May 2010

A Baseball Thank You to our Armed Forces on Memorial Day

12000 tomb stones of fallen US soilders.JPGMemorial Day and baseball have weaved a history of both good times and sad. Today we remember those that have fallen.  Our country grew up american cemetery in Nettuno.JPGplaying baseball in many parts of the world during times of war.  Japan, Italy, Cambodia, Korea…the list goes on an on.    In 2009, Team USA won the World Cup in Nettuno, Italy. The final game against Cuba was a great show by team USA but probably the most important part of that win took place just before the club took the field to win Gold.   A brief tour was set up (instead of taking BP)  to see the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery & Memorial just up the street from the stadium on the final day of the tournament. 

team usa  compressed.JPG(If you look just above the heads of this photo you will see a statue in the back ground.  It is a statue of the “Brothers-in Arms” which symbolizes an American Soldier and Sailor.)  My Good friend Kernel Joe (who helped us out on the fields) and came up with the idea to have the team head to the cemetery instead of the ballpark and he just made it happen. After we made a few calls to the skipper and Eric it became a no brainer.   

soilders playing baseball.jpgHearing Joe talk to the players once they arrived about this Cemetery’s history is an incredible story not to mention stories of some of the soldiers.  Laying at rest in this beautiful cemetery are 7,861 Americans who fought for the liberation of Sicily and in the landing of Salerno and Anzio.  Flanked by Italian Cypruss trees an a pool that arcs at the entrance the marble grave stones are marked with the names of those fallen.  The personal cost was apparent in the description Joe provided the group.  There are 23 sets of brothers buried side by side including two sets of twins.  In addition to the vast amount of tombstones spread over the 77 acre property , the chapel’s marble walls contain the names of 3095 pesonnel missing in action.   Watching the young players in their uniforms walk through the grounds was a memory,  I will cherish forever.  
1944 nettuno baseball practice.JPG

Today we remember those who died for our freedom and thank them for their great sacrifice.  Thank you to all members in the Armed forces…for all that you have done an continue to do for our country and the world! 


Hiram Bithorn Stadium Upgrades for 2010

P5261044.JPGAlmost every year MLB does something at Hiram Bithorn Stadium as it relates to MLB Games and this year we will be playing a 3 game series between the Marlins and Mets in late June. This year the City is upgrading the warning track which will be installed by Carribean Equipment company also upgrading some drainage areas around the park.  June can be pretty moist in PR so having upgraded drains around the field will be a big plus. 

mayaguez.JPGHad a chance to check out the new stadium in Mayaguez PR where they will be holding the Central American Games in July.  Pretty cool ballpark. It will also host the Caribbean World Series next February.   Its about a 2 and half hour drive from San Juan.  If you are planning to head over you should schedule something now for rooms.  Not many hotels around the city!

Mowing Patterns in Grass

dscn0320.JPGThose beautiful shades of green stripes on the fields you see at sporting events are not painted on!    (Actually, I have been asked this question by a few readers over the years).

First, Its not as hard as it looks to put those
stripes in your yard..even a 7 year old can do it (under a parental eye) 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.   More importantly the bermuda grass tends to cause more snaking of the ball. You should try to mow the grass in the direction the ball is rolling to the outfielder

For years,  in order for the homeowner to put
those cool stripes in there lawn , they had to purchase an expensive 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 know the one.. the guy uses two handles to maneuver it instead of a steering wheel) Some of  Those units now have a striping kit that can be attached to the mower.  
If you look behind the mowing deck and in front of the wheel on the
mower photo, you can see the attachment on this EX-mark mower that TORO

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. 

Dscn1197The 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 a couple years back before the heat wave caused the county to impose water restrictions.   McLean and National Mower
companies actually sell striping mowers.  I would also look for the striping 
attachment as an option for your brand of mower. 

How to build a Professional Pitchers Mound

Chad Olsen, Brickman Sportsturf Operations Manager builds mound in Tokyo Dome.
Whether the hard clay is added as bricks or bagged material, the mound is built in layers with each layer “bonded” together.

Baseball’s mound has evolved over the years. Back in the late 1800s, it was 45 feet from home plate and the pitcher could take a couple of steps with the ball when throwing. Later, the pitcher had a 6-foot-square box as the designated area and had to stay within that box when throwing. The mound was initially defined in the rules in the early 1900s with the pitching rubber at a height of no more than 15 inches above home plate. Because mounds were at varying heights up to 15 inches, the rule was changed in the 1950s, setting 15 inches as the uniform height. Baseball became a pitcher’s game. In the late 1960s, pitcher Bob Gibson had an ERA of 1.12 and MLB’s top hitter, Carl Yastrzemski, was batting .301. During the 1968 season, over one-fifth of all MLB games were shutouts. The rule was officially changed in 1969, establishing the height of the pitching rubber at 10 inches above home plate–period–not 10 inches above the grass. That rule changed the way the game was played. At 15 inches, pitchers were told to “stand tall and fall.” With the change to 10 inches, it became “drop and drive.” The pitchers would drop down and push off from their right or left leg.

That 10-inch height is mandatory for major and minor league baseball, NCAA Baseball and most high school programs. (Check the official governing body for rules at each level of play.)

Be prepared

This is the method I use for new construction or total reconstruction of a mound. There are many other methods, but I’ve found this is the simplest way.

You’ll need a plate compactor, hand tamp, landscape rake, shovel, level board, hose and a water source. I prefer the professional block-type, four-way pitching rubber. You can flip it each year and get four years of use from it.

The most important thing you need is the clay. I suggest using two types: a harder clay on the plateau and landing area and your regular infield mix for the sides and back of the mound. The harder mix has more clay, with a typical mix about 40 percent sand, 40 to 50 percent clay and 10 to 20 percent silt. The infield mix for the rest of the mound is typically about 60 percent sand, 30 percent clay and 10 percent silt. Suppliers offer several options in bagged mound mixes, some of which come partially moist, some almost muddy and some as dry as desert sand. Be aware of those factors as you evaluate your clay sources. Any of the commercially bagged, vendor-provided mound mixes are heavy in clay and good to work with. When you purchase the material from a vendor, you know you’ll be getting the same thing each time. Bricks are also available for the harder clay. Some people prefer these, which are packaged moist and ready to go into the ground. Others prefer the bagged mixes for more flexibility in establishing moisture levels.

You’ll want to have 8 to 10 tons of clay available to build the mound; 2 tons of the harder clay and 6 to 8 tons of the infield mix. You’ll need wheelbarrows or utility vehicles for loading and unloading it–and people to help move it.

The most accurate way to set your distances and heights is to use a transit with a laser. If you don’t have access to this, you can use a string line run between steel spikes with a bubble level that you clip onto the string. Or, you can build a slope board.

Tackling the task

Plan for the proper orientation when constructing a new field or when building a mound for practice purposes. You’ll want the line from home plate through the pitcher’s mound to second base to run east-northeast so the batter isn’t looking into the sun when facing the pitcher. As you prepare to construct the mound, use the transit and laser or string lines to make sure home plate, the pitcher’s mound and second base are accurately aligned and everything is square.

The string line guides the process of building this bullpen mound in Osaka.
Precisions matters, so measure for every step in the mound building process.

For a regulation MLB field, the distance from the back of the home plate to the front of the pitching rubber is 60 feet 6 inches. The typical pitcher’s mound is an 18-foot circle with the center of the pitching mound 18 inches in front of the pitching rubber. That makes the measurement from the back of the home plate to the center of the pitcher’s mound 59 feet. Too often, the rubber is accidentally placed in the center of the pitcher’s mound so be sure you have the measurements right.

If you’re using the string line, place one steel spike behind the pitching rubber location and one just beyond home plate. Put a pin at the 59-foot point in the center of the mound area and stretch a 9-foot line out from it, moving it all around the pin to mark the outer line of the 18-foot circle. If the grass is already in place, protect it with geotextile and plywood while you’re building the mound.

Equipment and personnel combine to move the mound material.

Leave the pin in the center and place a second pin where the pitching rubber is going to be and mark the pin at 10 inches above home plate. Then, start bringing in the clay to form the base of the mound. Establishing the right moisture content within the clay mix is the key to building the mound. That consistency has been described as just a bit drier than that of Play-Doh when it first comes out of the can. It’s one of the instances where the science and art of sports field management mesh, learning by doing what that right consistency is given the material being used, the outside temperatures and humidity levels, sun, shade or cloud cover, wind speeds and direction. These factors vary daily–and often hourly–and make a difference in the formula that will keep the mix at just the right moisture level.

That’s why you will build the mound in 1-inch levels, creating the degree of moisture you want in each level so it will be just tacky enough for the new layer to adhere to the previous one. Use a tamp to compact each level. It’s important that the hard clay used to build the plateau and landing area is a minimum of 6 to 8 inches deep. You can put down plastic or wrap the tamp with a towel or piece of landscape fabric to keep it from sticking to the clay. You can’t add soil conditioner between these layers, as that will keep them from bonding together. Check the measurements of the height, using the transit and laser or the string line, with every lift of clay.

When you’ve built up the subbase with hard clay at the 60-foot-6-inch area to a 10-inch height, construct the plateau 5 feet wide by 34 inches deep. Position the front of the pitching rubber 60 feet 6 inches from the back of home plate. Set it firmly in place, making sure it is level across the length and width, with the top surface exactly 10 inches above the level of home plate. Draw a centerline through the pitching rubber and run a string from home plate to second base to confirm the rubber is centered.

With the pitching rubber in place and the plateau completed, you can begin to build the slope toward the front of the mound. Begin the slope 6 inches in front of the toe plate creating a fall of 1 inch per each foot. Double-check the accuracy of the slope using the transit and laser or the string line.

You’ll be using the harder mound clay to create the pie-shaped front slope of the mound, as this section will provide the landing area for the pitcher. Use the same method of clay mix, water and tamping, working in 1-inch increments.

You’ll use the infield mix to construct the remainder of the mound. Begin working from the back edge of the plateau using the same layering process. Use the edge of the slope board or a large wooden plank, positioning the top edge on the back of the plateau area and the other edge of the board on the edge of the grass to guide the degree of slope for the back and sides of the mound. Looking at the mound from the front as a clock face, you’ll be completing roughly the area from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to transition into the wedge in the front of the mound. You’ll want a smooth area of slope for the back and sides so that the side section precisely meets the edge of the pie-shaped wedge that is the front of the mound. Upon completion, the mound should look like a continuous circle with no indication that different materials have been used.

The dimensions, working from the outer edges of the 5-foot-by-34-inch plateau, are mathematically accurate to make the back and side segments a perfect fit. They tie into the wedge with the 1-inch to 1-foot fall of the front slope that begins 6 inches in front of the pitching rubber.

Once the mound is completed, top it with a 1/8-inch layer of infield conditioner so it won’t stick to the tamp. Then, cover the mound with a tarp and keep it covered to prevent it from drying out and cracking. Once the mound is properly constructed, you’ll have only the easier, but ongoing, task of managing the moisture level as you repair the mound after every practice and game.

Above Article Published in 


Head Groundskeeper bobble head give-away…is also a chia doll!

mike williams chia pet.jpgWell…. I came across a unique give away being promoted at the Charleston Riverdogs stadium showcasing a good friend, Mike Williams likeness on a bobble head.  We have seen a lot of bobbles of groundskeepers but this one is a bit different.  Its a Chia bobble…so I guess the hair grows green grass once you take off his hat and add water. Mike has always been a good sport having worked for a couple MLB teams and now with the R-dogs but this one takes the cake!  


All kidding aside,  Mike won the League award last year for best field so they wanted to do something for him to commemorate his success in 09.    Just goes to show you what some guys do for the clubs to help create fun times for the fans which equates to a successful franchise. Nice job Mike!   

The Original Bull Durham Ballpark Shines again after 16 years!

dap3.JPGOn a crisp cool night the original Bulls baseball park in conjunction with MILB hosted its first pro game since the early nineties.  To say it was a success would be an understated comment.  Were there a few glitches?   Sure …but what would you expect from a ballpark that has been seeing professional games since the early 40’s!   Raves and Raves about the field and the way the ballpark was restored to its initial luster.  4000+ fans filled the seats, berms, and where ever they could stand to witness history.  The crowd was really buzzing. . 

dap.JPGGreat job by Brickman Sportsturf’s, Josh Marden, CSFM  and his field crew for prepping the field .  The highlights of this game will be talked about for years.  Even the bus snafu which hit a snag in bringing over the Mudhens  from the DBAP was unique.   Just gave everyone a chance to snack on a beer and dog.

dap1.JPGConcession lines stayed 20 deep the entire game, wool E wolf took a spin in his go cart and the fans seemed to really like getting up close an personal with the team.  Not much of a choice at the DAP because the team has to walk through the fans to get to the dugout.  That is called old school minor league baseball .  What was even funnier was watching some of the players video tape the people as they were going through the crowd.   Nostalgic, magical and just plain cool seeing the old girl dressed up for a big game.  Welcome back DAP.