June 2005

Building a new Baseball field?

Mlbphotos_2 This question comes across my desk a couple times a week.  I normally give the same answer. “It depends…on a lot of things!”  If you have bare areas of turf, or the grass is growing all over your infield and the lips on the field look like they are a foot high….. you need to do something.  Just remember, its not only what you do to improve your field, it also how you go about it and to what level!

Here are few pointers that may be helpful as you plan:

1. Evaluate what type and how many events are held on the field. You don’t want to be in a situation where you do a great job with the renovation only to find out your back in the same place again the following year.

2.  Determine your budget after you find out how often the field will be used.  This will help determine what type and level of field you will have to build.  The more the use….the more you should invest in the construction of the field.  Also determine the time you have to re-build your field? Fall , Spring or maybe you only have a 7 day window?

3.  Make sure you have someone on staff that understands field construction and specifications so they can help you design exactly what you if not seek help from your local university or extension service.

4.  Plan for maintenance operations.  Assess your maintenance budget because that may be the weak link in your field operation.  A great field can turn into a bad field very quickly without proper maintenance.

A general rule of thumb, If your field is over half covered with weeds its time to replace the turf.  Trying to change it back to one healthy grass is possible but it will take a few years.

Good Luck !

Dealing with Shaded areas in your Lawn


Its almost summer and in some cases you may have problems growing grass in shaded areas around your yard or near your sports facility.  Sometimes you should call it quits and just install a ground cover specifically designed for the shaded areas. (As long as there not on the field)  There are some shade tolerant turf grasses but even with those the turf’s success depends on how aggressive your maintenance program may be.

Eventually those trees that were planted when your site was first developed will dominate the landscape and turfgrass, creating a shaded environment. While shade trees provide many benefits, it can make growing plants beneath them a challenge. Converting a bed of juniper or turf grass into something that can tolerate this new environment is often necessary in the landscape/turf world. Let’s look at some dependable ground cover plants that can tolerate shaded locations.

  • Pachysandra – An excellent, evergreen ground cover that is tailored to growing in the shade, Pachysandra is indispensable to areas of the country where it is hardy. The glossy green leaves, white spring flowers and controllable habit make it effective under trees or other areas where shade limits your plant palette. Very good at keeping out weeds, Pachysandra prefers an average soil with normal water requirements.
  • Liriope – This grass-like evergreen groundcover is actually a member of the lily family. Extremely common from the Mid-Atlantic into the South, Liriope is one of the most adapted groundcovers available. Sun, shade, wet or dry does not seem to bother this dependable plant. Ideal conditions are an average soil with even moisture, sun or shade is agreeable to it. Many varieties exist with variegated forms (white and yellow striped leaves) available. Liriope muscari is clump forming and not aggressive, while Liriope spicata is stoloniferous and will be more aggressive.
  • Vinca – A daintier groundcover, this evergreen prefers shade, but tolerates partial sun. It is not drought tolerant and likes a rich, humus soil. The periwinkle blue flowers occur in late spring and are an added benefit in the landscape. Best when viewed up close and in smaller areas.
  • Mondo Grass – Not a true grass, but a relative of Liriope. It is smaller in leaf and size than Liriope and will burn out if planted in full sun; nevertheless Mondo Grass’s fine textured leaves are effective when used in shaded beds under trees or by outdoor features. A dwarf variety is available that only grows an inch or two tall and looks nice around flagstone steps.
  • Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium) – This groundcover is not evergreen but its ability to grow in dry shade makes it a good choice for some areas. Bishop’s weed has a white edge to the leaves which help brighten up shaded sites.
  • Sedge (Carex sp) – Sedges are grass-like plants that are excellent groundcovers for wet, shady locations. Sedges come in many leaf types, with yellow and white varieties along with wide and thin blade types. Plants can be mowed down in the spring to clean them up.
  • Plumbago (Ceratostigma) – Plumbago is a drought tolerant, aggressive groundcover for sun or shade. The 10-inch tall plants have blue flowers in summer and the leaves turn a maroon color in the fall.
  • Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria) – The legendary fragrance of the white spring-blooming groundcover makes this a popular plant for dense shade. Plants form a dense mat of strap-like leaves that will gradually spread to form a weed-free groundcover. 

Steve Sullivan is our Horticulturalist at the Brickman Group .  If you have general landscaping questions you can send them to me or go to  the site below for some ideas. www.brickmangroup.com/index.php

Hurricane Season

Get your nails and plywood ready because its going to be another active year in the tropics!  I was recently traveling through the Caribbean and spoke with a couple residents from Santiago and they confirmed the bad news based on late spring conditions.  They explained that the heavy rains in May that have hammered the Dominican Republic signal a tough hurricane season. I have read several articles that relate to the uncharacteristic weather we have had so far this year that state the same outcome.

Damage from Hurricane Charley last year in Daytona Beach

Having lived in Florida for 12 years we saw our fair share of bad weather,  but nothing like the residents went through last year.  Millions of dollars in damage to spring training ballparks through out the state.  At Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter every light pole in the stadium blew down except one.  Poles were knocked down in Daytona Beach at the Cubs stadium as well. 

Lets all hope these predictions are wrong, but at the same time you should have a hurricane plan in place now to protect your family and property.

NOAA has a great new weather site for you weather trackers. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2447.htm

Olympic Baseball …Looking good!

Those of you that track the status of our game on an international level may have heard about the positive news from the Association of Summer Olympic International Federation’s  meeting in Switzerland this past week. The IOC President, Jacques Rogge’ spoke very favorably about the future of our game remaining in the Olympics.  A an official vote will be held for all 28 sports in July 8 .  A 51% approval from the IOC members will keep you in the Olympics.  Since they are doing all the sports I would think there are a few out there that are on lot shakier ground than baseball.  The Olympics must maintain a maximum of 28 sports, 301 medal events and 10,500 athletes. 

If someone,  gets the boot look for Rugby, Golf, Squash or roller sports to be added. 

Coolest Job in Baseball!

There are a lot of cool jobs out there in sports but none can beat the life of a groundskeeper.  Here is my top 10 reasons why the job is the best.

10.  You get a great tan without trying to!

9.    The job is better than joining a gym.  It keeps you  healthy….no need for exercise after those 5 tarp pulls and lugging around a 50lb bag of soil conditioner during a rain delay.

8.    The job gives you time to think…Mowing a 2 acre ball field takes about 1.5 hours per day and normally your a one man show so there is no one else to talk to. 

7.    You become a pop music know it all and learn to sing….I personally have witnessed guys and gals mowing fields with head-sets singing …(Its a good thing no one can hear them over the mower)

6.    Everyone wants to be your Friend…if its a pro stadium grounds job the fans want you to get autographs, tickets, baseballs or …even dates with the players!  A lot of folks even ask for the groundskeepers autograph!

5.    You get to work long days during the summer and short days during the winter.  (Pending location…Florida doesn’t count here)

4.    You can wear flip flops and T-shirts to work everyday!

3.     You get to watch a lot of baseball for free!

2.     Its a job you can do forever and in most cases your boss has no idea how to take care of a baseball field….great job security!


1.    You get to hang out with Mother Nature and work with some great people!

Tiawan_photos_11This photo was taken in Taiwan at the 2001 World Cup of Baseball.  To the far right standing is one of the best singing groundskeepers in the business…as long as the mower is running!


Over the past couple years I have been working as the project director on the new USA baseball Olympic Training Facility in Cary, NC.  The complex will break ground this summer and will have 4 – full size regulation fields including one that will be a small stadium with 1500 seats.  Paul Sieler, Executive Director of USA baseball and his staff moved to Cary after several years in Tuscon AZ.  The east coast provided a much better access logistically for there needs so several groups, cities and private entities lobbied the USA Baseball Organization and Cary, N.C. came out on top!   

Cary is in the center of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill and has been labeled by Money Magazine as the top place in the country to live! 

The USA staff does a wonderful job developing the game around the country and representing our national past time worldwide with numerous national teams traveling during the summer months. There have been some great players over the years that have played on USA teams before making the majors such as Alex Rodriguez, Mike Mussina,Mark McGwire, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Giambi, Tino Martinez, Ben Sheets, Robin Ventura, Mark Prior and 2000 Olympic Gold Medalists Doug Mientkiewicz, Adam Everett and Brad Wilkerson and many others.

The construction site presented some initial design challenges due to the topography of the land, but at the same time the steep grades have also allowed for some very unique designs.  Each field will be on a different grade giving the complex more character than your standard "wagon wheel" design. 

More to come on this great project once we start construction this summer. The projected opening date will be spring 2007. 

My Yard

Thanks for the emails and field questions….B. Harmon from Texas asked me in an email if I take care of my yard like a baseball field. 

Well B.H. The answer is Yes and no.  I enjoy it when I have time…but when I don’t,  my teenage boys have the yard duty. They do a good job.   Here is a photo they took and emailed me this week.  Thanks Cam and Scott!

Front_yard_photo_1 The mower we use is a National I-25 walk behind rotary. It has a bag attachment on it which helps pick up leaves, sticks, tennis balls, etc…

Unlike a baseball field I don’t have to maintain any mounds!  Since its a Bluegrass/Rye Blend, I sometimes get a fungus in the summer but not very often.  We fertilize about 4-5 pounds per thousand square feet per year. ( A pro baseball field could go as high as 10-12 pounds per year pending the location).  We keep the turf at about 2.5 inches and mow as needed.  There you go Mr. Harmon!