From Cadwell to Dodger Stadium: Mitchell grad heads MLB grounds crew
As a summer worker for the Mitchell Parks and Recreation department, Jordan Lorenz didn't plan on preparing baseball fields for a living.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Lorenz worked on Cadwell Park and Mitchell's other baseball, softball and soccer fields for the city during summers while in high school and college.
"It was a fun summer job," Lorenz recalled. "I didn't have any expectations that I'd continue to do that."
Little did he know, nearly 20 years after first started working on baseball fields in Mitchell, Lorenz would be putting the final touches on one of Major League Baseball's most iconic baseball stadiums.
On Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted the San Diego Padres in their home opener, where Lorenz is in his 12th year working with the Dodgers' grounds crew, but his first as the man in charge of each inch of the playing surface. The 1998 Mitchell High School graduate officially took over as the Dodgers' Assistant Director of Stadium Operations, Grounds, which is the organization's official title for him.
"I oversee the maintenance of the field. Anything inside the walls of the field," Lorenz told The Daily Republic on the night before Opening Day. "Opening Day is the big event of the season to start. Gearing up from zero to one of the biggest event is always a big undertaking not only for us, but the whole stadium."
Dodger Stadium, opened in 1962, is the third oldest continually used park in the MLB, only trailing Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. It is carved into the hillside of Chavez Ravine and overlooking downtown Los Angeles to the south and the San Gabriel mountains to the north.
While the stadium has hosted 20 World Series games, the 1980 All-State, 1984 Olympic Games baseball and the 2009 and 2017 World Baseball Classic, Lorenz has the same mindset as he had when working on Cadwell Park.
"In the big scheme of things, it's still getting a baseball field playing as well as you would like it for the players," Lorenz said. "It's similar in that regard, the spotlight is more on us with 50,000 people in the stands and TV."
And while keeping the playing field in the best possible shape for baseball games in Lorenz's main focus, Dodger Stadium hosts much more than baseball games.
"There's a lot that goes into it that isn't just baseball," Lorenz said. "There's a lot of concerts and when there's not a baseball game going on, there's something else going on. It's pretty nonstop."
South Dakota to California
Lorenz's route from Mitchell to Los Angeles is rather straightforward. After high school, he attended South Dakota State University, where he started studying engineering and geography, before graduating with a degree in horticulture in late 2003. Lorenz said he thought he'd start working on golf courses, but he landed an internship with Milwaukee Brewers for the 2004 season and hasn't left the MLB level since.
"I really had no expectations until I worked for the Brewers for a year," said Lorenz, who worked with five other interns that summer. "After that, I wanted to keep doing this."
After finishing his time with the Brewers, a full time position with the Dodgers opened up and Lorenz got the job and moved to California. By 2009, he became the assistant to the head groundskeeper before being promoted to the top position this year.
"I'm a huge baseball fan and always have been," said Lorenz, who added he stopped playing the game as a seventh-grader. "I have a great seat to watch all the games. We (the grounds crew) take it for granted, but Dodger Stadium is our office."
Lorenz's parents, Robert and Jeanne, still live in Mitchell as do both of Lorenz's grandmothers. He made it back for Christmas in December and adds that's when he usually tries to return home as he's plenty busy during the spring, summer and fall.
Now accustomed to Los Angeles' friendly climate, Lorenz said he enjoys every day of work. His 2017 season started earlier as Dodger Stadium hosted games for the World Baseball Classic, including the championship game where the United States defeated Puerto Rico in front of 51,565 fans on March 22.
"It was a really cool atmosphere, a different crowd from Dodger games and for us, it just moved our timeline up three weeks," Lorenz said about the WBC. "We were in a lot better position for Opening Day because of that."
With the Dodgers scheduled to play 80-plus games at Dodger Stadium, Lorenz and his crew have plenty of work ahead of them. The bounce of the ball on the field may determine whether the Dodgers seal the National League pennant or the NL West division title. But the thrill of that pressure doesn't bother Lorenz, who still remembers where he learned the game.
"It's pretty easy for the people in Mitchell to take for granted how nice not just Cadwell, but all those baseball and soccer fields are compared to people in the other parts of the country," Lorenz said. "The smaller playing fields around L.A. are not great compared to what Cadwell was like when I worked there."