Devoted groundskeeper finds his field of dreams at Ottawa Stadium


For Haile Tecklehaimanot, the unlikely road to his field of dreams in Ottawa from his native Eritrea was a harrowing one, as he traversed Africa before finally arriving in Canada in 2014.

Today, he’s part of the city grounds crew that maintains the grass field at Ottawa Stadium, home of the Frontier League’s Ottawa Titans baseball club.

“I left my country in 1999. I’m 48 now,” Tecklehaimanot said, recalling his odyssey.

“It wasn’t safe. I travelled by using camel. Nighttime. Five days travel to Sudan. Then from Sudan to Kenya, to Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa.”

Tecklehaimanot spent close to a decade in South Africa before finally moving to Ottawa in 2014.

Haile Tecklehaimanot’s hand hovers over his beloved grass field at the Ottawa baseball stadium. (Hallie Cotnam)

Eritrea is no hotbed for baseball. In fact, Tecklehaimanot still prefers soccer. But the game is winning him over, he admitted.

What he really loves is being the caretaker of the field at Ottawa Stadium, and bringing joy to spectators.

“It’s the beauty of the grass. After finishing, you see your work and you’re satisfied,” he said.

Swinging for best field award

Tecklehaimanot’s  job also involves care and maintenance of the pitcher’s mound and home plate, as well as the bleachers. He takes pride in all of it.

“In my point of view … this field should be number one. This is my dream. It should be very neat. Beautiful. My colleagues are very good. We work very hard. It’s just teamwork and I love it.” 

As the Titans play out their final home stand of the regular season, the groundskeepers are looking for a win of their own: the league’s field of the year award.

If they can achieve that goal, it will be in large measure due to Tecklehaimanot’s hard work.

Matthew Sarault has worked with Tecklehaimanot since 2015, and marvels at his work ethic. 

“He’s not quite a baseball fan, but he is such a hard-working and proud individual that he’s become obsessed with the esthetics of providing the city of Ottawa with a beautiful playing field,” Sarault said in an email to CBC Ottawa. 

Rink of Dreams Zamboni driver Haile Tecklehaimanot.
Groundskeeper by summer, Zamboni driver by winter: Tecklehaimanot has learned to embrace winter sports, too. (Submitted)

Come fall, when the baseball season ends, Tecklehaimanot goes from his field of dreams to driving Zamboni at city hall’s Rink of Dreams. 
“When the kids see you they feel joyful. They just wave their hands, you know, ‘We love you!’ They just love the Zamboni.”

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