Danielle Fox walks through her house carrying a basket of laundry.
Before pouring detergent in the machine, she takes a moment to look over a few of the clothes, however. She holds up an Oklahoma City RedHawks grounds crew polo. The cotton blue fabric is drenched in sweat, and red dirt is smeared all over it, but Fox isn't disgusted by it at all.
As one of the first two women to work for the RedHawks' grounds crew in its 15-year history, she swells with pride when she wears the shirt.
Her legs as well as her black-and-yellow Nike sneakers are also covered by the clay, but Fox doesn't mind because the red dirt is a constant reminder that she's working her ultimate job.
“I have a lot of pride (telling people where I work,)” she said. “I have so much respect for the game of baseball, it being America's sport. To get to work at a Triple-A facility, I honestly think it's kind of like a dream job.”
The Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles are the only Major League Baseball teams with women as their head groundskeepers, and seeing women working on grounds crews is still rare.
So when Oklahoma City University softball teammates Fox and Kylee Rounsaville prepare Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark's field, they are not only creating the perfect playing conditions for the players, but they're also laying down the foundation for other women to work on grounds crews in the future.
Rounsaville, the first woman to ever work on the RedHawks' grounds crew, was hired by head groundskeeper Monte McCoy in March, and says people still tell her how impressed they are with what she's doing.
“My favorite part is hearing the players from other teams saying that this is one of the nicest facilities that they get to play on,” Rounsaville said. “It's pretty cool knowing that I help keep the field the way it is.
“People still come up and shake my hand to this day, and they're like ‘I'm highly impressed with what you've done and how you're representing females and bringing them into this sports world.'”
A Mustang native, Rounsaville started her athletic career playing T-ball and baseball before moving on to softball.
After being recruited by schools that included the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Marshall, the 21-year-old committed to OCU because she wanted to stay close to home and attend a small school.
And as luck would have it, Rounsaville would learn about the RedHawks job when she was giving softball lessons to 11- and 12-year-old girls. McCoy's brother approached Rounsaville about helping him coach a 12-and-under softball team, but she explained it would be hard for her this summer because she needed a job.
He told her that his brother was the RedHawks' head groundskeeper, and he could get her the job.
In late March, the Stars' starting catcher began a sophisticated balancing act with her practice schedule and trips to Bricktown. Games were on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so when practice ended at 4:45 p.m., she'd make the 11-mintue trip from Ann Lacy Stadium to The Brick.
As a softball player, she always appreciates a well-kept field, but now Rounsaville has developed a greater appreciation for a field's maintenance.
“You just don't know how much effort is put into the field,” Rounsaville said. “I never knew there was so much work done on the field. I knew there was the simple dragging the field and watering and stuff like that, but I didn't know about ... all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, that we don't see as people that get to watch.”
Rounsaville's first day started off slow. McCoy walked her through her tasks, and then she was directed out to the field and helped chalk the infield and outfield lines.
While hand painting the outfield lines was a new experience, other tasks, such as raking, dragging and watering the dirt were not, because she had also helped maintain OCU's Ann Lacy Stadium.
She says McCoy usually prefers hiring people with no experience on grounds crews because they're more willing to learn something new.
McCoy, who joined the RedHawks' ground crew in 1997, is a two-time Pacific Coast League “Sports Turf Manager of the Year.”
After Rounsaville was hired, she said McCoy was interested in bringing in a second female to promote women working on grounds crews, so the recruited now became the recruiter.
Rounsaville knew Fox had been interested in joining the staff, and Rounsaville took the opening to sell Fox on the job. She joined the crew in early June.
“It's nice having someone with me now that I know I can sit there and talk to,” Rounsaville said. “Girls are a lot different from guys anyway when it comes to a lot of stuff, like emotions, and so having another female there is pretty nice.”
Fox, a pitcher and an outfielder for OCU, said her favorite days are when the crew has to pull out the tarp. Even though it's heavy and requires eight to 10 people to unravel, Fox said she likes the challenge.
The 21-year-old also enjoys the interaction she's had with the players. There have been occasions when she was doing work in the outfield, and the team was in the midst of batting practice and stray balls would halt at her feet.
She would throw it back to the players, sometimes resulting in double takes and requests for her to do it again.
“They'll be like ‘She can throw?' ” the Yukon native said. “I've had to do that a couple of times. Oh yeah, I enjoy it, because they don't expect it.”
Initially, the boys on the grounds crew were also apprehensive of the two women and took their time getting to know and figuring out Fox and Rounsaville. Now, Fox says they just joke around all the time.
It's not all fun and games, though. In addition to duties before games, the grounds crew has to drag the dirt and pull large brooms from first base to third base and back after the third and sixth inning.
During their breaks, Rounsaville and Fox relax and enjoy the game from some of the best seats in the house. The baseball players aren't the only ones with people watching them, however.
As Fox walked the first-base line, she overheard a little girl say “Mommy look, there's a girl doing that.” Fox was busy at the moment, but she looked over, smiled and waved at the girl.
“She just kind of had that ‘Oh my gosh, she's doing that.' Kind of like you know, she wanted to do that in the future,” Fox said. “It was really nice.”
The RedHawks are in the midst of a 12-game home stand at The Brick.
Rounsaville and Fox will be at the field two hours before each game starts, going through their usual routine.
Fox said she hopes she and Rounsaville will break the standard that grounds crew work is only for men.
“You can do anything that you want to do,” Fox said. “If you want to work with the guys, if you want to work with something fun, if you think getting dirty is fun or love the game of baseball, I would highly recommend it. And it's not even like you're going to work.
“I would just say don't exclude anything out; anything you want to do, you can do.”