While major league baseball fans cannot (yet) return to the ballparks, it is still critical that the fields and stadiums be maintained. Never a simple job, this year it’s been even more challenging – but Chaz Perea, Landscape Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers thrives under the work.
Chaz enjoys tackling new horticultural problems that he’s never had to face before. According to Chaz, working in a facility that finds new ways to challenge you increases your ability to problem solve, but he’s learned not to stress about problems when they do happen. And even though Dodger Stadium is fan-less, Chaz has his work cut out for him overseeing a crew that prepares the landscape around the stadium.
A regular day involves work that many horticulturists might not find typical. When Seed Your Future talked with him earlier this year, in addition to managing the crew that maintains the grounds around the stadium, Chaz and his crew were working on rebuilding a hillside, terraforming the ground that surrounds the stadium. They pruned hundreds of palm trees and prepared plenty of planters too. Chaz also takes care of the famous "Chavez Ravine" - calling himself and his crew the "Guardians of the Ravine." Their work includes tree pruning, shrub and ground cover maintenance, landscape construction, installation, maintenance, tending to a large irrigation system installed in the 1960's with lots of elevation change, fire code brush clearance on huge slopes, a myriad of drainage issues on slopes, asphalt work, concrete work, and fence maintenance.
The crew he manages is just a small part of the entire team who make the stadium look spectacular for every game.
“As the landscape team, we work within stadium operations. Stadium operations also includes the on-the-field grounds crew, electricians, plumbers, security, and events. So next time you are at a large sporting event (which we hope will happen soon!), know there are people in stadium operations at work all year-round to make sure everyone can enjoy the experience.”
Though the work itself might not be typical, what stays typical is his schedule. Every day, Chaz and his crew start work at 5:30 am. After his work at the stadium is done, Chaz heads over to Mt. San Antonio College where he teaches courses in horticultural science, integrated pest management, park facilities and more. The program takes a hands-on approach and celebrates industry connections. Professors like Chaz have real world experience that they share with students, exposing them to the careers that are waiting for them once they graduate. Los Angeles County provides plenty of options for field trips and internships that will ready the next generation of horticulturists. Office hours to support his students makes Chaz's days long but fulfilling.
If it seems like Chaz is always on the go then it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s always been this way. Chaz started working with plants with his first job taking care of a golf course, cutting turf while working another full time job. By getting to know the clients who played golf at the course, he started his own gardening business. This eventually allowed him to save up and take classes at the same school where he now teaches.
When asked why plants are important to him and the world, Chaz shared that "Plants increase the value of anything adjacent to it. Landscape increases the real estate value of homes/buildings made out of wood, concrete, and glass. Landscape increases health, helping patients to recover at a faster rate than patients without a view or access to landscape. Plants increase the quality of the atmosphere and cleanse bodies of water. Structures, people, air, water, all benefit from a relationship with plants."
To have a long and varied career like Chaz, he has some simple advice on how to figure out if a career in horticulture is right for you.
“Get your hands dirty. You will know quickly if working with plants is for you. Then find a route to get educated. If you like working with plants, getting a horticultural education will increase your job satisfaction.”
We agree! For his work both as a landscape professional and for preparing the next generation of green-collar professionals, we’ve named Chaz Perea our latest Plant Champion.