When the umpire calls “Play ball” Thursday for Game 5 of the World Series in Philadelphia, David Yearout may not trot out to take a position on the field, but the Phillies and the Houston Astros wouldn’t have a field to play on without him.
Yearout, 30, was an athlete at Lewis and Clark High School and spent five seasons as a groundskeeper for the Spokane Indians after attending Washington State’s university turf management school.
Twice named Minor League Baseball’s Sports Turf Manager of the Year with the Indians, Yearout was called up to the big leagues in 2016 and is now manager of field operations for the Phillies.
“It’s pretty surreal,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations about it over the past month. I told my dad the other day. I told my wife. It’s hard to say that it feels like a dream come true – it’s more like we’re living in a dream.”
The Phillies had a good season in the competitive N.L. East, but the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets seemed more likely for postseason glory when the playoffs started.
Then the Phillies got hot.
“We finished third in the division,” Yearout said. “We knew we had a good team, so we knew there was a chance if we got in (the playoffs). But every series we win, it just gets more surreal.”
Bad weather is the bane of every baseball grounds crew, and it’s not unusual for a cold rain to fall on Halloween in Philadelphia. That was the case on Monday, when Game 3 was scheduled. Officials met, and with much better weather forecast for the rest of the week, they pushed the three-game set back one day.
“The weather can be really tricky here in the Mid-Atlantic area,” Yearout said. “But (Monday) relatively wasn’t that bad. We never really had a chance to try and play though the rain on Monday so we had the tarp on the entire time.
“If we had tried to play through some of it, we might have had to deal with some of the after-effects.”
Of course, as a former athlete in the Greater Spokane League, he’s played in his share of lousy weather.
“I told my dad the other day, I’ve played in worse GSL baseball games in April when we were picking ice off the field,” he said. “We’re going to be in the 60s and 70s here the next few days.
“It’s as ideal as you can ask for, for November baseball.”
Yearout’s dad is Tom Yearout, the longtime GSL football coach who is now an assistant at Ferris. His mom, Julie, coached volleyball for LC and West Valley, and his sister, Laurie Quigley, is the volleyball coach at Mt. Spokane.
“That’s all I knew, really, growing up,” he said. “A lot of GSL volleyball and football.”
He laments, a bit, that none of the football schools in the upper division of the GSL play on grass anymore.
“It makes sense,” he said. “To maintain a natural playing surface at a high-end level takes a full-time staff. At the high school level it’s easier to put the pylons out and play.”
Not only is baseball his livelihood and responsible for his big league career, it’s also how he met his wife, Courtney, who was a section leader at Avista Stadium the summer they met.
“We would cross paths all the time, so we met there,” he said. “We started dating, got engaged, then she followed me out here.”
Now in his 12th year in the game, Yearout counts himself fortunate to be part of it all.
“I keep telling people that I keep waiting for the coolness of it to wear off. But it hasn’t yet,” he said.
“I grew up playing all sports, but my favorite has always been baseball. The fact that my office is a Major League Baseball stadium has yet to get old.”
Yearout loves being at the park even when the team is on the road.
“When the team is out of town, I’ll come in early and have stuff to do and I’ll look around and there might be five people in the building, and I’ll think, ‘There might be a handful of people in the country standing on an MLB field right now and I’m one of ‘em.’
“There’s definitely a fraternity/sorority about folks that work in baseball, and it’s something special.”
But getting a baseball diamond ready for play isn’t all glamour – even if it is for the World Series. Yearout said most days he’ll get to the ballpark around 7:30 a.m. and leave around midnight.
“The biggest challenge is the hours and the grind of it,” Yearout said. “We’re really fortunate here to have a really great staff. You get used to it after a while, but it’s a grind. It’s very repetitive.”
Yearout said being in baseball is similar to being a teacher, where there’s a designated time off – but the time of year he gets off is flipped. He and his wife have some plans to travel over the winter, including visiting family in Spokane during the holidays.
But with the Phillies; run in the postseason, and because he reports to spring training in February, this offseason will be considerably shorter than most.
“We’ve had about as long of a working season that you can have this year,” he said. “Next season will be on us before we know it.”
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