Field of Genes: Rochester's father-son team
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Gene and Geno Buonomo are separated by one letter and not much else. Gene is the head groundskeeper for Triple-A Rochester while Geno, his son, is the assistant groundskeeper. As for how Geno came to Gene's line of work, it must've been in the genes. Right? "Uhhh,
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Gene and Geno Buonomo are separated by one letter and not much else. Gene is the head groundskeeper for Triple-A Rochester while Geno, his son, is the assistant groundskeeper. As for how Geno came to Gene's line of work, it must've been in the genes. Right?
"Uhhh, no," said Geno, who initially had no interest in following in his father's footsteps. "I started when I was 14, working part-time when I was in school. I kind of grew into loving it, learning from the master here."
Geno's description of his father "the master" was applied with no small amount of sarcasm. "Working for your dad is something else," he added. "It can be tough." As Geno said this, his father adopted an exaggerated scowl and menacingly pounded his fist into his palm. But then came Geno's coup de grâce: "But it's a lot of fun because you get to do something you love and be with somebody you love."
Gene was stunned into silence, looking genuinely touched, as Geno laughed triumphantly. "Yeah, yeah, pour it on," Gene eventually muttered.
Busting chops might come easier than expressing genuine emotion, but Gene gathered himself and rose to the challenge to say something nice about his son in turn.
"He's alright. He's a good worker. I don't have to point anything out." Gene then paused to collect his thoughts before continuing. "He does it better than I do, you know? He learned and he learned good."
2022 marks Gene's 31st season as groundskeeper for the Red Wings, who have operated continuously as a franchise since 1899. The Red Wings, currently the Nationals' Triple-A affiliate, have called Frontier Field home since 1997. Gene's tenure goes back to the team's previous home of Silver Stadium.
"I worked for the town of Greece," said Gene, referring to a municipality that shares a border with Rochester. "I worked on the ballfields. They were softball fields, but I had some experience. And when Joe Altobelli took over the team -- he was the general manager at the old ballpark -- he was looking for someone. I found out and I went to him. I told him 'I don't know too much about the hardball fields," but he said 'You'll learn.'"
"You know they called our field [at Silver Stadium] the Cadillac of fields?" added Gene. "But you should have seen that field. It was a mess when I got there."
Gene went on to describe the various ways in which the field had been a mess, some of them resulting from philosophical differences with his head groundskeeper predecessor. This segued into a spirited anecdote regarding his prolonged quest to replace Silver Field's two silver and blue tarps with one large tarp that was white on both sides. Geno waited patiently throughout his dad's discursions, smirking slightly, until he finally got a chance to speak about his own path to the profession.
"Starting part-time, I just stuck with it and gradually liked it more and more as time went on and now it's been going on 11 years as the assistant," said Geno. "It's always a learning thing out here, even though you've been doing it a long time. Getting to meet all the other groundskeepers and always having an open door of communication ... So, you're constantly learning. Nobody, I think, in this industry knows everything. "
Not even his old man.
"We go at it all the time on that. He's old school, I'm more new school. I like to try new things, he likes to stay in the old school ways."
"A lot of fights down here," added Gene.
"Butting heads," agreed Geno, before dad got the final word.
"The job gets done. That's the most important part, you know?"
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.