October 2008

Concerned about Rain? …No Problem, Call China

china-rain-topper.jpgTaking in the Phillies situation last night regarding the rain delays and inaccurate weather reports I couldnt help but to feel bad for Mike Boekholder, Head Groundskeeper and his crew. He can’t control the weather and unfortunately he can only believe in what the weather man tells him. All groundskeepers have been in similar situations but none to the level that happened last night in Philadelphia.  There are some great weather prediction systems on the market but even they can not be 100% trusted.  

With that being said,  I do know of a alternate solution and I know it works because I witnessed the event myself.  Working the Baseball venue for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was truly an eye opening experience into Chinese culture.  China had invested in a weather modification system to ensure the Opening ceremonies (and other events) was not threatened by weather.. 

china weather mod gun 1[1].jpgOn 8-8-08 a severe storm approached the Opening ceremonies out of the northwest.  A very typical low pressure weather front.  I was watching the weather with some folks from the metrological service who basically said, “watch this”.  As the storm approached the Beijing city limits the storm cell basically fell apart only to reappear on the other side of the city.  Beijing had launched over 1110  rockets into the sky to seed the clouds with a silver iodide based product that would make the clouds rain themselves out then send planes into the sky to keep the clouds dry with a salt based product and therefore saving the opening ceremonies event from ruin. 
drop_04.jpgYes…. China controlled mother nature.  Is there a health concern with this practice? I dont know.   I was told the cost of the rocket launch was excessive but over the course of the next couple weeks we saw similar weather systems fall apart even for baseball.  We were tracking radar and watching these large rain systems approach and we would inform everyone of the rain situation and then nothing would happen. I would call the weather service and they would acknowledge a couple rockets had been sent up to blast the clouds.  From that point on, keeping in close contact with the meteorologists was crucial and they would let us know if more rockets were released. 

Not sure if rockets will be glaring over the Phillies tonight but rain is part of the game in our country and the current forecast looks pretty nasty.  The field in Philly was designed to take a tremendous amount of water but with the forecast showing 80%-100% all day its going to be another tough one as trying to dry out last nights mess during the day is another challenge ,  Good luck Mike…I wish I could have china send some rockets your way.

Baseball Fields of Holland

PA210194.JPGAmsterdam, Nederlands- In 2009 Holland will host the second round of Baseball’s world Cup.  Cities to be used in 09 include Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Haarlem. Inspecting these fields will be a little more easier than Italy.   These parks were used in the 2005 World Cup.  Holland has a long history in Europe as a leader in shipping and water management and is building a very strong baseball program.  Another local fact that tends to make field management tricky is how well this country manages water.  (Neder) which means low in dutch ie Low lands) kind of makes since when 40% of the country used to be under water.  They have turned entire bodies of sea water into fresh water.  Also seeing the new wind mills and the old gave a nice contrast to a changing environment around the country. Holland is a great baseball country having strong teams every year throughout Europe and sending clubs to the last 2 olympics. Since 2005 they have made some good improvements.  Fields have great padding, they have added addtional fields and grown the game for the youth.   Haarlem is also going through some field changes by adding a new synthetic turf field this year. 

greek sdium and greenville 145.jpgRobert Enhorn ( Former New Yankees player) has been the teams manager for years.  The organization of the federation made asome changes by bringing back Ruud Van Zetten as president.  With more and more young players swinging bats…I have a feeling this country will end up having a bumper crop of pros in a few more years.  These guys are really excited about the 09 games. Its going to be a great tournament.   

Italy + 20 baseball stadiums + 3000 kilometers of driving + 7 days …. a lot of pasta = A great experience

grosetto panoramic.JPGFlorence – After concluding the whirlwind Italian baseball facility evaluations today, I depart with new friends after meeting wonderful people around the country that are  truly committed to developing baseball.  The stadium tour as you can see from the map was pretty extensive.  There is work to be done to the ballparks before the 2009 World Cup but the best part is that we have time.  The concept of hosting the World Cup in multiple European sites is pretty cool not to mention a great marketing plan for game development in this Region.  More importantly improving the ballparks will benefit the growth of the game.  “Better fields , make better players”

1944 nettuno baseball practice.JPG 
Yesterday we concluded the day in Nettuno.  As the local organizing committee quickly informed me, this is where baseball was born in Italy.  The World War II photo illustrates a US solider taking a little BP in a bunker near the stadium here in 1944.  The ballpark itself was obviously one of the best of the 20 parks and sites that we reviewed.  Between Grosseto and Nettuno these fields are pretty good. They each still have some things to tweak,  but still better than most.  The head grounds man at the park in Nettuno (Mario) was eager to show me his collection of photos and memorabilia from over the years.  It was quite impressive.  He also had made a pitching platform for the mound to protect the grass in
PA170430.JPGfront of the mound area.  Similar to what we have in the US that rolls out to the mound. The “pitching deck” is made from wood planks and has a nice Arabian carpet floor runner glued onto the surface.  Very creative.  In 1994 the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II,  the ballpark was at the center of the celebration as several US military bases still remain very active in Italy.

Did I tell you I had more Pasta last night and for lunch?    Sandro and
PA180494.JPGFabio have been troopers during this ordeal.  I can’t thank them enough for making the experience an enjoyable one considering the amount of kilometers we drove.   (Actually Fabio drove)   After a 2 hour train ride from Florence to Rome it’s off to Amsterdam for a few more parks before heading back to the USA.    


Expos in Italy?

PA150283.JPGWell…not quite but I did enjoy seeing the MONTREAL EXPOS logo still painted behind the homeplate areas in San Marino Italy.  The San Marino Baseball Club changed name several years back but never changed the logo behind homeplate. The Red “S” the M and B give it a pretty cool balance. We saw a couple other parks today along with a stop at a Clay factory near San Marino. They had quite the operation and materials on hand for tennis courts ballfields you name it. We actually used some of there materials when we designed and managed the fields for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.  There warning track mix was great.
PA150278.JPG Thanks Phillipo for showing us around the plant.


greek_sdium_and_greenville_053.jpg First of all hats off to the Cubs, Dodgers, Rays, Phillies, Red Sox, Twins, White Sox and Brewers for winning there divisions. I have not seen this much hype in post season for a while.  Kind of odd not seeing the yankees or braves in there… but thats baseball.

This time of year reminds me of renovation time for my yard as well as the fields we take care of and obviously MLB’s Post Season. Also so long to shea stadium and Yankee Stadium. Its been one heck of a baseball season for everyone. On the Home front our Brickman sports turf crew had several clubs make the playoffs. Daytona Cubs actually won the FSL league as did Augusta in the Sally League.  All of the post season and league winning clubs had great fields and great groundskeepers. 

International baseball is catching its breath after the Olympics.  Its hard to believe less than 7 months ago we were hosting the Dodgers Padres in Beijing China.  WOW.

I read a great article today in the New York Times about groundskeepers.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/01/sports/baseball/01mow.html?_r=1&oref=slogin   The Red Sox G.K.,  David Mellor really put grass mowing design on the map over the past 10 years. There have been many stories over the years about turf mowing and deisigns in the grass. I actually purchased an ECO friendly reel push mower to stripe a small area in my yard. It look great and its not rocket science.  As the article reads. its the mower reels and rollers just pushing the blades of grass one way or the other. 


Standby for a busy fall on the international front. Preparing for the 2009 WBC and a new European Baseball League as well as plans for 2009 World Cup.  ANd Start your ayrd renovations ASAP.  I have a feeling its going to get cold quick!