GARY — Now that the last hot dog has been sold, the last Ben's Soft Pretzel has been served and the line for Dippin' Dots has cleared, there is still work to be done at at the U.S. Steel Yard and head groundskeeper Noah Simmons is thankful for that.
Though the RailCats finished the season with a playoff loss to the St. Paul Saints on Sept. 8, there is still much to be done at the ballpark.
As the head groundskeeper, Simmons still has to keep up the mowing of the grass as well as maintenance of the field and the stadium.
Simmons, who is 22, has been working at baseball stadiums since 2009. He was helping out with the Schaumburg (Illinois) Flyers back then and was just getting his feet wet. He then came to the Gary ballpark and was assistant to the head groundskeeper for a few years before becoming head groundskeeper four years ago.
"I love being outside and I love baseball," said Simmons, who lives in Portage. "This job is not for everyone. In the summer I work 90 to 110 hours a week and 30 to 35 in the winter."
In the winter he makes sure things get planned for the upcoming season.
"We do some painting, make sure the clubhouses are OK and build things we need for springtime," he said.
Once the final game is played, the RailCats start preparing for next spring.
"As soon as the snow melts we will start getting ready for the 2019 season," Simmons said.
He added: "The high school challenge games start April 1 so we make sure everything is ready for then."
Though the hours are long and the weather can be really hot in the summertime, Simmons loves what he does.
"I put forth so much effort and time into this job," he said. "But I love interacting with the fans, the season ticket holders and the players."
Two years ago when the Cubs were in the playoffs and won the World Series, Simmons helped out at Wrigley Field with Chicago Cubs head groundskeeper Justin Spillman.
"That was a great experience and a lot of fun," Simmons said.
But now Simmons is concentrating on breaking things down and getting ready for next year.
Brian Lyter, president of Salvi Sports Enterprises and former RailCats general manager, said Simmons is something else for a 22-year-old.
"He has the biggest role on the team," Lyter said. "He does so much including security, filling out reports, groundskeeper. And he is willing to work. He tries to do things on his own and is willing to learn."
"There is always something for me to do," Simmons said.
"From April through mid October we have games and extra events," he said. "And right after winter ends we are back to preparing for the next season."