June 2006

How to Mow Stripes in your Lawn

Lanc_fieldThose beautiful shades of green stripes on the fields you see at sporting events are not painted on!    (I have been asked this question by a few readers recently).

First, Its not as hard as it looks to put those stripes in your yard..even a 7 year old can do it and I was a witness too the youth event as it was my son that put them in our yard several years ago with his bubble mower.

The stripes are actually made by rolling or bending the grass in opposite directions.  In pro parks they use a vertical reel type mower.Daves_greek_photos_045_1   Its all about the equipment …NOT THE PAINT! Some big league parks have developed some very special designs over the years like Cal Ripkens #8 in the field when he retired and Dave Mellor’s beautiful "Red Sock"designs at his field in Boston.  There are even parks that mow the grass in one direction to show "no stripes".   The Skyline at Shea a few years back was nice as well.

There is a myth that the grass bending could effect the ball…again that is a myth as long as the groundskeeper changes the pattern every few weeks it will not effect the ball roll.   

For years,  in order for the homeowner to put those cool stripes in there lawn , they had to purchase a $3000 walk behind reel mower.  Your standard rotary mower can’t really perform this function because it requires a roller or some type of vertical movement to push or brush the grass in one direction.  This brushing and rolling is alternated as you travel back and forth on the grass.   That’s it! 

Recently,  I have noticed a few companies beginning to sell striping attachments that you can put on your existing mowers. Dscn1196 In fact the large commercial "Z mowers" ( the mowers you see zipping around..you knowthe one.. the guy uses two handles to maneuver it instead of a steering wheel)  Those units now have a striping kit that can be attached to the mower. Dscn1197  If you look behind the mowing deck and in front of the wheel on the mower photo,  you can see it on this EX-mark mower that TORO distributes. 

Before going out and buying something to stripe your field or lawn you need to know what type of grass  you have because it may affect the ability to stripe the grass. 

The Northern grasses such as Bluegrass and fescues always stripe very well.  Also dormant Bermuda grass…. over seeded with rye type grass seed in the south does a great job. Where you may have some trouble is striping bermuda type turfs in the summers.  Its possible but these grasses need to be mowed in various directions or they tend to "grain" which will cause the ball to roll funny on the field.   

I actually had a small stripping mower at my yard earlier this year before the heat wave caused the county to impose water restrictions.  The photo is on my last "Yard Tips" blog.  McLean and National Mower companies actually sell striping mowers.  I would look for the attachment for your brand of mower. 

Just remember in this drought, its not healthy to mow brown turf…striping or not

Who is the 10th player on the Baseball field?

P2021167 Over the years, I have heard MLB managers and players use a similar quote… "the groundskeeper is the 10Th person in our line up."  If there was a true 10th person there is some tough competition. There are GM’s,  scouts, stadium ops, equipment managers, clubbies …a lot of people that have a huge responsibility to the team …but as an old groundskeeper myself, I believe the game is played and won on the field and without the field…you can’t play the game.  Thus the "10th man" comments regarding the groundscrew have some merit.  ( Just a note that that the 10th man…referring to the groundskeeper, could also be the 10th woman as well )

The relationship the groundskeeper and crew have with the manager, coaching staff and the players is crucial to the success of how the field plays for the team.  Planning for daily workouts, drills, side sessions, evaluating infield moisture issues, homeplate softness/hardness …these conversations with the players and staff on a daily basis is only a small part of the groundskeepers job.  It used to be difficult for a player to discuss field conditions with the groundskeeper because he could be "ear marked" as a complainer.  Not any more!  Players are very accustomed to talking with the Grounds staff … especially infielders.  Most of the discussions will take place before and after Batting practice. Mexicogeecepr_fields_061

Like with any responsibility, being the 10th person on any team or job comes with pros and cons.  When there is a bad hop, rain delay, wet mound, hard infield you will hear about it very quickly…the press run with any negative comment about the field of play and post it as a note in the news. (you don’t see to many positive comments made in the news about the field during the season.)  At the same time… no news is good news in this profession. If the field is playing well you will hear very little. Even if aesthetically it looks a little rough, but it plays well, you will not hear much from the team…(but that doesn’t mean the team owner may not have something to say.)  Sometimes a team on a downward spin will be quick to judge field issues, but again that’s part of the game. If your team is loosing and its your field…you take the heat as well.  Mexicogeecepr_fields_044

Over the years players like Fred McGriff were always positive about the field conditions…same with Andre Galarraga. When Tim Wallach was with the Montreal Expos he provided good feedback about field conditions and took a special interest in letting the groundscrew know after a game.

Several years back Terry Pendleton was vocal about field conditions when I worked for the Braves and Expos ..as was Jeff Blauser.  Both players were helpful and provided feedback regularly about field conditions. Good and bad. It helped us become better. 

A couple years ago in a MLB game, Brian Schneider (now the Nationals) came up to me about some hardness in the catchers box.  We told him we would soften it up a bit and the next day he raved about the conditions.  We really didn’t do very much to it..but when I approached him about it and said we made a couple changes he said it was perfect the next day…(of course he went 2 for 4 that night with a homer… but it was still nice to hear. )

Sydney_mound_2 There have been stories about pitchers complaining about various mound conditions at different parks. In an effort to evaluate the problem the groundskeeper will ask the other pitcher’s who used the mound that day and they may say it was fine.  Now what!  There is only one good answer and approach to this scenario…the groundskeeper will continue to tweak it an make improvements for the next rotation …for all the mound users.

When the Braves had Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz throwing in the early to mid 90’s ….a consistent mound was pretty important.  Leo Mazzone made an effort to walk the field and check the mounds before they started up.  With a lot of pitchers throwing in spring training during those years in West Palm beach (a two team facility) these players were always very positive about the mound conditions. 

Another common issue with some mounds is there are times two different pitchers make similar wear patterns in the mound that cause one or the other to land differently.  What has changed to help the groundskeeper with this particular problem over the past several years is better clays and moisture management techniques to keep the mound consistent throughout the game regardless of who pitches on it. 

So hears to the 10th man/woman!!  May your field grow green and the balls roll smoothly!