The groundskeeper — While grooming the infield at Hammond Stadium during a typical 54-hour week, George Toma mentions the highlights on his resume. Every single Super Bowl, 36 Pro Bowl Games, three Olympics, and 42 years as head groundskeeper for the Kansas City A's, Royals and Chiefs. But the Minnesota Twins' groundskeeper would rather talk about how George Brett walked an extra 15 feet away from third base to spit his tobacco on the dirt instead of the Astroturf. Or the time he curled up and slept in Chipper Jones's locker after he had turfed 13,500 yards of sod in 24 hours before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He flips through his interactions with legendary players: Ted Williams, Ozzie Smith, and Roger Clemens. Then he meditates on the great groundskeepers: Phillip 'P.J' Boutwell, Terry Slawson and Smokey Olson, to name a few. The 5-foot-4-inch, 77-year-old Pennsylvanian from a family of coal miners manicures the dirt on a baseball diamond with the control of a Zen master. If the visiting team steals too many bases, Toma will soften it up to slow them down. He'll even add sharp granulated sand to grind a slide into second base to a halt. He tips the baseline edges to encourage bunts to roll fair or foul, customizes toe holes for specific hitters in the batter's box, and — depending on which team has a pitcher who throws sinkers — tweaks the hardness of the dirt in front of home plate to control the ball's bounce into the infield. He's so good at what he does that Mickey Mantle, who had bad knees, became irritated at him for keeping center field too 'hard,' and George Steinbrenner accused him of manipulating the pitching mound to throw off Jim 'Catfish' Hunter's game. Pelé, the legendary soccer player, said that Toma provided him with one of the best fields he ever played on. 'Do the job, and then some,' Toma says. 'It's the 'and then some' that distinguishes the mediocre from the great.' Published March 13, 2006

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI, Daily News

The groundskeeper — While grooming the infield at Hammond Stadium during a typical 54-hour week, George Toma mentions the highlights on his resume. Every single Super Bowl, 36 Pro Bowl Games, three Olympics, and 42 years as head groundskeeper for the Kansas City A's, Royals and Chiefs. But the Minnesota Twins' groundskeeper would rather talk about how George Brett walked an extra 15 feet away from third base to spit his tobacco on the dirt instead of the Astroturf. Or the time he curled up and slept in Chipper Jones's locker after he had turfed 13,500 yards of sod in 24 hours before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He flips through his interactions with legendary players: Ted Williams, Ozzie Smith, and Roger Clemens. Then he meditates on the great groundskeepers: Phillip "P.J" Boutwell, Terry Slawson and Smokey Olson, to name a few. The 5-foot-4-inch, 77-year-old Pennsylvanian from a family of coal miners manicures the dirt on a baseball diamond with the control of a Zen master. If the visiting team steals too many bases, Toma will soften it up to slow them down. He'll even add sharp granulated sand to grind a slide into second base to a halt. He tips the baseline edges to encourage bunts to roll fair or foul, customizes toe holes for specific hitters in the batter's box, and — depending on which team has a pitcher who throws sinkers — tweaks the hardness of the dirt in front of home plate to control the ball's bounce into the infield. He's so good at what he does that Mickey Mantle, who had bad knees, became irritated at him for keeping center field too "hard," and George Steinbrenner accused him of manipulating the pitching mound to throw off Jim "Catfish" Hunter's game. Pelé, the legendary soccer player, said that Toma provided him with one of the best fields he ever played on. "Do the job, and then some," Toma says. "It's the 'and then some' that distinguishes the mediocre from the great." Published March 13, 2006

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