Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tarpon Springs High's groundskeeper takes pride in his work

Groundskeeper Todd Barnes, 45, of Oldsmar, paints the 50-yard line recently on Tarpon Springs High School’s Spongers Field.


Groundskeeper Todd Barnes, 45, of Oldsmar, paints the 50-yard line recently on Tarpon Springs High School’s Spongers Field.


Todd Barnes arrives at school every work day at 5:30 a.m.

He cuts the grass and prunes the bushes. He cares for the grounds at Tarpon Springs High as if it was his Oldsmar home.

But one of his biggest tasks as the school's groundskeeper can often go unnoticed. Most people just arrive at the football game and don't even give the field a second thought. The sidelines are there. The yard lines are the proper width, the hash marks are in the correct place and the end zones are 10 yards deep.

"I'm a ghost in a sense," said Barnes, Tarpon Springs High's 13-year groundskeeper who maintains the school's athletic fields. "I don't socialize with the kids. The majority of the teachers don't know who I am. I try to keep quiet during the day. When the students leave, that's when I go out and do what I need to do."

Barnes, 45, has worked with Pinellas County Schools for 17 years. In 1997, he was assigned to Tarpon Springs.

From Day One, he was given the responsibility of lining the fields. In addition to the football field, he maintains and lines the softball, baseball, soccer, flag football, powder puff football and practice fields.

"I'm clean when I come in and covered in grass when I leave," said Barnes, a father of two who was raised in Palm Harbor. "It's a constant year-round process."

Three days a week, Barnes mows the football field. But how he lines the field can cause consequences beyond the gridiron.

"An official can delay play if he discovers that a field is not lined correctly," said Cristina M. Alvarez, the spokeswoman for the Florida High School Athletic Association "If the matter can't be rectified right away, then we may have to get involved to ensure that it is taken care of in a timely manner."

The FHSA follows guidelines of the National Federation of State High School Associations in terms of playing field dimensions.

"The thickness of the white lines has to be 4 inches," Barnes said. "You have to be careful because it matters."

Wayne McKnight, in his eighth season as the school's athletic director, said Barnes does a wonderful job of maintaining the grounds.

"I don't think people understand that there is a lot on the groundskeeper's plate," McKnight said, pointing to the fact that recent cuts in the school system's budget has increased Barnes' workload.

"What Todd does is extremely instrumental and vital to all the extra curriculum activities that we have.

"The more we can properly maintain our grounds, the more we can achieve from an athletic and extracurriculum activity stand point. We have an extraordinary number of programs that have to share a small amount of space."

After tonight's game against Countryside High School, Barnes will go to work on the field so that it's ready this weekend's 2009 Tarpon Springs Outdoor Music Festival. There will be more than 26 bands competing on the football field.

The school's football Booster Club paints the "T" in the middle of the field while Barnes handles the lines.

"I can call him for help and I know it's the last minute, and it's never an argument from him," said Rick Fisk, 53, the booster club's president. "He's always very positive."

Barnes never gets to see the folks enjoy his work. When his work is done, he goes home and spends time with the family. But still, Barnes said he loves providing Tarpon Springs students with quality grounds that they can be proud of.

"When other schools come in, I want the visiting team to say, 'this is a nice-looking field,' " Barnes said. "There is a very high sense of pride here and I have that same pride when it comes to how I try to keep the fields."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at or (727) 445-4174.

About this series

This is the sixth story in the "Beyond the gridiron" series, in which Tarpon Springs reporter Demorris A. Lee takes a look at the Spongers football program from different perspectives.

This week, we feature groundskeeper Todd Barnes.

To see previous installments, visit


Tarpon Springs High's groundskeeper takes pride in his work 10/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 7:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    OF/DH Corey Dickerson missed out on a good birthday gift when AL player of the week honors went instead to Detroit's J.D. Martinez. Dickerson hit .385 with five homers, nine RBIs and nine runs; Martinez went .389-4-9-7 and got the nod.

  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb learning to work with what he has



    If this were 2012 or 2013, even 2014, RHP Alex Cobb would have problems. He would find himself working with only two of his three pitches, with the missing pitch being his trusty changeup.

    Alex Cobb, working mainly with his fastball and curveball, is 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA over his past five starts. The Rays right-hander tries to continue his strong stretch tonight against the Angels.
  4. Rays vs. Angels, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Angels

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Fennelly: This season's Chris Archer is a pleasure to watch

    The Heater


    At this time last season, through 10 starts, Rays pitcher Chris Archer was 3-5 on his way to 9-19.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, May 21, 2017.