30 Seconds with Phillies Groundskeeper Mike Boekholder
Meet the man responsible for keeping the Citizens Bank Park field in tip-top shape.
Mike Boekholder, director of field operations
Mike Boekholder has worked as the Phillies head groundskeeper for 14 years and has been a Delawarean just as long. In mid-February, the Middletown resident discussed sod, Chase Utley and hosing around with the Phanatic.
Are you a delegator, or are you still out there pulling tarps and cutting grass?
Oh, I still help pull tarp. I still do all the watering on the infield. I do some mowing—not as much as I used to. I used to mow every day. It got to the point where I wasn’t able to dedicate two hours every day to get out there. When you’ve got a pattern on the field, you can’t just let somebody else jump on the mower. So I had to give it up.
I love the Phanatic, but he just rips around on the field with that ATV. Does he ever tear up the grass?
Not too bad. One of the first things we did when we moved over here [from Veterans Stadium to Citizens Bank Park] was we had to change the tires on the Quad Runner. He’s got more of a regular tire on there instead of a knobby tire that you normally see on an ATV. That pretty much gives him the ability to drive around without doing too much to us.
Have you ever had a run-in with the Phanatic?
He messed with our hose a couple years ago during pre-game. I just turned around and sprayed him in the face, and that was the last time he ever grabbed the hose.
That’s like taking someone’s hat, right? You just don’t mess with someone’s hose.
We’re in the middle of pre-game. We’re on the clock. We only have so much time, and he’s back there messing around. It’s funny, I’ll admit. But I told him, “Keep messing with the hose and you’re going to get hosed.” And he did. He said, “I can’t see.” I said, “That’s kind of the idea.”
Your office window in the right-field corner overlooks the field. Do you watch the games from there?
I’ll watch the game. Keep an eye on the weather. Work on bills that need to be paid. Catch up on paperwork. A lot of times I’ll sit on the couch. I’ve got a TV hanging on the wall down there. So a lot of times I’ll watch the game on the television. It is a little strange, but, oh, well.
Has the ball ever smacked the glass and scared you?
Oh, it happens all the time. A lot of times our pitchers will throw balls at it during batting practice just because they see me sitting there—especially in ’08-’09, when we had a lot of [characters] on the team. They thought it was funny.
That is pretty funny.
When Chase was playing for us, if he didn’t like something about the infield during batting practice, he’d just turn around at second base and throw a baseball at my window. He may not hit it on the first try, but he’d usually whack it sooner or later. I’d look out there, and he’d just be standing there staring at me. I’m like, OK, I get it.
How’s the team looking this season?
We’ve got some good, young guys coming up. I think we’re getting to where it’s going to be a pretty exciting time again. We do have some really, really good quality young talent that I think has the potential to do some cool things here in Philadelphia. I think the next couple years, our fans are going to be pretty happy with the product that we’re seeing out there on the field and the level of success that we’re going to have as an organization again.