Free agent pitcher, Braves fan favorite, runs artificial turf company

"I didn't realize it would be this much a part of my life," said free agent pitcher Mark Melancon "I don't think my wife did, either."

Melancon, who spent the last two seasons playing for the Braves after being traded to the team in 2019, has an offseason job that might surprise most baseball fans.

About two years ago, Melancon was having a putting green installed at his house on Florida's west coast. His brother-in-law was there, and both agreed, the crew doing the work wasn't great. They talked, and thought, 'we could do this job better.'

"It was that simple, really," said Melancon.

So, they did it -- starting a company called "Diamond Turf" based in Holmes Beach, Florida, specializing in the installation of putting greens at homes or businesses. They also do fun projects, like decorative features in residential yards, bocce ball courts or playgrounds. They focus on putting greens, the type designed to help golfers improve their games with fine details and customization.

"It's difficult to do putting greens," said Melancon. "It's kind of an art, really."

Melancon says he and his brother-in-law went into the business with very little knowledge. Melancon credits his brother-in-law being both handy and creative to get the business going. Melancon himself does a little bit of everything, from making sales calls to back-end accounting to picking up a shovel on job sites.

"I don't go into things one foot in," said Melancon.

Braves senior field director Ed Mangan even pitched in some knowledge; one example was helping point Melancon in the direction of a special type of sand for some projects.

Melancon's involvement in Diamond Turf certainly picks up during the offseason, but the company does not shut down once someone yells "Play Ball!" Melancon says his business work actually helped keep his mind off baseball during stressful times, including during the playoffs.

"I was doing it during the season!" said Melancon. "There's so much downtime on the road, this is a healthy distraction. You can only throw so many balls. It entertained me in a good way, especially during a COVID year that nobody expected."

Melancon isn't working while sitting in the bullpen -- though he does pay more attention to the fields and field maintenance than other players might. The closer says he's able to stay involved with Diamond Turf during the day, especially this past season as players were largely confined to their hotel rooms on the road.

"All the back office stuff is super important," said Melancon. "The accounting, day-to-day. From sales calls, touching base with people, website stuff, a laundry list of things you wouldn't think about unless you're doing it."

Melancon is not "quitting his day job," so to speak. The three-time All-Star is a free agent, waiting to find out where he'll pitch this upcoming season with Spring Training a little over a month away. 

Melancon, who had 22 regular season saves with the Braves and four more in the playoffs, said he and his family "absolutely loved" their time in Atlanta, and would be happy to return. Having been through the free agent process before, though, he is letting the process play out.

In the meantime, Melancon says Diamond Turf is more than just a passion project.

"It's not a hobby, it's not something I don't care about," said Melancon. "It's been taken serious, and we've really kicked butt. It's been fun. It's a different competitive thing that I can be a part of."