By now everyone has heard the news about the Olympic vote going against baseball. Not much more to say about it. The Olympics never wanted baseball anyway. Sad but true…Bottom line is that this game will grow and develop just as strong without those guys.
There loss. Lets turn the page…
So now lets get ready for the World Cup as well as other future International Basebal events on the agenda of MLB and IBAF. Things are coming along in Zagreb, Croatia for the Round 1 games. Building the field from Scratch! Some of the local ground crew in Zagreb getting the job done. Keep them rolling aldo.
The Sod that came in for the field was really nice. How about the loading device..a different type of forklift.
Same thing in Stockholm…progress is steady on the dry days which are few and in between.. the monsoon rains are hampering some of the renovations. Hopefully mother nature will let up an give us a break!
On the 13th of August, the Executive Committee of the IOC will determine which 2 sports from the 7 will be submitted to the IOC congress in October for inclusion into the 2016 Olympic Games. A historic day for baseball and softball internationally. It’s literally the bottom of the 9th inning for baseball. Harvey Schiller, President of IBAF, and his staff have worked extremely hard to answer all the questions and concerns of the IOC regarding why baseball should be 1 of the 2 finalists. I am overall upbeat about the pending decision but at the same time aware that the IOC President has not been a major supporter of our national past time. It has been an uphill battle with this group since 2005 when they tried to get baseball kicked out then.
I still wonder how we got on the black sheep list to begin with. Some of the reasons suggested were Steroids? Well then you need to cut half the other Olympic sports out of the program! Lack of Pros? Not even , when you look at the MLB players who played in past Olympics that are currently playing in the Majors.. (Soccer doesnt even allow there pro players!) A North American Sport? Not even close ….just ask Japan, Holland, Taiwan, Korea and all of our South American baseball fanatics if they think its a North American Sport!
Its amazing to see the game growing so strong around the world. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, we are preparing for the 2009 World Cup in Europe . I heard today that over 200 MLB owned players representing 16 countries have been given approval to compete in the World Cup tournament. That number shocked me because in 2007 we had less than a 100. … Again it goes to show you how many pro-players are developing from other countries. One of the best articles I have read in recent months regarding Baseball’s Olympic movement was in in Baseball Digest… thanks jerry for covering all of the facts to a tee..( thats a batting tee not a golf tee)
Its time to put on the Rally Caps Folks.
As the games approach we have found that our European brothers and sisters have a lot in common with their baseball counterparts here in the USA. Waiting until the last minute to get everything completed must be symbolic with baseball stadiums undergoing renovations. Somehow everything always turns out ok but … one has to wonder if it could be easier!
Holland has 3 nice parks in Rotterdam, Haarlem and Amsterdam. Haarlem is undergoing some major stadium upgrades while Rotterdam has installed a retractable batters eye. Due to high winds they need to be able to lower the structure on moment’s notice.
Haarlem has a unique marking
system for the irrigation heads as they have a very aggressive aerfying program. they have taken the white plastic tuffs of fiber and put them in the turf at grass height next to t heads operator to see the tufts while poking holes in the soil. Pretty cool tip Hans! Amsterdam is going to have new lights. We are planning the staffing part to handle the field maintenance operations now. More to come i am sure.
Along with checking out the ballparks for the 2009 World Cup, we are also engaging in some local food fare. In Italy having pizza is pretty common. Unlike the Pizza hut or dominos we get back home the pizza here is on a very thin crust. The word Pizza comes from a latin word Pinsa meaning flatbread. Margherita Pizza is probably the classic and comes with a story as does everything in Italy. A pizzeria in Naples made a Pizza for Queen Margherita back in the 1800’s which contained the 3 colors of the flag white (mozzarella), red (tomatoes) and green (basil) on some ” Pinsa” . She loved it and the rest is history. The typical Italian pizza is about 12 to 14 inches wide and about 6-8 small slices.
Not to be outdone… I think I saw the largest pizza ever today in Zagreb Croatia. when it came out, I had to see the oven this thing came from. SInce we are measuring fields, etc…. I had my trusty tape measure at my side and got a very accurate assessment that might exceed Pizza standards ( if there is such a thing) . At 27 inchs and 14 slices it might have the edge in the Europe Pizza battles as it relates to quantity. It was crazy and good. Anyway..third day for pizza. Thats about my limit.
Over the past several days I’ve been checking out the ballparks preparing for the 2009 Baseball World Cup to be held throughout Europe between Sept 7-23. Can you believe 21 teams playing in 24 sites!!! Nederlands has 3 sites, Italy has 16, Croatia 1, Spain 1, Czech Republic 1,Germany 1, Sweden 1. This is one logistical challenge when it comes to overall operations. Busing, flights, hotels…its a real challenge for any sport but if anyone can pull it off baseball can. (The photo is one of Chad and the boys from Holland.)
Just finishing Nettuno tonight ( they had a game against reggio-emilia and Nettuno took it to them 16-9) Nettuno is Italy’s version of the yankees or red sox. A lot of baseball history and a lot of European championships. All of the venues still have work to complete before they are ready but so far everyone is confident they will make the deadlines. Many of the
clubs regular seasons just finished. With so many sites to check up on, I split the duties with Chad Olsen. He’s going to be running with Italy reviews while I criss cross europe to see the others. Our team will be helping out with the tournament operations where we can. With only 6 weeks to go a few parks are against the wall, but thats common even in the US when a stadium is getting ready for a big event.
( Opening cerimonies 2007 Taipei)
Going to be needing some help from a lot of sources on this one and unfortunately its going to be a last minute thing becuase of the schedule changes and general red tape we go through on international projects. Stay tuned guys and gals. Check out Prague’s homemade pitching deck frame…there going to put some plywood and turf on it. How about that. Nice work Jan!
If you did not notice from watching baseball games on the east coast the past few months, we have certainly had our share of rain since the first of the season. You have to be careful when you complain about to much rain because then it can go the other way. But for now let’s just state the facts.
Rain totals from Accuweather in Cities like DC, New York, York, PA., Durham NC, Baltimore have more than doubled the average for the year. In DC the Nationals have really been taking it hard. The actual in June to date is 4.22in and the Normal is 2.77 we still have a couple weeks to go. And For the month of May, the Actual was 8.05 and the normal only 3.82in. April was similar.
Having to get the field ready in these conditions can be taxing on the crew, staff, and for sure the field of play. Multiple (daily) tarp pulls are common to protect the field for the game. I have heard from several groundskeepers and sports turf managers that turf and infield conditions have deteriorated due to all of the early spring rains. At the end of the day, the team needs to play to meet payroll and as we know the groundscrew is left holding the bag and when a game is rained out. When a game is called there can be speculation about the field from, the umpires, players, coaches, management etc.. Unfortunately the buck stops with the head groundskeeper…even if the rain delay or rain out was due to the wrong rain information. In most cases the groundskeeper is the hero of the day…but there is the other side too. Kind of unfair as no one can control mother nature and Im pretty sure not to many turf managers went to college to be a meteorologist. All we can do is..what your parents told you as a kid. Just do your best son/daughter!
Hopefully the rain will ease at the end of this month. I have seen some pretty tired looking fields up and down the east coast and they are directly related to the heavy rains.
All I can say is hang in there…thank God for the rain and ask for a little sun.
Happy fathers day!
About 10 months ago, Beijing was making final preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. It sure doesn’t seem like it was that long ago.
A new twist in world traveling has started. Just before we disembarked from the plane, it was was boarded by local health officials and every passenger on the plane had there temperature checked, fortunately no one came up sick. Compliments of the
swine flu pandemic. Ironically once outside, I immediately noticed the lack of air pollution! The 3 million trees they planted last year must have made quite the impact. Maybe it was just a good couple days, but the pollution and air index had definitely improved. It’s really amazing to see how things have changed after a year.
Wukesong Main baseball stadium(photo below) has been bulldozed down along with the practice field. Field 2’s facade (photo above) is still standing. Where the main stadium was located is now just a big pile of dirt and a hole in the ground. Pretty sad. The Olympic legacy ( for baseball in china) is being moved to a city near the Taiwan /China borders called Shaman. The plans are to rebuild the Olympic baseball stadium in the next couple years at the site.
In the meantime the Fengtai Softball Venue may be changing back to a baseball venue, which was actually the original location for baseball. Back in 2004, plans were changed to move baseball to the temporary Venue in Wukesong with the intention to return to Fengtai after the games. There are 4 fields at Fengtai , 2 of which are stadiums. I am sure one of stadiums will remain as a softball field.
During the evaluation of the press box level at Fengtai we noticed a small restroom located next to the suite. This is pretty common but to have a view of the field while seated on the toilet was rather intriguing. A sports writers dream!
After checking out Fengtai’s fields we headed over to the Beijing University to see the college baseball field. It needs some TLC but with the support of alumni and others I believe we can make it work. Just near the University was an interesting restaurant called “Quiqan” or “QQ”. Tell me this menu doesn’t remind you of a Big Mac. As one of the students stated we “study” the Western trends very closely. I think we call it copy in the Western world.
Another baseball venue just outside of the city is under way. They are using our Olympic baseball field design to guide them in the construction of the fields. “Walker” is the man’s name heading up the operation. He really is a walker. (Actually a speed walker with numerous medals and championships.) They have been very innovative in adding components to the fields which includes dugouts that that were once 40ft shipping containers. Check it out! The highlight of this field trip was that I actually had a chance to check out the Great Wall of China. Traveling here about18 times during the past 3-4 years I never had time to go. It was worth the wait.
(photo below is Fengtai stadium)
Building a baseball field takes planning and unfortunately sometimes more money than you may have in your budget. One of the first questions… Do you have enough land or property and will be the field be oriented properly? A standard baseball field is about 500 x 500 feet not including a seating bowl. I would also suggest the following questions be asked of those involved before you put a shovel in the ground.
1. Usage of the field: Who? How much? and when? These questions will steer you towards the type of field you will need to build.
2. What Type of Grass: Natural…Bluegrass or Bermuda?…or synthetic?
3. How much money do we have? That’s a loaded question but after the first two questions it is time to bring the accountant in! Where can we find the money to build the field we want? Are there Grants? Private? Municipal Funds? Donations?
4. Who will maintain the new field and at what level ? In house maintenance? Outsource maintenance? Again …budget the entire field including maintenance operations before you build it. Example: Don’t build a Ferrari when you don’t have the budget to take care of it. Taking care of a high performance sports field takes a lot of money
5. Selecting someone to design and build it? Again.. its an examination of your internal resources and if you have staff that understands how to develop a design or construction specification. Designing your new field with the right goals for usage is what you should be shooting for. Hiring a reputable firm to design your field? Should you hire a consultant for owners representation? Should we consider asking for Sponsorships to help offset material costs? Can the Community help? Have you heard of the MLB Baseball Tomorrow Fund?
Pago Pago – The Island of American Samoa is taking steps towards becoming a better baseball country with help from the International Baseball Association ( IBAF). With a long history of producing NFL and College football athletes, I can assure you that the South Pacific Island will soon have a few more Samoans headed for the big leagues. A country of only 69,000 people with a handful of baseball fields is the beginning of true grass roots development in our International sport. It’s estimated that about 600 to 800 kids play baseball on the Island and the resources they have to compete are very limited. One fact that is hard to believe as it relates to the countires
potential athletes….there are 28 current NFL players from
Samoa. ESPN reported that a Samoan is 40 times more likely to play in the NFL than a kid from mainland USA. There is only 1 football stadium on the entire island. It can use some TLC as well.
The main ( and only) baseball stadium on the Island will require some Major improvements to bring it up to international competition standards but having spent a few days with the people here…I’m pretty confident they will get it done with a little help. Renovated a few years ago everything looks OK except the field. Again with the right resources and training it can be improved.
Tony Solaita Stadium was named after the first MLB player out of Am. Samoa. Playing 7 big league seasons with the Royals, Yankees, and Angels. Blue Jays , Expos. Tony’s Brother Ben is the President of the countries Baseball federation and is heading up the troops to upgrade the playing field. Tony passed away in 1990 and the country named the only baseball stadium after him in his honor. There are several other players of Samoan decent that have made it to the Majors in recent years. Benny Agbayani ( Mets, Rockies) Chris Aguila ( Marlins and Mets) Matt Tuilasosopa ( Mariners) Wes Littleton ( Red Sox). There’s another 15 or so guys outside of this group that have played professional ball in the states over the past 20 years. Again not bad for country of 69000.
Field maintenance equipment is minimal. Pull behind gang mowers and hand tools. There is no packing clays for the mounds/bullpens and the Island chiefs will not allow you to move soil from part of the Island to another. The native language is Samoan but everyone speaks English as it is a US territory and all American Samoans have US citizenship. The area is also Known for “Charley the Tuna” and
the “Mermaid Tuna” factories. The highest speed limit on the island is 25mph…and the police do not even have to carry weapons. It’s very common to see Samoan men wearing traditional skirts (known as Lava Lavas) and sandals like you and I wear jeans. One of the guys told me jokingly that the Irish were descendents of the Samoans as they have the kilt. i began to chuckle but with 28 players in the NFL… I dont think anyone will ever poke fun at the Samoan men. Everyone I have met looks like they all play for the NFL right now. All kidding aside they are a very proud and kind people. Ben Solatia and Ken Tupua have been great to work with and there sincere ability to do whats right for the future generations of Samoan baseball players is really remarkable. Hopefully soon we will be seeing more baseball players in the Majors and more back on the field here in Pago Pago.
How about this island!
Big Weekend in LA for the finals. VZ takes on Korea tonight and USA Japan tomorrow. The success of this event has been unbelievable! Double the amount of sponsors, ratings attendance etc… The game of baseball is truly a world game. With strong showings from the Dutch, Puerto Rico and austrailia the 2013 games will be even bigger and better. Hats off to the turf managers, venue managers and operators around the world. From Japans Tokyo Staff
to Mexico City Staff, Toronto, San Juan, San Deigo and finally LA.
Shipping products and equipment to Mexico, San Juan, Japan etc was quite an experience and a challenge but with long time field material partners at Diamond Pro, Stabilizer, Beacon Ballfields and Partac Peat we got it done. Thanks Guys.
The goal of the WBC is to develop the game worldwide and also its helping to build support for baseball to get back into the Olympics for 2016. You tell me Rugby or golf or baseball. Its hard to believe it was voted out to begin with. The big guy Harvey Schiller President of IBAF deserves a ton of credit in the efforts to reinstate the game.
Los Angeles—Bring it Home!
In San Juan the World baseball classic stood up to its name. We had some classic games and basically the most exciting 1st round of all 4 competition sites…. From the Dutch pulling an upset over Dominican twice and moving into the winner bracket to team Puerto Rico setting strike out records
and breaking crowd attendance records. The field played great and the rains held off for the most part. A few light showers during the early games but no major threat and no tarp work. It was an exciting first round to say the least . Some of my favorite highlights had to be the Glidden Paint sponsorship program where each day they provided the ground crew ( and servers) with different colored bowling
shirts. Yellow one day, then pink, purple, blue and finally red. The crew did a great job under the watchful eye of Dennis Klien, Brandon Putnam and Scott Strickland. The fun was not limited to San Juan as we had guys in Mexico as well and they truly had a great time with the Cuban and Ausies. Yes the Netherlands club was probably not the team a few MLB marketing folks would have liked to have seen move to the next bracket but nevertheless they won and they deserve it. And I wouldnt put it past them to do a little upseting in Miami. These guys are for real! Our operation’s team in P.R. included Frank Uddo and Morgan Littlefield as Venue managers. Both had a great impact on the success of the Venue.
The first game between Holland and Dominican republic didnt turn out like most folks thought. Holland won and the second games was somewhat of a rout between Puerto Rico and Panama with PR dominating. It was exciting, and seeing the players on the edge of the dugout steps the entire game was exciting too. It was not your typical spring training games or event regular season games. It was more like a world championship series.
This past week we walked through both CitiField and Yankee Stadium. There was a WOW factor during both reviews. Photos tell the story in this blog. Both ballparks are remarkable and unique. Citifield is located a little closer to the airport than the old ballpark allowing you to wave to the passengers as they land on R-16. The locker rooms are over the top and the field is truly like a pool table.
Yankee Stadium has built a lot of history into there new yard. Photos of greats line the walls and the video board system is extreme. Mike Bonner is going to have a blast with this video system during the season. The field is also very nice with very traditional layouts. Even the bleacher creatures have a great section for seating.
Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico is going Green. Maybe not the eco-way…. just green. The venue is undergoing some major cosmetic upgrades. Over the years I have witnessed the vibrant colors of ballparks throughout the Caribbean but I would have to say this might be the first Fluorescent Lime Green Press Box in all of baseball . It will definitely be the first green press box many sports writers will have ever covered a game. It’s really pretty cool!
The rest of the stadium is also obtaining a fresh coat of paint along with clubhouse upgrades, new batters eye, warning track, new mounds and home plates. After working this venue for 9 years it still cleans up pretty nicely. While the teams play in Hiram Bithorn stadium , we will be using the Roberto Clemente Stadium in Carolina, PR. as a practice venue. This is a relatively new ballpark that is probably one of the best stadiums in the Caribbean. It is in need of a new field (which is in the works) as the current one is the OLD astro turf product. Mexico City’s FORO SOL stadium is upgrading the field, lights, locker rooms and overall venue as well.
Needless to say its been a very busy month. We are currently working on preparations for the Field Operations in 2 of the 4 WBC First Round Cities. San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium and Mexico’s Foro Sol stadium. (Photo to the left) Hiram Bithorn has been used by MLB in the past for many games. The stadium is synthetic turf with cutouts for the bases. The Turf is about 5 years old. At Foro Sol stadium the field is also synthetic except the entire infield clay area is clay type product. Even the warning track is a finely graded clay soil. Come to think of it all 4 first round WBC fields are synthetic. Toronto and and the Tokyo Dome are also…Field Turf Products.
At Foro Sol we have played a few exhibition games in the past. It is a very unique looking ballpark as its real purpose is hosting the annual Grand Prix. The track for the gran prix actually cuts directly through the center of the outfield starting at 3rd base. Each year they have to remove the field in this area and expose the track. Its quiet a task that takes a few weeks but they do a great job. Only 5 days before the teams arrive in Mexico’s Foro Sol there will be an Iron Maiden Concert. Should be exciting getting the field turned around.
Not for sure if any of you have read about the ballpark disaster in Barcelona and Sant Boi that happened over the weekend. Reports are still not 100% clear but its reported that 3 people died and unfortunately they were children. 16 others were injured.
The kids were planning to play a baseball game. Weather turned bad quick and they ran for cover inside the batting tunnel that collapsed on them due to high winds. It was a concrete block structure with a metal awaning.
The photo above is the building from how I remember seeing the batting tunnel at the baseball venue during a recent tournament… and this is a Reuters photo taken by Albert G. of the same building that shows the damage.
Reflecting on 2008 has been pretty tough because it has literally been a blur and from the way 2009 is shaping up it will not be very different. Planning for MLB Opener in Japan between the World Champion Red Sox and the Oakland A’s The First ever MLB exhibition series in Beijing between the Padres and Dodgers took up most of the first few months. We also had another Olympic qualifier to operate in Taiwan during the month of march. That took a lot of time an effort.
From May to August, it was pretty much the Beijing Olympics with the exception of about 25 Site visits throughout Europe ( Italy, Sweden, Russia, Holland, Germany, Spain, France and Czech Republic) in preparation of the 2009 World Cup. And a few more site surveys for the 2009 World baseball Classic in PR and Mex. We actually squeaked in a couple field training days in Panama and Dominican Republic.
State side we had some great projects rolling with Opening day partners and Minor League baseball. A few site reviews of the New Shea stadium and Yankee stadium. That’s kind of brushing the surface but again it’s still a blur.
My main reason for reflecting is to thank all of our current and past staff at STS from Marti to Chad to Jeff, Zackx2, Brandon, Kevin, Alan, Steve, Erik, Darrell, Budge, Joe. Without this group we would not have been successful with any of these projects because it took a true team effort.
Maybe Ruth actually built this house..but probably had some help from a few other Yankee Staff. Nice Touch NY.
Traveling has its fun times and enjoyable moments. From Tokyo to Singapore everyone has a story. Some of the best stories always come out of New York. I was in “the city” (as it’s called with fervor) and after arriving at the Double Tree Hotel on Broadway I ventured out for dinner and found Langdon’s Restaurant. An Irish pub with the chicken pot pie, Cabbage and corn beef and Guinness stouts etc… It was packed. After sitting down, the place became packed. Right after I arrived, a couple in their mid fifties came in and sat next to me. The lady asked the bartender if he could make a “Long Island Ice tea” . The bartender looked at her like…where do you think you are! Absolutely he stated and within 30 seconds she tested the drink and muttered ” That’ll work in her deep southern drawl. The bartender was 100% Irish and the folks were 100% southern Mississippi. Basically they spoke foreign languages to each other. The patron would ask the B-tender a question and he could not understand a single word the Mississippi native spoke. Not one! For example the man asked for a cola. It sounded like cowala. The young Irish lad was struggling with the lingo. Another patron sitting next to them asked where they were from and he stated Mississippi and she was amused in a zoo type demeanor if you know what I mean. Before leaving I had to greet them, which I did, in my own southern Virginia drawl…they were ecstatic to hear a familiar voice. You would’ve thought I was kin. There next comment to me was…you guys lost the war too. We struck up a brief but meaningful chat. It just so happens that Bill Jones owns his Law office in old Mississippi and is also Chairman of the Mississippi Board of Education! Good southern folks in a big northern city. You never know….America is awesome.
CitiField is really taking shape. We had a lwalkthrough today that included a review of the locker rooms and overall facility. Bill Deacon the Mets head groundskeeper is pretty happy with the field construction which was completed by a Lantec. Sod was down and green. This field will have a few extra bells and whistles that Shea didn’t have that will keep it greener and healthier during the season. A full heating system under the field allows for keeping the grass warm in the winter…in the summer it can blow air through the field to keep it cool to reduce disease. Dan Almond ( the FOP designer) was also at the site today reviewing the final details of field construction and planning as well as meeting with the contractor. The weather today was great so it was nice seeing the field not covered with a turf blanket. MAde you want to pick up a glove and play catch. Next stop the new Yankees stadium. Two new parks open in 2009 and they are going to set the mark for stadium construction.
We hear a lot about awards for “Best field of the Year” in baseball and other sports and these are very deserving awards for the guys that poor there heart and soul into there fields. Outside of the US there are other Field of the Year or Groundsman of the year awards presented to others that basically go un noticed here in North America.
Bill Gordon has been the head Groundsman at the Oval, London England for most of this decade and has been on the Surrey Cricket grounds crew since 1964. Its the eighth time out of nine seasons that the Brit Oval pitch has won the prestigious award and the last six of these have come under Gordon’s tutelage since he took over in 2003.
Bill and I go way back to 1993 when we held a MLB Baseball Exhibition game at the Oval. We have kept in touch over the years. I know MLB is still hoping to take some games to London in the future but thats TBD. Hopefully someday we can bring the world together under one organization or association so everyone can see the work these guys do. Managing a Cricket pitch at this level is no different than managing a MLB or NFL field. Having spent some time on a couple pitches over the years the process of keeping the wicket level and playable is extremely challenging and there really not much you can compare it to in the sportsturf industry as you are growing grass in a clay loam that is compacted to a specific tolerance. Don’t get me wrong, I know just a pinch about Cricket grounds compared to Bill. Bill has set the mark for everyone in the Cricket world to reach.
There’s not much time to celebrate his award as Bill has a major renovation to complete by Christmas in prepartion of the 2009 season which will see an Ashes Test Match, One Day International, ICC Twenty20 World Cup matches and many major domestic games. Adding a much needed drainage system to the Oval has been on the books for a while.
The award is based on umpire reports produced for every match, domestic and international, throughout the season, which include grading on the covering of grass, dryness, seam movement, pace, consistency of bounce and turn.
CONGRATULATIONS BILL!!! HAVE A GREAT 2009 SEASON!