College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

IAA Alumni Hits a Career Homerun

Michelle Molinaro
Justin Patenaude with Magic Johnson, part-owner of the LA Dodgers.

When enrolling at the Institute of Applied Agriculture, many sports turf students dream of being offered a job at a well-known stadium: M&T Bank Stadium, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, or FedExField. But few imagine being offered jobs at two professional stadiums at the same time.

That’s what happened to IAA alumni Justin Patenaude, a 2012 Sports Turf Management graduate. Patenaude received an offer as the Grounds Crew Supervisor at Dodger Stadium and another as the Head Sports Turf Manager at the LA Coliseum. Ultimately, he accepted the Dodgers’ position because “baseball is my first love and I love working for this organization. It was a tough decision but I think the correct one.” Plus, Patenaude was well aware that the LA Rams will only be at the Coliseum for two more years.

This season marks Patenaude’s third season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but his first as the Ground Crew Supervisor. He previously worked as the Assistant Sports Turf Manager at the LA Memorial Coliseum and at UC Irvine. Patenaude accredits his success in being able to be offered both positions to his time at the IAA.

“When I graduated 4 years ago, I never thought I would have the opportunity to manage an MLB or NFL stadium this quickly or ever, he said. “It's a testament to the wonderful job that Doc [Dr. Kevin Mathias] and the IAA faculty do in preparing us to become turfgrass managers. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for [the IAA faculty] and the rest of the staff.”

Like so many IAA graduates, Patenaude reminisces about his classes and time spent in Jull Hall. “My favorite course was Diseases of Ornamentals and Turfgrass,” said Patenaude, but he is quick to admit that it has only now become his favorite class. “It probably wasn’t my favorite course at the time. However, it is probably the most important course I took at the IAA. The identification and control of diseases is a very important tool that I have to use far more than I would like.”

When asked about his favorite memory while at the IAA, he spoke of the 2013 Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) Student Challenge, adding that it was “Doc’s first-ever win!”

^UMD team members pose with their first place trophy after winning the 2013 STMA Student Challenge. From left to right standing: Scott Hosier and Matt Park. From left to right sitting: Ryan Higgins and Justin Patenaude.

Patenaude offered advice to incoming students as well as those who are graduating. “Take the time to get to know the staff. Everyone at the IAA is there to help you succeed. Anyone can grow grass and rake dirt. How you manage your staff will play a huge role in your success. Your crew will be your best asset or your worst.” 

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