HOUSTON - As the Houston Astros prepared Friday for the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, Willie Berry is preparing to end his time with the team.
Berry, 69, has been a groundskeeper with the Astros for 46 years, and the only man to prepare the pitcher’s mound for the team.
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“(I) make sure the slope is good, (that) it (has) got enough moisture in it, packed down and stuff like that,” Berry said about the job. “Make sure we don’t get too much water on it, so it’s not wet and sticky.”
“I don’t think there’s another in baseball that’s as good as Willie’s mound,” Astros president Reid Ryan said.
While his job is mostly about the diamond now, Berry used to prepare the fields for baseball, football and the rodeo at the Astrodome.
“From January to December, I was never at home,” Berry said. “I just love baseball, and once I got into it, I just stuck with it.”
Some much-needed rest and relaxation for the veteran groundskeeper is on the horizon. Berry said that he will retire at the end of the year.
“We hate that he’s retiring, but he’ll be a lifelong Astro,” Ryan said.
Before he calls it quits, however, Berry was packing the mound for Friday’s starting game of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park. He’s watching the series with cautious optimism.
“They could be a dangerous team right now,” Berry said. “So, we’ll have to see how it plays out.”
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