As a teenage tomboy growing up on a Michigan farm, Heather Nabozny gave her mother an early clue about her future vocation. On Saturdays, Heather would take one look at a list of household chores like dusting and vacuuming and announce, ” ‘I’ll go cut the lawn,’ ” recalls Carol Nabozny, 53, with a laugh. “And then she’d jump on the tractor and be out there all day.”
Heather is now tending her field of dreams full-time. As head groundskeeper for the Detroit Tigers—the first topseeded woman in major league baseball—Nabozny and her staff of 15 are responsible for planting, fertilizing, watering, raking and, yes, mowing the 2½ acres of Kentucky bluegrass in legendary Tiger Stadium. “This is it. I’m at the top,” she says. “This is where I want to be.”
The effusive rookie has certainly hit a home run with fans. After signing on in January, Nabozny became the most sought-after interview on the Tigers’ roster. “It just blows my mind,” says Nabozny, who was brought up from the West Michigan Whitecaps, a Class A minor-league club in Grand Rapids. “I really try my best just to stay focused on the field and not on everything that’s going on around me.”
Nabozny, 28, could hardly have arrived at a more propitious moment. In September, the Tigers will retire the 87-year-old pea patch where Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline once rounded the bases and replace it with a state-of-the-art ballpark nearby. Nabozny, who has a certificate in agricultural technology from Michigan State University, sees the change of turf as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I consider myself very lucky,” Nabozny says. “I’m going to look back on this and realize that I got to be part of history.” She already is.