By Melody Vallieu
Editor, Miami Valley Today
BOSTON, Mass. — A Piqua grad has found his field of dreams and wrote a book to share his journey to get there.
David Mellor, a 1981 Piqua High School graduate, recently released a book, “One Base at a Time,” a memoir that shares his struggles with PTSD and his storied career as a groundskeeper for the major leagues, now the senior director of grounds for the Boston Red Sox.
Mellor said his hope was to play professional baseball, following in his grandfather’s footsteps, who played in the major leagues.
“Not only to make it to the majors, but to stand on Fenway Park’s mound,” said Mellor, who lost his father when he was 3, but said his mother and brothers raised him to love baseball, specifically the Red Sox.
Those dreams would never be founded, however, because in 1981, Mellor, a star high school pitcher preparing for college, was struck by a vehicle in a McDonald’s parking lot, seriously damaging his knee — and his future baseball career.
In the days following, his family encouraged him to still find a career that he loved. Mellor as his career as a groundskeeper continued, Mellor was struck by yet another vehicle in the outfield of Milwaukee’s County Stadium while working on an overhaul of the field. He was later hit by yet a third vehicle.
“I think I’m the luckiest person in the world. I’ve have been hit by a car three times and figure that’s better than four. I’ve had 45 surgeries to date and figure that’s better than 46. I am a big believer in a positive attitude and using humor in my life,” Mellor said.
Following these incidents, Mellor said he suffered from anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks, eventually understanding he suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Mellor said he was working as an assistant superintendent of grounds for the Brewers, when in October 2000 the Cincinnati Reds called and offered him a job to be head groundskeeper to take care of the grass at Riverfront and eventually the Great American Ballpark. During negotiations, however, he got a call from Joe Money, head groundskeeper for the Red Sox for the previous 30 years, who was retiring and wanted Mellor to take the job.
Mellor would now get his day at the Red Sox mound, just in an alternate way.
Mellor and his family, which includes two daughters, moved to Boston and he started with the Red Sox in January 2001.
“My job is the next best thing to playing. All the best parts of my job is being behind the scenes and helping people create memories on the field, whether it’s through a baseball game, an extra event, or a one on one experience with someone on the field,” said Mellor, who has three other full-time employees and up to 50 seasonal employees. “I get goose bumps every day I walk out on the field. I’m honored and humbled to be one of the caretakers of Fenway Park.”
Mellor said he was inspired to write the book by his wife and oldest daughter. He said they asked if a similar book might of have helped him during his time of trials, and he said he thought it would.
”They said then why don’t you write your memoir and if it helps one person it’s worth sharing your story,” said Mellor, who now has a granddaughter. “They were actually hoping it would help at least me and helping others would be a bonus.
“I hope I’m not judged as the 18-year-old kid that got caught in the cycle of PTSD because he didn’t know what was happening or where to turn for help,” said Mellor, who also worked for the California Angels, San Francisco Giants and Green Bay Packers.
Mellor’s service dog, Drago, who he has had since 2014, also offers Mellor a source of comfort and beyond his family is his best friend. Mellor said Drago is well known at Fenway Park, spending only rain games in Mellor’s office.
The two were even featured on ESPN Sports Center’s “Dave and Drago,” in 2018.
“Building on that, our goal is to bring awareness to how powerful and life-changing service dogs are and to inspire people with hope,” Mellor said. “We all face challenges in our lives whether they are physical and/or emotional challenges. We humans, we all face struggles and life can be messy. What matters is the response to any given situation and the lessons learned along the way.
“We want to let people know that they’re not alone, that help is available and treatment works. It’s not about getting knocked down but about getting back up to make the most of your life. I used to think it was a sign of weakness to ask for help, but now I know it takes strength to ask for help and as a sign of courage. We want to help break the stigma of asking for help. Counseling has greatly improved my quality of life and the quality of my family’s life. I am proud to be a PTSD survivor.”
Mellor, whose book is available on Amazon, said he though his challenges, he truly has learned to live life on day at a time.
“I now take on my challenges ‘One Base at a Time.’ A baseball saying meaning don’t get ahead of yourself, keep your eye on the next objective.”