FIELD OF DREAMS

Softball applauds extra teammate

The basketball term “sixth man” refers to the team’s best substitute, and football’s 12th man is associated with the home team’s boisterous crowd.

However, the Saluki softball team has a 10th man, and his name is Scott Wright.

Wright is the team’s groundskeeper. His job is to repair softball field damages after practices or games along with watering, rechalking and ensuring its sand is smooth. He has worked as a maintenance laborer in the physical plant department, has been a university employee for 14 years and has served as softball’s groundskeeper for five.

Before he took the groundskeeping job, Wright worked as a campus tree-trimmer and landscaper. He said he didn’t know if groundskeeping was the right job for him, but he loved it after the second day.

He said he fell in love with groundskeeping because he could see his contributions to the softball team.

“When I came over here, I knew I was going to have an opportunity to leave my fingerprint on something,” he said.

Scott Wright prepares the softball field before a game. Wright said he takes pride in keeping the field playable and likes being able to see his contributions. Lynnette Oostmeyer

Scott Wright prepares the softball field before a game. Wright said he takes pride in keeping the field playable and likes being able to see his contributions.                        Lynnette Oostmeyer-Daily Egyptian

Although he prides himself in keeping the field playable, Wright said his job is no easy task.

“When you have a softball team that’s out practicing just like the baseball players do, you know they’re going to tear up the field,” he said. “It is one heck of a challenge to figure out a way to keep this field pristine throughout the entire season and not just the first two weeks.”

He said there are very few things people can do to the field that he can’t fix.

Wright plays a key role in the softball team’s success, which is something Coach Kerri Blaylock said she doesn’t take lightly.

“He’s our 10th man,” Blaylock said. “At this time of year, if you’re not outside, you’re getting behind everybody else, so he’s greatly important.”

Blaylock said she and Wright discuss ways to prepare the field every day, and they get along very well.

“At times on the weekend or at night, I’m calling him and I’m sure his wife is wondering, ‘What’s coach Blaylock doing calling?’ but we have a great relationship,” she said.

Wright said maintaining a great relationship with coaches and players is to becoming a great groundskeeper.

“If I am doing something to the field that the players and coaches don’t like, and if they don’t tell me, I won’t know,” Wright said. “Having a great relationship with players and coaches is invaluable.”

Senior outfielder Michelle Bradley said she has been close with Wright since her freshman year and said she appreciates Wright’s dedication to the softball field.

“He’s out here every day,” Bradley said. He’s out here all the time making sure our grass is always good and I’m an outfielder, so for the grass to be molded all the time is something you never see.”

Wright said being a groundskeeper is a lifestyle that calls for long hours, and is not for everyone.

He said he works from 4 a.m. to at least 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. every day.

“On a rainy weekend, it’s pretty common for me to be here at about 3:30 in the morning to get started,” he said.

Wright said he works hard to keep the Salukis’ softball field looking as good as possible, and his hard work is getting noticed throughout the Missouri Valley Conference. He said his most memorable moment was last year’s MVC tournament.

“Last year when we hosted the Missouri Valley Tournament, the games were televised and both the umpires and television crew told me it was the most well-run tournament that they had ever officiated or ever worked in their careers,” he said. “That was the highlight for me.”

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