April 2011

Japan’s Double Batting Practice Workout

Having seen a few things around the world of baseball, one that really was interesting was the way Japan pro clubs took their BP.   Basically they would set up 2 BP cages side by side, have 2 BP pitchers and 2 BP catchers ( that used a stool and put each ball back in the BP bag) .  These guys would have their BP pitchers alternate throwing pitches to the hitters in each cage basically doubling the amount of swings you could take in an hour of BP.  That’s not all. ..When you were not in the cage you were doing soft toss so the hitting groups will swing the bat during their entire 20minute group time.  There would no infield but they do have a pitchers area under a net in centerfield to protect them while they were doing their field strength conditioning.   Not much I can add to this blog except that our Japanese friends really know how to get a lot of work completed in a short time frame.

Types of Portable Pitcher’s Mounds

Over the years I have used and seen quite a few different portable pitchers mounds.  The outdoor pitching decks  have become a great tool for turf protection on natural turf fields.  The indoor pitching mounds have provided great winter work for those folks up north.  The indoor mounds have greatly improved since my college pitching days.   Now we are seeing more portable pitching mounds being used for workouts on softball fields and being used for games on youth fields.   I guess that’s ok for the recreation level but once you start wearing spikes the turf on those pitching platforms becomes a different problem both for the pitcher, mechanics etc…

Generally,  there are a few different types of portable mounds that are specifically constructed for Outdoor or indoor use.  There are pro portable mounds and recreation mounds.  Basically its a slightly raised box that is a minimum 7ft long x 4ft wide.  The plywood type portable mounds are raised slightly by running 2×4 pieces of wood under the structure.  These work ok but the are cumbersome to move and may not last very long.   I’ve seen in south america where they construct their own wooden type platforms, but they are always flat with no slope.  They are basically plywood and outdoor carpet.  The photo  at the top of the blog  is a welding experiment I was admiring in Prague a couple of years back.  The wheels need to be changed so they don’t tear up the grass and leave ruts but its a good start for a frame.

I recall in Beijing they built a couple and they were constructed so large they needed to be carried to the field by 7 people.   I came back a few months later and they had one that 1 person could move but..the wheels were the support for the pitcher while he threw  BP and that caused problems because they couldn’t support his weight. There is a need to have small stanchions or posts placed next to the wheels or in the center of the deck to stabilize the pitching platform. Sometimes these stanchions or small posts are to long and thin so they tear the turf when you lift it.

Lately I’ve had some emails asking where folks can find portable mounds.  I’ve been pretty lucky with the pitching decks I have ordered from Beacon. OnlineSports has a couple that look ok.  I like Burbank Sports net Companies portable mound as well ( photo above) .  The aluminum construction makes them sturdy but light weight.  Big tip: Remember that you will need to purchase a taller L-screen when you get a standard 8  inch high pitching deck. The BP pitcher can be taller than the screen which is not very safe. Purchase an outdoor pitching platform that is made from aluminum and has wheels on one side so 1 person can move it off the field quickly.  Bottom line is that building these platforms may save you a few bucks but unless you have the proper tools and products it may be just as cheap to purchase them.

Texas Rangers Groundcrew Sport New Bling

Stopped by The Ballpark in Arlington this week to visit with Dennis Klein, head groundskeeper for the Rangers and coincidentally it was ring day for the Texas Rangers American League Champions.  Each full-time member of his crew also recieved a championship ring.  Hats off to Nolan Ryan and the Rangers for taking care of the ground crew.    As usual the field looked immaculate.

Sugar Land Skeeters Break Ground on StarTex Power Field

It was a beautiful day in Sugar Land for the groundbreaking of a new stadium (StarTex power Field) to open in the spring of 2012. The $27.9 million dollar ballpark is a natural grass field that we are excited to be a part of in the design construction and maintenance. Peter Kirk and ODP have done it again. Quite a few folks turned out for the event including Bob Watson and Deacon Jones, both baseball greats live in the community.  Unfortunately Brooks Robinson couldn’t make it because he was going into surgery, but in typical Brooks style, he called Peter to check how the groundbreaking was going just before he went in for the procedure. Hoping brooks has a speedy recovery!

How to Drag your Baseball or Softball Infield

One of the major parts of the field that requires a lot of TLC is the infield clay.  Many people watch the dragging ritual before a game but probably do not realize that it’s the 4th or 5th time they have dragged the field that day using a variety of drags.. You have flex drags, rigid drags, coco mats, nail drags, float board drags, harrow drags, etc..

In addition to dragging the field before the games, groundskeepers at the pro level even drag the field during the games.  There are several methods to dragging a baseball field and several factors you need to consider as to the type of drag(s) you may choose.  Types of infield clay, the moisture level and your equipment will dictate the level of dragging and best type of drag you will need.   Many sport complexes use the 3 wheel “sand pro” type units to pull a drag.  They are fast and very agile. Some folks prefer a small smooth tired tractor to perform this function because it tends to leave less tire tracks and ruts. We even see fields being dragged by hand in some parks.  Because that’s all they have to drag their field  with…also many believe hand dragging puts the best finish  on the infield.

The 4 ft x 6 ft flex mat is probably the most used in recreation level fields.  If you need to perform a leveling task you should use a rigid drag. A rigid drag pulls more material in the screen and does not float with the contours like the flex drags.   If you don’t have a rigid drag you can partially fold your flex drag which  helps it to not float. The 3×3 rigid drags do a great job on the baselines as well as areas around the mound and plate by keeping them level.  Sometimes for the infield, A heavier drag  or one with a leveling bar on the front is needed when the clay particles do not break up easily.  Another tool is the float board.  These are sometimes handmade from wood or steel and are designed to level your infield.

Dragging tips:

  1. It’s not a race so take your time especially as your turn.   Always keep the drag about a foot away from the grass and always pull the bases when you drag.  Trying to dodge second base might be fun but you are changing the grade of the your field and causing lips when you hit the turf with the drag.
  2. If the drag doesn’t fit down the baseline?don?t pull it down the baseline! You need to rake these areas and use a smoothing board or purchase a drag that fits.
  3. Initially do a small circle pattern across the entire field then make a center line drag from end to end.
  4. Alternate patterns and dragging direction on a daily basis from Clockwise to counter clock wise.
  5. Select the finish drag that provides the smoothest surface.
    1. Coco mats are common for final dragging because they basically brush the clay and do not move material like the big drags.
    2. Some flex mats have a leveling bar on the front that helps to remove small bumps from the workouts.
    3. Before dragging make sure you have proper moisture and have used a ?nail type? drag to remove the deep ruts.
    4. Give the field a little water after the drag to stabilize the surface.
    5. At some of the allstar games you have seen designs in the clay areas.  This material is calcined clay and is a lighter color than the rest of the infield.  It may appear to be a ridge but it is a soil conditioner used regularly for infield maintenance.
    6. Monitor the moisture in the infield clay throughout the day. If its to dry add water but do so after you complete you’re dragging routine in the morning.
    7. After the games ask the players how it played and tweak your plan as necessary.
    8. Have fun!

Dragging the field is part of the art of infield maintenance so pay attention to te soil as you drag it to determine if you’re using the right drag.

The Baseball Field


What makes a baseball field so beautiful is in the eyes of the beholder but how it becomes that lush field of  manicured grass is all about the sportsturf manager and his staff.  (For those old-timers groundskeepers are now called sports turf managers.)   Baseball fields haven’t changed drastically since the 1840s back when the sport was known as knickerbockers. The bases were measured at 90ft then and they remain that distance today. The mound however has changed quite a bit.  In the last 20 years,  field playing surfaces for all levels have improved tremendously, Standards have increased and the need for safety was stressed.  even with all of the new fancy equipment and field protection materials there is still one part of the field that remains a true art.  Managing the clays. The infield mound and homeplate.  To hard or to soft.  It’s all about moisture and how your field takes the water during certain times of the year.  Mother nature has a calendar but she will sometimes tweak it a bit and throw everyone a curve like the Yankees practicing in a snow fall a couple of days ago.    The turf managers in the north had a pretty rough winter and  those fields are green and ready.  I’ve blogged a bit about  lot of How to grow your fields etc… but each spring seeing our fields go green after harsh winters is really amazing.  The amount of hours and time spent on maintaining these fields is immense.

With the 2011 Baseball season officially underway we need to say thanks to  our Spring training site ground crews  for getting the guys ready for the season and the job our MLB and Minor League clubs are preparing to begin. Have a great season!

Travel Tips from a VERY Frequent Flyer

Now that the baseball season has started people are going to be heading to ballparks all over the USA.  If your flying to see your favorite team play I have a couple tips for you.  After flying a few million miles,  I can honestly say there needs to be some type of flying etiquette among the many folks who travel.   Kind of like golf has , “don’t walk on the greens in front of someone’s ball” or for baseball’s infielders, “don’t walk across the pitcher’s mound”.   There are those simple “dos and don’ts” when you travel in an airplane.  Being a little courteous to the people sitting next to you that are streaking through the sky in the same aluminum tube heading to the same place should be simple. Right?

Here are a few flying tips I believe should be added to the friendly flyer list.

  1. Honoring Military Flyers –  People, please step aside and let these guys and gals go to the front of the line!  I was returning back from a trip through DFW a few weeks back and an entire battalion was returning from Afghanistan for a 2-week furlough.  Our TSA’s held up the regular customs line so these guys could get through a little quicker. The person behind me was not happy about waiting which was pretty difficult to understand how my fellow American could be so heartless.
  2. Is your bag to big – no really!   Everyone has seen it,  carry on bags are meant to be carried on. Check point:  If you can’t carry it, how can you put it in the over head bin!  More importantly when you are slinging your shoulder bag or briefcase down the aisle on your back or side and you feel that bump- bump – bump … that’s the bag hitting people in the head because it doesn’t fit the way you are carrying it between the chairs. Turn it around and hold it in front of you.
  3. Aggressive Seat recliners – This one really gets me as I’m 6’4” and have a rather long femur bone.  I can bet 8 out of 10 times as soon as the person sits in front of me way before the plane takes off,  the person will throw the seat back into the ultimate recline position and not give it a second thought.  Be courteous when you lean your seatback. Look behind you ( just like you do when you back up your car) to see if the person has his legs in his chest already.  As the flight attendant says:  “Please keep your seats in there straight up and locked positions”. For that short 45 minute flight, I’m sure you will make it without needing that extra 3 inches of tilt!  One other tip on seats: When you are getting up from your seat don’t pull on the seats in front of you even if the person is one of those aggressive seat recliners.
  4. Early Boarders – This particular system is getting out of hand.  When the gate agent says “If you TRULY have small kids or a little extra time getting down the gateway before everyone else gets on board”  that’s ok with me and my fellow business flyers,  but when the plane lands you shouldn’t be  the first one out of your seat hustling your family or grama to the next flight faster than I can walk…that’s a no-no.  Stay seated and let those that waited for you to board to de-plane first.  If you have a tight connection, tell the flight attendent and she “may”  assist with getting you to your next flight by calling the gate agent.
  5. Sneaky Center Seaters –  Ok …we know you want to sit on the aisle or window seat, but just because you ended up in a center aisle seat that doesn’t mean you can take over both arm rests.  It also means you can’t lean on me or the window sitter.  And if the window sitter has the window pulled down…you can’t reach over and raise it up…it’s his or her window!!!!  Ask politely and I’m sure they will raise it or close it for you.
  6. Seat beggars –  yes,  unfortunately there is a name for that person who wants your aisle seat in exchange for his center seat so he can sit next to his or her significant other on the plane.  I have surrendered my seat gladly on numerous occasions because there are rules with family and kids as they need to sit next to parents, but beyond that you need to take your assigned seat and not take it personally.  If you’re going to fly with family and friends book early so you don’t have to move the people that booked their seat weeks ago.   If your switching an asile for an asile thats one thing but trading your center seat for the asile takes a lot of guts to ask.  Be prepared to hear the word no thank you.
  7. To Chatter or not to chatter –  Big tip. If someone has head phones on they are not really looking to drum up a conversation. If someone has sunglasses on… the same.  Not to be rude just wanting to relax from a day at work or a long night.  It may be your vacation but some people work on the plane or sleep because they just finished a 15hr meeting.
  8. Kids …I love kids! – .  I know I’m not the only one that has felt the thumping on the back of their seat from the kid sitting behind you.   Also kids cry and I really do appreciate the mothers that try to attempt to keep the child quite but this isn’t the time to teach tough love when he or she has a tantrum.  Traveling with kids is tough so make a plan to handle those situations before you fly.
  9. Shoelessness –  You know that your feet smell bad and I don’t really need to know it either.  Nuff said!
  10. Traveling as a group –  Party time for some, not for all .  Just be courteous to your neighbor. If he or she is trying to sleep and you are heading to the Bahamas’ and want to start the party on the plane.  Stick with the virgin Bloody Marys.  Along with this one there are the LOUD TALKERS –   THE GUY OR LADY WHO HAS THE RESONATING VOICE that you can hear from one end of the  plane to the other. You can’t help it and that’s cool,  but  Dude…,we are all glad that aunt Jessie came out of the surgery ok but just remember that you need to tone it down on the plane …please.
  11. The “Newby” Flight attendant –  You know who you are…. Really…I know you’re just wanting to protect the passengers; but… is it really required to enforce people to watch you do the pre flight demonstrations. The more experienced flight attendants go through the exercise without making eye contact.    Also when I’m sleeping in my chair and you roll the cart down the aisle and my knee is slightly in the aisle say excuse me instead of a “post” I’m sorry for the bloody leg.   Maybe I didn’t hear the message about “keeping your legs and limbs out of the aisle” through those terrible speakers on the plane or maybe your voice was drowned out by the guy in the next row with the resonating voice.
  12. Concourse Driving– Have you ever been rolling through the airport and the person in front of you comes to an abrupt stop to look at his phone and you end up running into the person?   Once you enter the airport and start your way to the next gate,  pretend you’re driving your car.  Enter the roller bag train like you would traffic.  When you need to review your documents or pick a place to chat..Please don’t stop in the middle of the concourse. Merge you, your bag, family and friends off to the shoulder of the carpet.

All that being said, just be nice to folks on the plane and you will start racking up those frequent friendly flyer points. I’m sure the airlines will come up with a way for you to redeem those someday. Maybe even give you some free tickets tot he next ball game!