TAMPA, Fla. — There are very few who can say their work has been showcased to a nationwide audience. But for Travis Hohlbein, formerly of Ottoville, his work was on display Monday in, of all places, “Monday Night Football.”
Hohlbein is the second assistant groundskeeper at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL. For Hohlbein, working at an NFL stadium fulfills a wish he had back in his freshman year at Ohio State.
“I was undecided on a major when I started college,” Hohlbein said. “In one of my freshman seminar classes, we had to research three majors we might be interested in. In the back of my mind, I always wanted to be around sports. So I went on the Ohio State website and researched various majors that involved sports, and Turf and Grass Management was one of them. Everything just kind of went from there.”
Hohlbein took to his major very quickly, finding that life out on the field suited him very nicely.
“I've always enjoyed working outside,” he said. “With my career, it's really peaceful working around nature and sports.”
While completing his studies at Ohio State, Hohlbein also was able to intern with both the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer and the Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, so he had experience working with professional sports facilities.
“I think I pick up on things pretty quickly, but I know there are still a lot of things for me to learn,” Hohlbein said. “So I'm always reading up on things and trying to stay connected within the profession, getting advice and seeing what others do.”
Turf management is also essential for ensuring that everything runs smoothly during a sporting event.
“For us, as long as we can go out there and maintain a safe, consistent surface for the athletes, that's our main concern,” Hohlbein said. “It's not just mowing lawns.”
Indeed, there are many different factors that go into maintaining turf at a football stadium, all of which Hohlbein and the other groundskeepers need to be fully aware.
“Once a year we test the soil, checking for pH level, microbial organism levels and other things,” he said. “We also spray chemicals for insects, diseases and weeds, and there are new regulations being pushed through that we need to be aware of. Being in a city, there are local government regulations regarding how much fertilizer and water we can use, among other things.”
Few who attend sporting events take the time to notice the quality of the turf, making Hohlbein's job a thankless one, at times. However, those few times when he is thanked for his work really do make the job worthwhile.
“If you talk to anyone in the industry, they'll tell you that when people come up either from the front office or as a fan and compliment the field, that's all the recognition that we need,” he said.
Hohlbein is not ruling out a return to Ohio, but for now, he is happy working in Florida.
“I've always figured I'd work here for a few years and then see what happens,” he said. “But I really like it down here, and I don't see any reason to look anywhere else, right now.”