Sherry preparing pristine field for O's opener
Head groundskeeper putting in long hours leading up to game
ST. PETERSBURG -- Nicole Sherry has had a lot of sleepless nights lately. Baltimore's head groundskeeper, Sherry and her staff have been working for nearly a month to get Oriole Park at Camden Yards into impeccable shape for the O's home opener Monday afternoon.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure it's 100 percent to the Orioles' satisfaction when they get back from Florida," said Sherry, who will arrive at the field around 6 a.m. ET on Monday and work nonstop until first pitch at 3:05 p.m.
Heading into her fifth Opening Day, Sherry said the bulk of the early weather-related work -- making sure the infield soil and outfield grass are up to snuff -- is done. The Opening Day pattern and O's logo are ready, with the crew down to just the finishing touches.
Still, despite the hours of preparation, the grounds crew is largely at the mercy of Mother Nature, which -- according to Accuweather.com -- is taking a turn for the positive, with early weather reports calling for clouds and a high of 79 degrees.
Initial forecasts had hinted at the possibility of precipitation in Baltimore, an ominous report that conjured up memories of a wet -- and much colder -- Opening Day in 2003.
Sherry, serving as then assistant groundskeeper, remembers coming in that morning to discover frozen rain had left a sheet of pure ice over the tarp that had been laid out the previous night. The Orioles' grounds crew spent the majority of the morning chopping up little pieces of the frozen rainwater until they were able to remove the tarp.
The setback was hectic and stressful, but the crew's efforts were successful. Despite a 13-minute snow delay early in the game, the O's got in their home opener, ultimately upending the Indians in 13 innings.
"I relive that day over and over in my head as we approach every season," said Sherry, who is the second woman to be heads groundskeeper of a Major League team. "I'm a little nervous if [the weather] calls for snow showers."
But once Orioles starter Jake Arrieta takes the mound, following the O's traditional orange-carpet introductions, no one is more at ease than Sherry, who is just as excited as the rest of Baltimore for baseball season to begin.
"After the first pitch I can kind of relax, because it's all out of my hands," she said. "It's in the players' hands at the point. And in the end, hopefully it can be an Opening Day we will remember with a win."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.