© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kansas City Royals will honor their veteran groundskeeper with his very own bobblehead

Trevor Vance, groundskeeper for the Kansas City Royals, with his bobblehead.
Nikki Overfelt Chifalu
Startland News
Trevor Vance, groundskeeper for the Kansas City Royals, with his bobblehead.

Trevor Vance has been keeping the field at Kauffman Stadium perfectly manicured for nearly 40 years. On August 1, Royals fans will receive a lawnmower-riding Vance bobblehead and see the groundskeeper throw out the game's first pitch.

For the club’s first-ever Ag Night, the Kansas City Royals are celebrating — and bestowing the honor of a bobblehead — on their very own farmer.

That’s what Trevor Vance — who has been keeping the field at Kauffman Stadium perfectly manicured for nearly 40 years — considers himself and other groundskeepers, he shared.

“We’re just growing our crop at an inch,” explained the Royals senior director of groundskeeping and landscaping. “We’re all farmers in the sense that we have to work with Mother Nature. Whether it’s the crops, whether it’s the grass, whether it’s fertilizer, fungicides, insecticides, we’re all doing the same thing. We just have different crops.”

Ag Night is set for Aug. 1 at Kauffman Stadium and is an opportunity to recognize all of those in the agriculture industry.

“Adding Ag Night to our calendar this year is a result of this organization’s acknowledgment that a lot of our loyal fans reside in rural communities throughout the greater Kansas and Missouri area,” the Royals organization said. “We wanted to celebrate all the good they do for Kansas City and beyond.”

Royals groundskeeper Trevor Vance, who already is in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, in bobblehead form.
Nikki Overfelt Chifalu
Startland News
Royals groundskeeper Trevor Vance, who already is in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, in bobblehead form.

“I think it’s great we recognize them,” continued Vance, a Raytown native. “I don’t think farmers get enough recognition. I don’t think superintendents of golf courses get recognized enough or groundskeepers or those companies you hire to do your lawn. It is a tough, tough job here in the Midwest. And everybody just assumes it’s easy, but it’s very challenging. I think it’s great that we’re recognizing them and I hope a bunch of them show up and have a great time that night.”

Fans who purchase the theme ticket for the game against the New York Mets will receive a lawnmower-riding Vance bobblehead, which is presented by Ag Partners, one of the largest agricultural coops in Kansas and Missouri.

Vance — who already is in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame — shared he feels a bit undeserving to have his own bobblehead, which even comes with its own bluegrass seeds, the same grass the Royals play on.

“I’m just the groundskeeper,” he said. “But my friends and family are just blown away. It’s created a lot of excitement in my family. Everybody is looking forward to coming out here and having a great time. I feel blessed. The Royals have been so, so good to me over the last 39 years. You talk about family; this is like my second family.”

Despite feeling undeserving, Vance — who is also slated to throw out the first pitch on Ag Night — thinks the bobblehead makers nailed his likeness and other details.

“Everybody that has seen it says it’s the best bobblehead they’ve ever done,” he noted. “It shows my gray hair, my glasses, my watch, my wedding ring. It’s perfect.”

“I’m catching grief from people all over the industry,” Vance added “They’ve heard about it or caught wind of it. I don’t know how many other groundskeepers in Major League Baseball have had a bobblehead night. I know it’s happened a little bit in the minor leagues. So maybe I’m starting to trend. Maybe we’re just trendsetters here at The K.”

Vance is happy the Royals are showcasing the groundskeeping side of the game and highlighting other careers in professional sports other than just athletes.

“We have a small thumbprint on this game and it’s exciting that they’re recognizing that,” he explained. “Whether it’s a groundskeeper or Sluggerrr or whatever they choose, we all play a part in this game. Our part’s done before anybody shows up. Then we do it again when everybody leaves. But we still get enjoyment and a little feeling of accomplishment — when you turn the game on TV — knowing that we provided that backdrop and that playing surface for these big league ballplayers.”

Despite working with the Royals for 39 years, groundskeeping wasn’t Vance’s first career choice, he shared. While at Central Missouri State University, he originally wanted to be the next Chris Berman at ESPN. Later, he hoped to be a physical education teacher, then coach and then a sports trainer.

“But what I found was that I looked forward to coming back here every summer,” he said of his time working part-time for the Royals.” I loved working here. So at the time, my boss was George Toma and I said, ‘George, this is what I want to do.’ And he’s like, ‘No, you don’t, Trevor. You don’t want these long hours. You don’t want the stress.’ I’m like ‘No, I really do.’ So he took me under his wing. And next thing you know, he retired in ’94 and became a consultant and they eventually hired me to become the groundskeeper.”

It’s the greatest job in the world, according to Vance — who also works with the Dominican Academy, Urban Youth Academy, and minor league groundskeepers to support and promote safe playing surfaces — as he gets to come to work in shorts, a T-shirt, tennis shoes and work outside.

“Every day is different,” he continued. “Working with a Major League team is fun. It’s stressful. Weather is the worst part of our job. We’re not the West Coast where it’s gonna be sunny and 70 every day. So it provides enough change every day that you gotta stay on your toes. We magnify that being in Missouri in a transitional zone. One thing about Kansas City is we’re going to have four seasons and there’s not a dead start date for any of them.”

When Kauffman Stadium is full and the Royals are winning, he added, it’s the most exciting place to be.

“I’ll put it toe to toe with Arrowhead any day of the week when things are going good here,” he explained. “But that’s ebbs and flows and ups and downs and our ground crew knows that we have to provide a first-place playing field every day regardless of what place the team’s in. Because we want the players to have faith in the playing field and trust it and know they’re gonna get good hops every day regardless of the win-loss record.”

This story was originally published on Startland News, a fellow member of the KC Media Collective.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.