Marcus Campbell combines a career with his love
Marty Seeger|Staff writer
ST. PAUL, Minn. – If there’s a way to combine a lifelong career with a passion for baseball, 2011 St. Croix Falls graduate Marcus Campbell appears to have found it. The former Saint was recently hired as the head groundskeeper at CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints baseball team.
“It’s exciting to be able to step in, especially with the Saints, with how well known they are and it’s a beautiful ballpark, so I’m super excited about this opportunity,” Campbell said. His young career path began at UW-River Falls, where he studied horticulture for a year before transferring to the University of Minnesota – Crookston.
Campbell also played baseball for Crookston but was fully preparing himself for a future career in turf management. He spent time working at golf courses but it wasn’t as much fun as being on the baseball field, and he was able to get a position with the St. Paul Saints when the new CHS Field first opened in 2015.
During the late summer of 2016, and into the spring of 2017, Campbell got connected with the Baltimore Orioles spring training camp in Sarasota, Florida. While there he worked on rebuilding pitching mounds and general maintenance around the spring training stadium. But it also provided him with a chance to be around some of the biggest names in baseball.
“Just being around professional ballplayers like that all the time, it was pretty fun.”
Along with the spring training games, the area also hosted the World Baseball Classic, and Campbell was able to to sit in the dugout with the defending champion Dominican Republic team, which featured as many as eight Major League All-Stars. Some of those names included Adrian Beltre, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and Gregory Polanco, to name a few.
Campbell said he was impressed with how big many of the players were, and how down-to-earth they were. He got to chat a bit, in passing, with Manny Machado.
“It was interesting to see someone the same age as you but excels so well at baseball and everything. So it was pretty fun to see those guys and be a part of it.”
Campbell was also able to see how much goes into preparing a field for a game and the general operations. The grounds crew alone included around 16-20 employees. By comparison, the St. Paul Saints employ four on the grounds crew, including Campbell, so breaking into the business is highly competitive. It’s also a lot of work, but worth it in the end.
“It’s a lot of manual labor, but I think it kind of pays off in the end to be able to be around baseball all the time,” Campbell said.
During the summer season, Campbell said most days begin at around 8 a.m., and may not end until 11 p.m.
“It gets to be pretty long days especially for long home stands. But it’s enjoyable just to be around baseball and you really don’t think about the hours.”
Even during the offseason, Campbell and his crew remain busy, from small projects around the stadium to ordering supplies and snow removal. This winter has been particularly busy with removing snow. More recently, Campbell said they were busy tearing down a large superslide, which was constructed inside the stadium for winter sledding on an inner tube. The St. Paul Saints are well-known for their sometimes over-the-top promotional ideas, a big part of what draws large crowds throughout the summer.
The stadium is also the home of the Hamline University baseball team, and Campbell is busy preparing for games scheduled in early April, weather pending. But it won’t be long, and it will start to feel like baseball again.
“The atmosphere is probably the best part of the job. Just being around the game all the time,” said Campbell, who regularly sits in the dugout along with the players during games. Mostly to keep an eye on the field conditions and hear from players to determine what needs improving.
And there’s no shortage of talent in the dugout. Many of the players are college-aged athletes who may not have been drafted right away or picked up by another club. Some have already played professional baseball and are playing out their careers with the Saints.
“There’s a lot more that goes on here besides baseball so it’s a really good, family-fun atmosphere.”