenski heard about the internship through a professor — and decided to apply.
“It was last winter, around Christmas time,” he said. “I was really surprised…happy, but surprised.”
The Red Sox offered him an internship, and since March, he has worked as a part of the grounds crew at the venerable baseball stadium, with the famous Green Monster (37 feet, 2 inches) wall in left field. Fenway Park, opened in 1912, is history. Baseball legends have played for the Red Sox – among them a very young Babe Ruth, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk and the legendary Ted Williams, the last player to hit for an over .400 average in Major League Baseball – a record that has stood since 1941 when he hit .406.
The days are tough. He is sometimes called in at 4 a.m. and finishes work often in the wee hours of the morning following a night game. His primary job on game day is to ensure that the mound is world-class. Flawless. Dirt evenly distributed. No holes. Perfectly maintained. Baladenski and the ground crew also prepare the field for concerts and other special events.
But it is the pitcher’s mound that puts him on display.
“I can work from six hours to 16 hours – and more. There are high expectations,” he said. “It is not glamorous, but I have learned so much while working here.”
While working at Fenway Park, there is no rubbing shoulders with the players as staff members have a no contact rule – no autographs or chit chat. After all, the ballpark is the office for professional baseball players.
“We are not supposed to bother them…but a lot of the players will say hello to you,” he said.
Baladenski did not take a straight route to college out of high school. He spent time laying bricks and working on highway construction before deciding to attend the Technical College of Missouri.
He credits his high school baseball coach, Michael Fible, with sparking an interest in turf management. Baladenski did not play baseball until late in his high school years, and he wonders what could have been. He spent a lot of time with Fible learning the game and taking care of the field.
“I learned so much from Coach Fible,” Baladenski said. “I helped him maintain the field – sometimes very early in the morning and on Saturdays. That got me going for turf management.”
Fible, who left Paris High School this summer for an administrative job with Linn Community School, says he is not surprised with Baladenski’s achievements.
“I wish he had come out for baseball earlier, but he was a quick learner and for better as he played,” Fible said. “Zac is hard worker…he wanted to learn about how we managed the baseball field.”
Occasionally during this intense internship, Baladenski, the graduate of Paris RII Schools, stops to take in the atmosphere of Fenway Park.
“It is so hard to believe when I look around,” he said. “Fenway Park. Never in my dreams.”