Former student, wizard of SWC’s field of dreams

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As as student Armando Rueles applied for a grounds crew position. He got the job and found a career he loves. He is now senior gardener in charge of sports field maintenance. Photo Michael McDonald

Southwestern College is home to one of the finest baseball fields in Southern California. Coaches, players and fans praise the House That Bartow Built for its fresh, low-cut grass and pristine true-hop infield.

For 20 years senior gardener Armando Ruelas has been in charge of maintaining Southwestern’s athletic fields. He said he takes special pride in the baseball field.

“I love being able to work on all the fields,” he said. “I enjoy working on the baseball field more than the others because it’s my favorite sport.”

Ruelas, a former student and student worker, took classes here 20 years ago.

“One day one of the positions opened, so I gave it a thought and applied,” he said. “I was hired and have been working here ever since.”

Ruelas said love for sports has kept him dedicated to his work.

“My love for sports says it all,” he said. “Being able to come to work every day, knowing I’ll be doing something I love, is a true blessing.”

Ruelas said he feels like a member of the team because he works on the field every day before and after the team plays on it.

“If I do my job correctly, then I feel like it gives the team motivation to play better,” he said. “I make sure the field looks just as good as I would want if I were playing.

Sophomore outfielder Blake Flippen said he loves stepping on to the outfield grass.

“There’s something special about this field,” he said. “The smell of freshly-cut grass compliments how smooth groundballs roll out here.”

Hearing compliments from visiting teams makes Ruelas proud.

“It’s like they’re looking at some of my art,” he said. “Hearing teams say this is the best field in California is an honor. I must be doing my job correctly.”

Ruelas said all the hours he puts in preparing the baseball field is one of his favorite parts of his job.

“The first thing I do every day is head to the field and get to work,” he said. “There’s always something that can be fixed or worked on. I practice my craft every day, exactly how the players do.”

Sophomore pitcher Andrew Lopez said SWC’s Jaguar Junction baseball field is the best he has ever played on.

“Not only does the field look clean, but it also feels good under our cleats,” he said. “Our field is better looking than Division I schools I’ve seen.”

Ruelas said he tries “not to be too original” with his grass cutting artistry.

“I like to play with it a little bit,” he said. “I usually try to come up with ways to cut the grass in a different pattern. Sometimes I just leave it how it is because I don’t hear the players complaining about it.”

Ruelas said he appreciates that players assist with the field. Jags keep the batting cage and mats off the grass so it does not die.

“I have to give credit to the players,” he said. “They help out with the little things. It’s a team effort.”

Ruelas said his heart belongs to Jaguar Junction.

“I’ve loved this job since my very first day. I’ll keep working my best on this field until my body tells me no.”

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