By Ben Ramirez
Varsity baseball head coach Matthew Matuszak has the game down to a science, literally. A groundskeeper for the San Francisco Giants, he tends fields for a living, although he considers it a hobby. His unique approach is a welcomed change in the formula for success for a team now on their fourth coach in four years.
Originally from Sweet Home, Oregon, about 50 miles northwest of Eugene, Matuszak grew up surrounded by sports and has played them for as long as he can remember.
“I was born with a Dodgers hat on my head,” Matuszak said.
After graduating as a tri-sport athlete from Sweet Home High School in 2001, he began his coaching career at 20 while studying exercise science at Western Oregon University.
“I wanted to make a positive impact in kids’ lives. It was a way for me to get involved with the game after I could no longer play,” Matuszak said.
This coming spring will be his 14th season as a baseball coach. Prior to our school, he coached baseball and football at Sweet Home High School and James Logan High School in the Bay Area.
At each school, Matuszak has made his playing field a top priority. He takes into account a variety of factors including grass type, dirt type, patterns in the grass, and the type of mower used. His meticulous tending of fields led to winning the 2014 Field of the Year for the Pacific Northwestern region by the American Baseball Coaches Association.
While researching field materials for the baseball field at Logan, he got connected with the head groundskeeper for the Giants, Greg Elliot, who subsequently offered him a job. Very close with Elliot, Matuszak is able to continue being a groundskeeper on select weekends and during the summer.
“I learned a lot about how to take care of fields. I love being on and working on baseball fields. I try to implement the things [I learned] into my fields,” Matuszak said.
When hired at our school, he went as far as taking a soil sample and sending it to New York for analysis. This year, instead of having a third party groundskeeper, Matuszak will do it himself. Amongst the top priorities: creating a striped outfield with his specialized mower, similar to one you would see at a Major League stadium.
“The main thing is the maintenance; it is a daily process,” Matuszak said.
The challenge of creating a field up to Matuszak’s high standards will not be an overnight feat. While at Sweet Home High, it took a number of years before Husky Field became an award winning facility. Our field will be overhauled in the coming months with new grass and fresh soil.
Along with preparing the field, Matuszak is also a preacher of preparation for his team. This semester, they have workouts in the weight room and on the field multiple times a week so that they are ready physically when official practices begin in February.
He will be joined in the dugout by his friend and assistant coach Jordan Berger, a former Taft High School star catcher and University of Arizona Wildcat.
“[Berger] is a really positive guy to have in the office and the kids are buying into what he is doing,” Matuszak said.
He and Berger will lead the Highlanders in 2018 when the journey to return to the City Championship at Dodger Stadium begins. Before that, though, the field and team will need to prep for the season.
“One of my [major] goals is to get our field dialed in to where we have a really nice field that is [well] respected.” Matuszak said.