By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
CINCINNATI — Growing up, Patrick Gibboney dreamed of the day he would step out onto the lush grass of Great American Ballpark with the Cincinnati Reds’ iconic wishbone-C logo festooned upon his chest.
Through hard work and years of dedication, the Troy High School graduate has made that dream come true … sort of.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t living the dream,” Gibboney said. “As a little kid watching the Reds growing up, I always knew I wanted to be out on the field playing for them. Baseball was the No. 1 thing I loved growing up. When I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I realized this was the next-best thing.”
Gibboney may never have reached his ultimate childhood goal of playing for the Cincinnati Reds, but he has become, in fact, a key member of the Reds’ organization — and every time the Reds play within the friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, Gibboney is one of the first people on the field and one of the last to leave — as a member of the Reds’ ground crew.
Gibboney is one of a number of employees charged with making sure the Reds’ field is playable for every home game, putting in long hours maintaining the grass outfield and grass and dirt infield. He puts in long hours — but for Gibboney, it’s a dream come true.
“When the Reds are at home, I’ll work 12-15 hours a day,” Gibboney said. “Our day usually starts around 9-10 a.m., repairing the bullpens, patching holes in the field, putting down new Turface, watering and mowing. We’ll chalk the lines, water the warning track and make any major repairs that need to be done.
“When the Reds are on the road, I’ll usually work 2-3 hours a day. They still have a lot of events that take place there when the Reds are on the road. There are a lot of corporate events and things like that that take place there during road trips.”
Following his graduation from Troy High School in 2006, Gibboney began working for a landscaping company in New Carlisle. On a lark, he applied to be a part of the Dayton Dragons ground crew. He was hired there in 2008.
“I applied and they saw I had landscaping experience, so there hired me on.”
Gibboney would spend three years living in Troy and working for the Dragons before leaving for Columbus to attend The Ohio State University, where he majored in public relations. While in Columbus obtaining his degree, Gibboney would use his experience with the Dragons to get hired on to work with the Columbus Clippers’ grounds crew. He would spend three summers working for the Clippers before leaving Columbus and moving back home.
Soon after moving back to Troy, Gibboney took a leap of faith and decided to apply with the Reds.
“My girlfriend lives down in Cincinnati, so I knew I was moving down there to be with her anyway,” he said. “You’ve got to be around the lady. The only thing I really wanted to do was work for the Reds. On New Year’s Eve (of 2013), I applied for the Reds job as soon as they posted it.
“They called and asked if I could come down for an interview on a Tuesday. I remember because there was also a blizzard that day, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh geez … I’m going to be late for my interview.’ It took me an extra hour to get down there. I called them to let them know I was going to be late and they were OK with it. They told me there was no reason to kill myself getting down there.”
As it turned out, because of Gibboney’s extensive experience working with a pair of minor league grounds crews, the interview turned out to be little more than a formality, anyway.
“They basically told me, ‘We don’t have to train you; you can come in and start working for us this year. I was on Cloud Nine,” Gibboney said.
While working for the Reds, Gibboney has had the chance to meet the team’s entire roster — but said he doesn’t get too star-struck while working.
“To me, it’s a job,” he said. “I don’t really talk to them unless they talk to me. They are at work and I do not want to bother them. I try to be professional. But I’ve pretty much met all of them at one point or another. Sometimes they’ll talk to me — most of the time they want to know if it’s going to rain.”
And when it does start raining in Cincinnati, perhaps the hardest part of Gibboney’s job begins.
“If there’s rain in the forecast, we have to be ready to get the tarp on the field at the drop of a hat,” he said. “There’s no getting out of that. Pretty much everyone has to be ready for that. Pretty much the best way to describe it is running as fast as you possibly can while wearing a parachute. But it’s something you have to do. If we don’t get the tarp on in time and the field gets wet and they can’t play, the Reds lose millions of dollars because they can’t play.”
Gibboney’s work with the Reds is seasonal. When he’s not working for the Reds, he holds a number of other landscaping and maintenance jobs. He has a degree in public relations and still hopes to one day use that — but in the meantime, working for a Major League Baseball team hasn’t been a bad Plan B.
“I still want to do PR, and I know I’m good at it,” Gibboney said. “But I always knew I could fall back on labor, because I’m a hard worker. I work hard at everything I do.”
Which has paid off in a dream come true.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong