by Max Marbut
Ed Attalla, the head groundskeeper for the Jacksonville Suns, has made Southern League history during his four years of mowing, weeding, edging, fertilizing and irrigating at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. He was named Double-A baseball’s Turf Manager of the Year in 2003, his first season with the Suns. He also earned the league’s Groundskeeper of the Year award every year since — a Southern League record.
This past season was Attalla’s last with the Suns. He’s moving to Gainesville to join the staff at the University of Florida. He is being replaced by Joe Soenksen, who has been the Suns’ assistant groundskeeper for two years.
Attalla went to college to major in education, but soon discovered that being a teacher just wasn’t for him. A life-long baseball fan, he went home and started building houses.
“That was no fun because I’d come home after working all day too tired to watch any baseball games,” said Attalla.
He applied for a job as a groundskeeper with a minor-league team in Bowie, Md. and was hired. Attalla knew he had found his calling.
Since that first job, he worked in baseball with minor league and major league teams, at golf courses and for the Washington Redskins and Jacksonville Jaguars before taking over duties at the Baseball Grounds.
Attalla said he likes the schedule and the routine.
“During the season, we work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. when the team is on the road. When the Suns play at home, our day begins at 8 a.m. and doesn’t end until after midnight,” said Attalla.
“The off-season is when we kick back and relax. We just have to mow the two acres of grass from now until about November. Then the grass goes dormant for the winter and all we have to do is make sure no weeds pop up,” he added.
He said he attributes his record-setting success to putting himself in the fans’ shoes.
“People always tell me how good the field looks,” said Attalla. “My thinking is that if it’s somebody’s first time here and the field doesn’t look good, they’ll think this is not a good place. I keep it up for the people that it’s their first time coming to the Baseball Grounds.”
With five different playing fields to maintain and year-round sports at the University of Florida, Attalla said that his life will be quite different compared to working for the Suns.
“There goes my off season,” he said.
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