CALS student pursues career in sports turf management
Trevor Owens dreams of one day working for a professional baseball team. But instead of running the bases as an athlete, Owens plans to be in charge of the field.
This fall, Owens will graduate from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in sustainable cropping systems with an emphasis in environmental horticulture from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. It’s the first step in making his dream of working in sports turf management a reality.
Owens got interested in horticulture when he was a student at Capital High School in Boise. The school was one of the few in the city with a horticulture program, and Owens took advantage of the opportunity to learn something outside the traditional high school curriculum.
After high school, he decided to explore his interest in horticulture further at the College of Western Idaho.
“I knew I didn’t want much of a desk job,” Owens said. “I like being on my feet, working with my hands outside.”
Owens earned a technical certificate in horticulture from CWI. His parents, grandfather and sister all graduated from U of I, so coming to Moscow for his bachelor’s degree was almost a foregone conclusion.
“My parents always loved it here,” Owens said. “They always told me great stories and then when I came up here I realized that it really is a great place.
“It’s big enough to get stuff done but small enough that they still care about the students. When it comes down to it, your professors know you by name, not by some number — the Vandal family, as they say.”
Sport turf management
Owens completed two internships related to sports turf grass during summer breaks from U of I, including at a Boise golf course working with irrigation systems.
“That was really cool to work on some bigger facets of irrigation heads and working on bigger lawns,” Owens said. “Looking at precision cutting and different fertilizer regiments and herbicide use.”
He also interned with the Tacoma Rainiers, a Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. It opened his eyes to what he wanted to do with his future.
“I really enjoy the sport of baseball and I don’t mind working the long 12-18 hour shift days that we end up doing a couple times a year,” Owens said.
During the internship, Owens was expected to help with everything from setting the field — making sure chalk was ready for the field lines and clay was ready for the infield — to patching the mound and ensuring equipment used by the team was in proper working order.
“It was an eye-opener seeing how much goes into maintaining something that is twice the size of a football field and how much effort we put into the dirt and making sure everything is level,” Owens said.
A shared passion
No one was more excited for Owens’ desire to work in sports turf management than his father, who was a big Mariners fan. His dad was pulling for Owens to work at Safeco Field.
“He shared his passion and love for the sport with me,” Owens said.
In November 2016, Owens’ father died unexpectedly from a ruptured brain aneurism. Owens struggled to return to school, but pushed through to honor his dad’s passion for education.
“A lot of people were surprised to see me here after that happened,” Owens said. “But my father, he was an educator. He was always, ‘school comes first before anything else,’ so that’s why I am still in school, even though it killed me to be here. Being away from mom was the hardest part. Not being able to physically be there when it happened.”
Planning for the future
In addition to his coursework, Owens works at Vandals Dining by Sodexo as a supervisor of concessions during athletic events. He also is involved with the Plant and Soil Science club and is a member of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. These organizations have allowed Owens to educate others on topics close to his heart.
“I’m a big advocate of diversity — I am a gay man as well,” Owens said. “There’s all these different groups on campus. We’re not just a bunch of white males or cis-males. We do have diversity and are willing to accept others.
“In Plant and Soil Science Club, I have met everyone from biology students to fine arts majors,” Owens said. “We want to teach people how to care for plants. We want to educate and share that knowledge.”
Owens is looking for career opportunities on the West Coast, hopefully with a baseball team, but is open to anything in sports turf management. His dream is to become the head groundskeeper for a Triple-A baseball team and maybe one day an assistant groundskeeper in the Major League.
“Being in college or school for most of your life, you kind of get used to just waking up and going to school and doing homework or procrastinating sometimes,” Owens said. “I’m done, I’ve got a degree, I have something to show. My parents would be proud. I did it, I made it.”
Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences