One base at a time

David Mellor

Every time David Mellor smelled car exhaust, heard an engine rev, or heard tires squeal, he returned to a summer evening in 1981.

Mellor was 18 then. He was walking across a McDonald’s parking lot in Troy, Ohio, when a driver who had just pulled into the parking lot signaled to him to walk in front of her car. Then, she accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake. Catapulted into the air, Mellor landed against a brick wall, crushing his right leg. A surgeon told him he’d never walk normally again.

At the time, Mellor had just graduated from high school in Piqua, Ohio, north of Dayton, and was awaiting word from colleges for scholarships to play baseball. He was a pitcher and had a pipe dream to make it to Major Leagues. The accident put his plans for college on hold for a few years and tabled forever his plans of playing baseball.

For 2 ½ years, he walked on crutches and had a series of knee surgeries. Even harder to recover from were the flashbacks when he was awake, and the more frequent nightmares.

“I was scared to go to sleep,” he said.

Mellor, a 1987 graduate of CFAES, is the groundskeeper for the Boston Red Sox. (Photo: Billie Weiss)

Often, he yelled out in the middle of the night, waking in sweat-soaked sheets. Four years after the accident, when he entered college, he was so concerned his roommates would find out about his nightmares that he slept with the TV on. If he screamed during the night, he had an excuse: Someone on TV had yelled.  

Even during the day, if he smelled car exhaust or the scent of McDonald’s French fries, or if he heard a motor rev, he’d get sweaty, his face would turn red, his heart would race.  

“I didn’t know what was wrong, what was happening,” he said. “I thought it was a sign of weakness.”

Despite his injuries, both emotional and physical, he graduated from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in turf management. It was a natural pick. He had always loved baseball and had grown up taking care of neighbors’ lawns. Not long after he graduated, the Milwaukee Brewers hired him as a groundskeeper.

On a fall afternoon in 1995, 14 years after the car accident in Troy, Mellor was raking in left field of the Brewers’ stadium when a car drove onto the field and directly toward him.

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