March 2006


P3021246_1 This past week a story was posted on the web that supposedly linked the new infill systems that are sand based to staph infections and health issues. Many facilities have installed these fields around the country.  Its the turf that looks like real grass.  (San Juan Bithorn stadium is a sand based system and I am pretty sure Minnesota, Toronto and Tampa Bay have the same turf)

Several NFL stadiums use this type of turf and many many more parks and colleges have also recently installed the new type of grass due to its similarities of natural turf and the improvement over the original Astro Turf product that was very hard. 

Before you go crazy about your children and teams playing on these fields you should check and weigh all the sources.

1. The synthetic turf industry is a very competitive market and each synthetic turf provider  uses all the angles they can to make there product look a little better than others. (Kind of like the carpet industry.)

2. This is just one study probably payed for by a turf provider. 

3. Is there a reason for concern…yes.  But if you recall, when we heard cell phones could possibly cause cancer…. did we immediately stop using them…no.  My wife still yells at me when I open the micro-wave door before it turns off because of the potential radiation leaks! Do I believe her…yes! The question is how much radiation am I receiving that could cause me to have a health problem associated with radiation?

I am sure the turf article will spark a rash of other studies on the new synthetic turfs. I prefer natural grass but at the same time I also understand these new products are rather new(8-years in MLB) here in the states and many people are just seeing and playing on them for the first time. Domes around the world and fields up north have found these turfs to be the best and sometimes only choice. 

Here is the article for those who care to check it out but don’t draw any final conclusions until we hear more data on the issue.

In addition to this article a recent Athletic Turf Industry newsletter added the following:

Editor’s Note: Recently, media outlets have stepped up coverage of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) outbreaks here and abroad. The flurry of recent coverage may have been sparked by the March 6 publication of a research study of MRSA in an Atlanta hospital that showed 72 percent of the patients had MRSA or antibiotic resistant staph infections ("Emergence of Community-Acquired Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus …," Annals of Internal Medicine, March 7, 2006). In February, the British Medical Association made international headlines by advising British doctors to stop wearing ties because they may spread the "super bug" MRSA which caused 22% more deaths in the UK last year than the year before. There have been no media reports that we can find showing any student or professional athlete has contracted MRSA from synthetic or natural turf.]

Again I’m a natural turf guy at heart …but we need more information on this issue before drawing any final conclusions. 


Front_yard_photo_1Baseball Season Officially starts next weekend and it also signifies the time to Green up your Grass , especially for the folks who live north of the Mason Dixon line. If you are a competitive lawn man with the neighbor or just enjoy having green grass… you should be heading to Home depot or your local landscape shop this week to pick up your lawn products.  Temps are finally going to level out and your ground is going to start to thaw.

There are so many choices when you get there and the main thing is to keep it simple and go into the store with a plan.  Your plan!  Remember Different grasses + different climates = different turf programs so not all fertilizer programs are alike.

A little work this spring can keep your lawn healthier for the summer.  Here is a list of projects you may consider as you plan for a lush turf.

1.  Get a soil sample and have it tested by your local extension office.  This sounds tough but its as simple as it sounds. Every county has an extension agent that can send you in the right direction.  You will get your turf’s PH tested and also see what your lawn is missing as it relates to nutrients.  The sample of soil and root mass goes into a quart sized zip lock bag.  Go to a couple spots in your yard to collect soil. This test takes about 10 days…

2.  The report will give you the specifics of materials to purchase and at what rate to apply the materials. Some even give you the exact brands.  Many lawns need Lime and the PH test will help determine the level of acidity in the lawn.  An average is 6.5 to 7.0

3.  De-thatch your lawn. Bluegrass and fescue lawns build thatch. Thatch is the layer of dead grass between the ground and where before the blade turns green. Average thatch is around 1/2 inch thick. If its thicker than 1/2inch rent a de-thatcher and rake up the thatch layer debris. If you didn’t dethatch in the fall now would be a pretty good time to thin out the turf… but make sure the last frost has finessed and start the process the day after.  Removing Thatch helps your seed to ground contact and also reduces summer disease problems.

4.  Lawns need aerification in the spring and fall.  This is a process of plugging holes in your yard with a machine…. (they used to use shoes for plugging lawns years ago… they had long nails on them) The process of renting a machine could get expensive depending on how big your yard is but nevertheless it will improve the root growth and relieve compaction of the soil.

5.  Seed your lawn. Broadcast your seed after the aerfication and de-thatching. Use a seed that is common in your region.  Most ballparks in the north are bluegrass blends.  Most lawns are a fescue/bluegrass blend.  The key is to make sure you get a variety of mixes.  A four way blend of seed is preferred.

6. Fertilizer. The soil test will give you a some direction of types of fertilizer but more importantly don’t apply a pre emergence herbicide to your lawn if you overseeded.  Nothing will pop.  If your lawn is healthy and you are not overseeding…. then put out a granular pre-emergence in the spring with your fertilizer application. This will help control broadleaf and grassy weeds in the spring.  If you didn’t obtain a soil test, play it safe and Fertilize with a well rounded N-P-K product with micro nutrients per manufacturers suggested rates.

7. Irrigate or water your lawn for a couple days after the renovation is completed to wash the seed and fertilize next to the soil for good contact.

8. Patch any areas that require sod or new grass.

For that quick green look in the spring I like to use Ironite on my home lawn in the spring.  If you can’t find Ironite , use a Milorganite.  Both of these products can be applied with your regular fertilization plan.  Get a good cyclone spreader…not a drop spreader and layout a path so you apply it evenly.

That should get you started for a healthy turf in 2012!  Good Luck!

World Baseball Classic …Thanks!

We played the first 2 rounds of the World Baseball Classic in San Juan and the reason it was a flawless operation was because of a great staff and groundscrew.   We had several tarp pulls that averaged Wbc_groundscrew_repaired under 1:30 seconds and all of the teams left with no field type injuries.  Thanks to the crew for all of your help.  A special thanks to Chad, Joe, Josh, Darrell, Dan, Dennis and Mike for keeping the field at 100% through out the entire event.

On the game….we sent the best clubs to the semis.  The final Puerto Rico vs. Cuba Game was tremendous. PR had chances to win throughout the game.  The competition was fierce.  Watching Cuba play in numerous international events over the years has been fun and you can never count them out until the final pitch.  They are one of the toughest teams to beat that I have ever seen when it comes down the wire.

Wbc_castro Several years ago when I was in Havana preparing the Latino Americana Stadium for the Orioles vs. Cuba game,  I met a guy by the name of Antonio Castro Sota del Valle.  During the WBC I met him again.  He is the Doctor of the Cuba team and also Fidel Castro’s son. I guess his dad gave him an ultimatum.  Either you join the army or become a doctor….He chose the latter. Probably a good choice!  It was good seeing him again after so many years.

If you didn’t catch any of the games in San Juan you missed a great tournament.  Friends that have attended All star games, world series, Daytona 500, even Superbowl events in the states totally agreed that the crowds at these games… even though they were half the size…made more noise than they have ever heard at a sporting event.

It was a fun event and everyone in PR is already talking about WBC 2009!!  I am sure San Juan has a good chance of hosting it again!


Dscn1062 Here in San Juan my most frequent field question has been.." Hey Murray how hot is the field". 

Over the weekend we hit temperatures of the turf at 150+ degrees. That is just the surface temperature. Once a clouds passes or a spritz of water hits the field it can immediately drop 30 to 40 degrees.  ESPN attempted to fry an egg today but it was a little to cool. Only 140.  It needs to be at least 150 and we may hit that today.  Dscn1095

One may wonder how a player can handle this type of heat. The heat is not a stranger to players from the Caribbean and all of the second round clubs in the W.B.C. are from the local Islands  This tournament is amazing in many ways.  Our U.S. ground crew has developed a great bond with the P.R. grounds crew.  The success of this field during the tournament is strictly related to the people living (literally) at the stadium on a daily basis during this event.

Puerto Rico in San Juan for WBC

Dscn1053_1 Lets get it started!  First day of practice in San Juan for team Puerto Rico and Panama went off without a hitch.  Some threatening clouds but no rain. 

It was decided at the last minute to make Puerto Rico’s batting practice open to the public and media.Dscn1052   What a nice gesture by the promoter and  MLB.  About 3000 people turned out to watch there home town heroes get ready for Game one tomorrow night. The people attending the game was mostly composed of young families with young children. It was fun to see. Dscn1050_1

Ivan Dejesus,  First base coach for PR,  was the first guy out to to walk across the field.  He was very impressed with the conditions and all of the improvements that were made by city staff and our guys.. Chad, Joe, Josh, Daniel and Darrell. We have a couple more small things to complete before game time but they are minor. 

Big day tomorrow with Cuba and Netherlands practicing before the opener.  Its going to be fun!Dscn1043


Dscn1040Well two more days and the teams arrive for the first round of the World Baseball Classic in San Juan,  Puerto Rico and everything is coming together with a lot of help from a lot of people.  You can sense the difference between the planning for this event and the Expos series during the 2003 and 2004 season at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. People here are non stop talking about the match-up of who will be in the finals.  (Obviously most here are a little biased and side with the P.R. team. )

Regardless of who wins, this country really needs a shot in the arm  to grow the game of baseball and this just might be what the doctor ordered.  Most of the locals tell me the number 1 sport here is Basketball, then baseball and close behind baseball is volleyball.   

Today we had the Cuban Federation take a tour of the facilities at the stadium and they were very impressed with the field stadium conditions.  This field is the only outdoor  (all the time) MLB field that is a product of the new synthetic turfs.  The temperature today was …REAL HOT…an the turf temps hit 139 degrees! I think the bottom of my sneakers started to melt.  Most of these type of turfs have a sprinkler system that helps to cool them.  SInce this is an older field this one does not have one. 

Dscn1041 There is much to do, but the 22000 seat stadium is in much better shape now than it was compared to 2 years ago before the Expos season Opener.  We have a full slate of practices scheduled for Monday at the stadium and they are unfortunately calling for 40% chance of rain.  Not to worry because the City of San Juan tarp crew holds the fastest time I have ever seen in covering the field. 

(There is no elevator in Hiam Bithorn stadium so large ice machines,  such as the one in this photo, need to be carried to the top of the seating bowl by hand)

We practiced today placing the tarp on the field and from the time the umpire would call to cover the field… they had it on the field and sandbagged in 1:20 seconds. That is amazing!!! …and it was windy which made it much more difficult to place!

The Puerto Rico team practices Monday evening and the practice is open to the public. Panama and Cuba teams arrive today… 

Anyway more to come about the field and facility operations throughout the World  Baseball Classic event in San Juan.