DENVER — “When one door closes, another opens,” or so the saying goes.
Brenden Matthias has found this to be true, and he couldn’t be more thankful.
Matthias will graduate in March from Hawkeye Community College with a degree in landscape and turf management. A former pitcher on the Iowa Central Community College baseball team, a torn labrum ended his playing career. After surgery, he says, he was never the same.
He enrolled at Wartburg College in Waverly in the fall of 2017, majoring in political science. He played infield for the Knights, but it wasn’t a good fit, he said.
Meanwhile, he coached the Janesville High School baseball team for two summers.
Through a former teammate, he learned of the sports turf industry and found his way to HCC in the spring of 2018, where an internship with the Houston Astros materialized.
The same friend who told him about turf management informed him the Houston Astros were looking for an intern. Matthias got the job and joined seven full-time groundskeepers from January 2019 through the All-Star break at the end of July.
His Hawkeye instructors facilitated the internship by adjusting his classroom schedule. He earned 11 credits through online classes. His advanced turf class became a satellite class, allowing him to Skype in. He made notes about what he was doing for the Astros and sent them back to his instructors. At the end of the internship, his Astros supervisors invited him back if the team advanced to the World Series.
And it happened. Matthias spent another week-and-a-half with the Astros.
Matthias loves the culture of the sport turf industry. When he left baseball as a player and left coaching to attend HCC, he missed being part of a team.
“I know there are workplace teams and you’ll be able to find teams wherever you go, but it’s harder. I feel people’s goals aren’t always shared amongst one another. It feels really good when you can work with a group of people who are working towards the same thing.
“In business, you tend to hoard your information. You don’t share your practices with other coaches. You don’t want your methods to get out there because you might meet on the field or be competing against another company. I was blown away with how friendly the sports turf community is. They help each other.
“We are all struggling against grass, and we all know that grass dies.”
Matthias has been applying for jobs in turf management. A baseball field is his first choice but he will consider a position in any other sport – football, golf, soccer. He just wants to be part of a team.
“I’ve thought about soccer,” he said. “Those fields host fewer outside events and the turf managers can focus just on the grass and turf. All sports use the turf differently. Football is tough because it has big linemen tearing up the turf on every play. I am amazed when I see grass tennis courts, which are kept like a green on a golf course.
“The injury steered me to another passion,” Matthias said. “I was a bummer for about a year. I was bitter and stubborn. I was flailing. Before, my life had been structured. Now I know there is more to life than baseball. I’m thankful that I went through that. I wouldn’t have found this (career).”
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