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Life lessons from David Mellor, Fenway Park’s most resilient man

March 16, 2018  - By

David Mellor with his service dog, Drago.

When it comes to challenges, Boston Red Sox Senior Director of Grounds David Mellor has seen more than his fair share. And not obstacles like not getting into his dream college, or not getting the job he wanted.

The man has been hit by not one, but two cars in his lifetime and still, remarkably, is one of the most positive, likable people you’ll ever meet.

Adversity has made him stronger

Like so many kids, Mellor grew up with big dreams of playing under the bright lights in the majors. He even had a close-to-home role model, motivating him to get to the next level: his grandfather who played in 1902.

Mellor played in high school and even had scholarship opportunities lined up to play in college, but fate had other plans.

About a month after graduation, he was hit by a car while walking into a McDonald’s. The car threw him 20 feet into the air and then hit him a second time. The impact crushed his leg, requiring him to use crutches to walk for 2 1/2 years.

He knew his professional career was no longer a possibility.

But donning a pair of cleats and a glove isn’t the only way onto a MLB field.

It was during his recovery that he started to really think about his future and what would make him happy. And after encouragement from his family to find something he loved, he found himself thinking about how he grew up taking care of lawns to make money, his love of the outdoors, his love for science and, of course, his love of baseball.

And that’s when the idea hit him: “Someone has to be a major league groundskeeper,” Mellor recalls.

After getting clearance from his doctors to go away to school, he began his journey into turf world at the Ohio State University.

Landing his first real gig in the industry required some persistence, determination and a brother who offered him a place to stay to save money.

“After many, many phone calls and letters and being that squeaky wheel, the Brewers gave me a chance,” says Mellor. “I’ve been very humbled by my opportunities.”

That was some 35 years ago.

However, it was there in Milwaukee in 1995, life threw Mellor another curve ball.

A woman with severe mental health issues drove her car onto the Brewers field and hit Mellor. It was later reported that the woman behind the wheel believed she was a stunt driver in a movie.

Talk about surreal.

Now, it would be completely understandable to see how experiences likes these could leave someone bitter and full of hate. That is certainly not the case with David Mellor.

Mellor, who will be entering his 19th season with Boston this year, has an incredible attitude about his whole life, saying that his adversity made him who he is and that is he is the luckiest man to have gone through it.

“I’ve been blessed to have been hit by cars three times,” Mellor says. “I never would have met my wife if I didn’t get hit by the car the first time. Never have my daughters in my life. Never have a career I enjoy. Never have the opportunity to have the adversity I’ve had to be who I am.”

His upbeat attitude continues as he discusses his numerous surgeries throughout the years saying, “I’ve had 43 surgeries today, I think that’s better than 44.”

Ohio-born Red Sox fanatic finds home in Boston

Almost 20 years ago, Joe Mooney, the head groundskeeper for Boston at the time, called up Mellor to say he was thinking of retiring, but would only do so if Mellor replaced him. Mellor said his wife knew they would be moving out to Boston when that offer came, but that’s not what sold Mellor.

“Family means the world to me. So we when we went to the Red Sox, the Red Sox said this isn’t a job interview; the job’s yours if you want it. More importantly, what can we do to help your family make this move possible,” recalls Mellor. “That was huge.”

And the rest, you can say, is history.

Words of wisdom

With so much time in the industry, Mellor is practically overflowing with good advice for newbies and seasoned pros alike. Here are a few best tips Mellor had to share:

  1. Remember to have fun. “I encourage you to have fun. Have a passion for what you do.”
  2. Make the most of every day. “Every day has learning opportunities and challenges. Make the most of it. Learn from your successes, but also learn from your failures.”
  3. Be proud. “I encourage people to take pride in their work. It’s great now. You can use photos to document your tasks, your jobs, whether it’s something you’ve done successfully or a challenge you’ve had.”
  4. Never stop learning. “As much experience and education as you can get are going to open up opportunities for you.”
  5. Be professional.

Closing thoughts about the man behind the show at Fenway Park

“One of the best parts of my job is helping people create memories on the field. Whether it’s being behind the scenes with baseball, or someone experiencing Fenway from hockey to concerts to ski jumps, to helping a veteran experience Fenway with their family,” says Mellor. “I feel very humbled to have the honor of being one of the caretakers involved at Fenway. There is such an aura to Fenway. It’s very humbling. Every day I walk on the field I get goosebumps. It’s the next best thing to playing.”

And if that hasn’t been interesting enough, here’s one more fast fact about Mr. Mellor that may surprise you: He’s allergic to grass.

Go figure, right?

If you ever have a chance to talk with Mellor, I strongly urge you to do so. You won’t regret it. And if you’re looking to get an inside look at Fenway, or maybe you’d like to see more photos of his service dog, Drago, check out Mellor’s Instagram account.

Still want to learn more? Check out our interview with Mellor, 60 seconds with Fenway Park’s David Mellor, to hear his take on what it’s like to maintain historic Fenway Park.

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About the Author:

Kelly Limpert is the former digital media content producer for North Coast Media. Limpert completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She specifically creates content for North Coast Media’s Golfdom, Landscape Management and Athletic Turf digital properties including eNewsletters, social media and websites.

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