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MLB Fort Bragg Event – Much more than just a game


fort bragg cover

The dust is starting to settle after the #MLBFortBragg game last week where a regulation game between the Braves and Marlins was held.  What a way to celebrate the 4th of July weekend.  To say it was a whirlwind event would be putting it mildly.   Building a field and a 12,500 seat ballpark in 4 months was a daunting task but with MLB putting the right people together we were ultimately successful.   This event was special in so many ways.  Not only did the families on the base receive a free MLB game to see, the field will also be donated to Ft Bragg.  In comparison, the Cuba Game was historical due to the POTUS factor,  But this one was doing something for the men and women who put there life on the line for us every day.  MLB built a “Field of Thanks” an named it Fort Bragg Field.

Acknowledgment of those involved that made this event possible is important.

ft bragg tarp crew

A BIG thank  you to MLB and MLBPA for funding the project.  Even though tickets to the event were free to our military service members and families there were still costs for building everything.   Annmarie and her team with BAAM provided outstanding project management services for the bleachers, locker rooms and staffing as well as all the logistics for ESPN and VIP’s.  Todd and Bobby from Populous provided some cool concepts for us all to work with and also provided onsite design services.  The field site, fencing, bullpens, batting tunnels, dugouts were managed by Peter and Ernesto from our Brightview Development and Construction teams.  The field actually took just under 3 months to build.  I would be remiss if I didn’t thank and clearly acknowledge Chad Olsen, Eric Ogden and Cindy Unger from our sportsturf team who performed the real magic in making the field MLB quality during the final couple months.

fort bragg field shot

This event had a lot of moving parts and temporary build outs. BAAM is currently dismantling the ballpark bleachers and tents but the field stays.  It will be tweaked a bit to have softball games but other than that it stays as is.  We worked with the local sportsturf guys ( and gal) at the base on maintenance operations during the event.   We also enlisted several vendors to help us out with materials and services for the field and ballpark. Carolina Green, Duraedge, Turface,  Rainbird, Promats, and John Deere all had a big hand in the success.  Our friends at Musco brought in the temporary lights which were beautiful and really created a great ambiance at the ballpark.

Our tarp crew was composed of service members from the 82nd Airborne Division and over a period of a few days we had worked the clock down to 1 minute and 30 seconds to deploy the big 170 x 170 cover.  They were awesome.  We had cameo appearances by a few PRO baseball turf managers from around the areas MiLB parks that chipped in to help us with final details.  Chris Ball Gwinnett Braves, Jake Halloway Greensboro GrassHoppers, Chad Kropff Roanoke County, Scott Strickland Durham Bulls and Zach Severns August Greenjackets. the overall team effort on this project by everyone was truly remarkable!

It was an amazing and historical event that allowed us to give back to the service members and their families on the base.  A way of saying Thanks for all they do for our country.  Looking forward to seeing where the next one will be because this one will be tough to top.

2016 Cuba vs Rays Historic Game: A Case of Shovel Diplomacy


cuba field post renovation

A couple weeks ago,  MLB played a game in Havana, Cuba between the Tampa Rays and the Cuba national team.  What began as a goodwill baseball tour turned into something a bit more historic.  I started to hear a lot of chatter late last year regarding the potential of playing another MLB game between Cuba and a MLB team.  Commissioner Manfred even mentioned the Rays team  was selected but no official date was set for some time.   It was an on again off again event for a while. Then the White House called and planted a seed that eventually developed into President Barrack Obama i.e. @POTUS  (an family) attending a ballgame at Latino Americano stadium with Cuban President Raul Castro an a host of other dignitaries from both countries including Secretary John Kerry.    The event marked the first time a US sitting President visited the country since Calvin Coolidge went over on a battleship 80 years ago.  To say it was an honor to work this event would be difficult to put in words, But Im going to give it go.cuba first site work

What immediately became a critical component to making this event happen was ensuring we could upgrade the existing field and ballpark.  Everyone agreed the field an parts of the ballpark were in poor shape.  The idea of two countries who’ve been somewhat “distant” for many years began with the simple task of working together on solutions to ensure the playing surface was safe for both teams.    It was a challenging project made possible through a common goal that would guide us in rebuilding the field to meet everyone’s expectations.

mound prepping in cuba

“Shovel Diplomacy”

I’ve found in my 25 years planning these international events for MLB you learn a lot about people when you work side by side performing manual labor.    It’s funny how shovels, rakes and wheel barrels all work the same way in every country.   So that’s where our ballpark groundbreaking ambassadorial meetings began.  I’m sure everyone has seen photos of those groundbreaking events where they line up VIP’s and politicians holding gold-plated shovels.   We didn’t have those kind of shovels.   We had rusty square & round point shovels. (with Long , short and numerous broken handles).  There were no ties or suits. Just a bunch of Cubans an American with hoes and shovels.

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Topdressing by hand

Let’s put that thought in perspective.   The Cuban country had (has) limited sports field related resources and we needed to renovate the country’s main sports stadium in about 6 weeks.  Core projects included removing the entire infield grass and raising the field grade, removing all the foul territory grass, fine grading then replanting both areas.  We also had to install a new warning track, new pitcher’s mound, bullpens, home plate and foul poles.  This type of renovation would be a fairly standard project in the USA except we are in Cuba.   SO…we shoveled, raked, wheel barreled and spread 60 tons of infield clay, 500 tons of warning track mix, 50 tons of topdressing …BY HAND.  We planted 8000 sq ft of grass on the infield BY HAND using 6×6 inch squares of Bermuda plugs.  FYI , there are no laser graders on this island, no big roll sod harvesters…just string lines  to level the grades before grassing the field.

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Hand planting Bermuda plugs 5 weeks before game

I will have to say the Cuban people we had the privilege of working with over a six-week period were absolutely unbelievable!  We learned so much from each other.  Not only about field maintenance,  but about the world where potusthey live.  We shared meals daily.  We drank Cuban coffee out of a water bottle.  Drank Montero Narajaro soda.    We talked about our families, tipped some local Galion Rum ( that’s not gallon that’s Galion a Cuban brand) at the end of the day an laughed about simple daily events.  It was a true exchange of culture while building relationships between two people who love the game of baseball an shared the same passion for sportsturf management.

edging by hand

Oscar hand edging

As the event began to take shape we did not have full buy in by the Cuban government for delivering us materials so what resources they had were slow to come.  Eventually, once both country leaders confirmed they were attending the event, resources i.e: labor from the Varadara golf course, local products , a loader and assorted street rollers (and more wheel barrels) started to roll in daily.   Meanwhile we were working up a list of “Whitehouse” approved sportsturf equipment and materials that would be (legally) shipped to the country about 2 weeks before the event.   I mentioned earlier something about the poor condition of their local shovels and rakes.   Well , we barged over numerous new landscape rakes, tamps, shovels and hand tools etc…designed for baseball field maintenance.  We also brought our Cuban friends infield clays an conditioners from Duraedge and Diamond Pro.  We even shipped over a TORO Sand Pro, edgers , tillers , plate compactor , CoverMaster tarps, Beacon ballfield equipment , C&H cages,  OMG it was Feliz Navidad!!   To the point some of my Cuban friends began to cry.    Especially Oscar who had hand edged the entire field with a 3 ft machete for years.  He watched the new gas powered edger trim a line in minutes with disbelief.   I believe Juan was most excited about the big plastic tarp culvert for the new field tarp.   What they had before was a steel culvert that weighed 5 tons.  It was not movable unless you had 40 people.  They had no idea specialized hand tools had been designed for ballfields.  It was such a great feeling to give these products to the grounds staff at the stadium on behalf of MLB and the MLBPA.

Manual irrigation system

Having worked on this field for the Orioles vs Cuba game in 1999,  I had a pretty good idea what we were getting into.    In fact my old friends from that event Juan, Carton and Higinio were still working at the stadium.  Led by this group of my amigos we knew the people in Cuba were going to be 100% behind the project.   There were numerous moving parts to purchasing and sending equipment to Cuba.  Communication on the island was also difficult with no US cell phone service and what they had was very limited.   It took a HUGE team effort from a lot of folks including NYC MLB peeps (Mickey , James , Paloma and especially Jesse) to coordinate all the shipping docs, government approvals, and have the products arrive safely.

Of all the projects we had to complete , the infield renovation was the most challenging.  It required us to raise the homeplate grade 5 inches to level the area properly to meet MLB mound height requirements before resodding.  But that was the easy part.  The hard part was growing in the Bermuda turf grass plugs in a country that did not have testing labs to check local rootzone materials and topdressings an their  best fertilizers were for agricultural purposes, not sportsturf.  Great for tomatoes but grass…that was tough.   The 419 Bermuda sod was harvested from Indio Hatuey ( the countries agricultural center north of Havana near the beautiful Varadera golf course.)  Director de la OSTB,  Luis Oliveras  a local Turfgrass specialist had the turf grown to be the best it could be with the resources he had but once harvested it had a long way to go before it was playable.   The farm just had barely enough Bermuda plugs to finish the infield so the foul territory was grassed with a Zoysia.  The Zoysia and Bermuda were struggling from lack of consistent watering.  So we brought in reinforcements to help with the growin.  My good friend Cindy

murray on toroUnger from Palm Beach spent a month in Cuba.   A few days later, Luis an his team came up with an above ground irrigation system to assist with our water problem.   I even brought over Chad Price to take a look at the project. Chad Olsen and I assembled our Cuba Brightview sportsturf team which included STMA members Zach Severns Head GK from Augusta greenjackets, Anthony DeFeo Tennessee Smokies, Justin Sadowski from Potomac nationals,  Isaiah Lienau, NY Mets.    We also had a cameo visit from STM Neil Pate  ( dubbed director of paint).  Even old salemite Tracey Schneweis came over to the island to help us out.   It was a great team.   Chad and Eric Ogden had their hands full with the 2 WBC qualifier sites in Mexico and Panama.  Yes March was busy!

cuba field ready to go for 2016 eventThe field  played great as reported by several Rays players thanks to a massive team effort from both countries!   All in all, I made 5 visits to the country in 3 months which would end up totaling about 6 weeks on the island.   My Spanglish expanded but without Frans from INDER (our official government interpreter) we would have all been in trouble. He was so professional and ..healthy!

It was truly an honor to be a part of this historic event between our two countries but what I will take away from this more than its historical value are the friendships that were built to last a forever.  #amigosforlife #shoveldiplomacy

One great group of people!

Baseball’s booming in New Zealand!


mlb auckland field

New Zealand is destined to become a baseball powerhouse if Ryan Flynn , CEO of Baseball New Zealand has anything to do with it and by the way he does.   We had the chance to tour the country looking at potential field locations with several of the board members from baseball New Zealand a couple months ago. We toured sites in both Christchurch and Auckland.   In addition to looking for new field locations we also held  MLB’s First field maintenance clinics in this country.   Members from local club leagues that manage their fields came out to learn a few tips on dimensions and mound construction. and both were well attended.   Peter Elliot is on the NZ baseball board and did a outstanding job with the press in Christchurch as did MLB’s infamous Jim Small who heads up Asia/Oceania development.

Murray CHCH 6

According to recent NZ baseball stats, the growth of the game in NZ has increased over 1000% in 3 years. They now have about 6000+ members.   New Zealand is predominately a fastpitch softball country for the men’s sports.   Kids (guys and girls)  grow up playing softball which is pretty cool.  They have tons of softball tournaments and leagues.  In most countries around the world,  baseball & softball organizations share the same office space and fields.  Hopefully this will become the case in NZ.

In the meantime the NZ national team will prepare for the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifier  ( WBCQ) to be held in Sydney mid-February.  In the last WBCQ they almost pulled off an upset over Taiwan.  Let’s just say they learned a lot from the 2012 WBCQ and are planning to go much further next year.  Should be a great tournament with Australia, South Africa and the Philippines competing at Blacktown Sportspark in Australia.  This was the former home of Competition field 2 for the 2000 Sydney Olympic games.   Spent a bit of time at that ballpark over the years.  Its going to be a great tournament!  A big thanks to Riki and Dan T for helping with all the logistics around the islands!

sheep-NZ  

One of the sites we walked actually came with built in fertilizer spreaders and mowers!

( just kidding)   Actually the land in Christchurch was beautiful and abundant for baseball fields

MLB plans Goodwill Tour to Cuba


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1999 Photo of O’s vs Cuba game taken with an old KODAK throw-a-way! 

This week MLB returns to Cuba for the first time in 15 years.  This time they will be taking a few players (both Cuban and American) on a Goodwill Tour.  The players will be holding clinics for kids and spending time sharing baseball stories with people around the country.  Its exciting to hear about the relations between our countries improving. We both love baseball so its truly a common bond.

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Photo of our 1999 crew including Sandy Alderson, George Moreira.

In 1999,  I was fortunate to be a part of the MLB-Cuba event when the Baltimore Orioles played the Cuba National Team at Latino Americano Stadium in Havana, Cuba.   The stadium and field required a bit of upgrading before the game could take place so  Sandy Alderson (at that time MLB’s Senior VP of Ops) asked us to put together a team to make it happen.  Our American crew consisted of Al Capitos, Budgie Clark, Greg Meeks and several groundskeepers from Varadera golf course.  We helped rebuild the field, outfield fence,  etc.. with our Cuban friends and as they say  “The rest was history.”   I’ve been back a few times since and will be heading back this week to check out a few fields and stadiums.  The country hasn’t changed a lot since those early days which is actually a pretty cool thing.  Its a living history lesson from an earlier time in North American culture.    Looking forward to having a real Mojito and seeing some old friends along the way!

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BIG Congrats to Premier 12 Field Maintenance Crews


Practice game

This November the Brickman Sports Turf team took to the skies and traveled to Taiwan and Japan for the WSBC Premier12™ Tournament.  The team included  Chad Olsen, Branch Manager, Eric Ogden, Account Manager, and Operations Managers Anthony DeFeo, Isaiah Lienau, and Zach Severns.  The tournament concluded with Korea winning the Gold and USA taking the Silver.  Japan took the bronze after a win over Mexico.

The World Softball and Baseball Confederation (WSBC) is the new organization that combined the efforts of the International Softball Federation (ISF) and International Baseball Federation (IBAF).  The Premier12™ tournament was its first major sanctioned professional baseball tournament that brought the 12 best national teams together in competitive play.  The two-week tournament was played in two countries at five stadiums.
team usa Ogden, and Lienau led the charge with the preplanning and initial preparations for five playing fields while the rest of the team assisted with daily field maintenance throughout tournament play.  A big thanks to the Taiwan and Japan crews for your hard work. 

zach rakeWith the 2015 season coming to an end, the team is looking forward to its next challenge which will be providing field support for MLB’s Baseball World Classic Qualifiers starting in March 2016.

Story

by Anthony DeFeo

Building a Baseball Infield


MURRAY COOK'S FIELD & BALLPARK BLOG

infield watered.jpgTechnically, the term infield skin refers to segments of the baseball field that contain clay, specifically the areas around the bases and base paths. The keys to quality infield skin are good materials, proper moisture and consistent maintenance practices. With 70 percent of the game played on the infield, having a consistently firm, smooth playing surface is essential.

Infield construction

Infield mixes are made from various combination’s and percentages of sand, silt and clay. People consider the general standard for an OK infield to be 60 to 70 percent sand, 30 percent clay and 10 percent silt. Particle size also makes a big difference in these materials. Infields vary greatly by regional conditions, commercially available mixes and the preferences of the sports field manager and their facility and teams.

The nail drag scarifies the surface and digs deeper to further loosen the infield mix. With any drag, be…

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TO2015 PAN-AM Baseball/Softball Games wrap up this weekend in AJAX!


baseball in ajax

The 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto will finish up this weekend at the President’s Choice Ballpark in Ajax, Ontario.  It started July 6th with practices and ends July 26th.   For the first time they have both men and women’s baseball/softball competitions.   We have witnessed some tremendous games played on some pretty nice fields maintained by some really awesome people.   The “people” are town of Ajax staff,  TO2015 competition staff and volunteers and that’s what makes these events so special.  Everyone working together!   The volunteers are really special and range in age from 17-70.    Starting early in the am helping with all the field duties from pulling the big tarp to dragging the hose around because they want to be a part of the games.    They work just as hard as everyone else and love just being at the ballpark!  The heart of a volunteer is HUGE!    We couldn’t have done it without them. Thanks Jack and Randy for bringing them together!

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On the sport side, Team Canada took the Gold medal in men’s baseball and USA won Silver with Cuba winning Bronze.  Women’s baseball is wrapping up this weekend which is looking like another Canada vs. USA showdown. Same with USA women’s softball who are 5-0 going into the medal rounds this weekend.

pan am homeplate 2015

The complex is composed of 2 natural bluegrass baseball fields and 4 natural grass softball fields.  One baseball field was existing and was totally reconstructed with new dugouts and bullpens.  The premier field was a soccer pitch which was transitioned in an overlay process to be the main stadium this past spring.   It will remain a baseball field as a legacy to the event.   I don’t foresee the town ever turning it back into a soccer field after seeing team  Canada win the gold medal on the field and plant a “Toonie” at 2nd base.!!!    (That’s what Canadian teams do when they when big games.  I’ve seen it before.  They run to a grassy area and dig up a piece of grass and push the 2 dollar coin into the soil for…luck.)   At softball we had 1 premier field, 1 competition and 1 practice field.  The 4th field was used for staging of locker rooms.   These fields were upgraded with a few bells and whistles for the games as well.  We had a good time working with the town staff with training etc…before the games.

to2015 field crew

As for how the fields were designed and built,  we pretty much used every baseball field product from every distributor in America and Canada on this project.     We had 3 or 4 different soil conditioners.  3 different clay’s   A couple different tarps.   All kinds of equipment and materials.  We could’ve had a trade show!!!   The photo above says it all,  great crew and staff.  Our guys Eric, chad and Joe were amazing as usual but the Competition team and overlay team  made it work.  Thanks to Bob O.  for the vision and congrats to Canada on winning the Gold medal!

All in all a successful event…eh!

From Groundskeepers to Sportsturf Managers


kids marking home

I’ve been thinking about the industry that I’m fortunate to be a part of and came across some old photos of these children marking the lines on a youth field in Taiwan.   It reminded me of when I  started marking lines on a Professional field  in Salem Va. I worked on in the early 70’s. ( I wasn’t quite that small)   Obviously I had know idea then that I would still be marking lines in the next millennium.  I know a lot of folks internationally read my blog and have asked why we call ourselves sportsturf managers.

Well that’s a good question.  The growth in our groundskeeping industry in the 70’s  was somewhat lame.  I mean you really had to apprentice under someone to learn anything about baseball fields and infield clays.  For me it was Morris Creggar.  When the 80’s hit,   groundskeeping info started to trickle a little more in a magazine called SPORTSturf.  An organization was developing under the guidance of a few great sportsturf pioneers.   George Toma, Dr Daniels, Dr Erickson, Harry Gill  and from this group an association was created called the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA).    It didn’t catch on for a few years but when it did by the late 80’s,  people bought in and folks started sharing information.   I subscribed to their small magazine and waited patiently for every issue even though at that time it only came out every other month and it was about 15 pages long.   I still have them!

“Groundskeepers” started talking to each other and going to trade shows put on by the STMA and then out came the vendors to sell us products.   In the early 90’s our “trade” name changed from “groundskeepers” to “sportsturf managers”.  Sounded more professional.  I was actually on the STMA board during the name was debated and changed. I recall it was quite heated and took a couple board meetings.  Regardless of the name its the same job – different title.   Kind of like when the golf folks changed from “greenskeeper” to “golf course superintendent”.

Fast forward to 2015  and that’s how our sportsturf industry transformed to what it is to today.  We continue to share knowledge, learning from one another while improving our fields to make them safer for athletes at all levels of play.  We meet nationally and regionally to compare notes and with weather like we have had this year,  everyone can use some pointers.

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At the turn of the century we hit warp speed and in the past 15 years the growth has been ridiculous!  I mean billions of dollars of growth around the world.  Yep I said billions.  New equipment designed specifically for just about everything we need for fields and yet there is still room for improvement.  It takes a lot to be a sports turf manager in today’s world but the basics are still there.  Rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows, hard-work.  I see it in a lot of countries I visit that do not have the resources we have in the USA…and they do just fine.

Obregon Stadium June 2015

So what makes up  the core of a sportsturf manager?  Here is the recipe:

An unlimited amount of passion to learn, 1 cup of determination, a bushel of sportsturf friends, 6 cups of teachers,    4 scoops of  “get out of jail free cards” for those family events you will miss, 100 tons of hard work,  an  STMA membership,   Put it all in a blender and out you come!   A big thanks to those STMA founders for bringing us together!

Dominican Republic Field Clinic opens new opportunity for retired players


FullSizeRenderThis past week MLB held there 4th field maintenance clinic in the Dominican Republic at the Kansas City Royal’s academy location in Boca Chica. We had over 55 attendees representing all 30 MLB clubs that operate academies on the island.  These clinics are geared towards improving field maintenance techniques and helping the turf managers with issues at their academies.  The clinics are FREE so MLB covers the costs of travel/meals and we pick up a couple sponsors to offset the costs.

This particular clinic focused on developing consistent maintenance techniques around turf management, infield clays and equipment maintenance.    We had some great speakers, helpers and sponsors from around the globe.  Sandro Moroni from Italy came over to provide some translation assistance and help with the turf discussions.  Ken Curry came down from Canada to talk about covers and the padding that they provide at Covermaster.   Rene Asprion chatted about mounds, soil conditioners and clays that diamond pro provides around the world.  Eric Ogden did a great talk on infield skin conditioning.  Good guys helping To make fields safer by sharing their knowledge and skills with others .

IMG_0819One of the coolest aspects about this particular clinic was having 10 former Dominican professional baseball players who were recently released attend the event.  It’s part of MLB’s commitment towards helping these former players with careers after baseball.   MLB’s Dominican Republic office creates educational resources for academies such as teaching English courses, life skills on how to live in the USA , how to manage your finances, etc…   These classes take place after daily workouts at each of the academies.

So now even after their baseball playing days are over,  MLB continues to help these young men find a new career.   They are introducing other careers in baseball like umpiring and stadium operations etc.. That’s just awesome!

IMAG4097Thanks to the Royals for hosting this year’s event along with their great grounds staff.  Trevor Vance goes down regularly to help them with their fields and you can really tell.

Also, a big thank you to Alex and Ishmael and the entire DR office that made multiple trips to the fed ex office to pick up Rene’s “special”  FedEx package and return it for his brochures.  (Inside joke).  Rafael you have a great group of folks in that office!

Happy 10th Blogaversary MLBlogs!


athens 2004 1WOW…. it’s been 10 years ago TODAY that I began to scribble this blog for MLB.com.   I remember Mark Newman asked me if I wouldn’t mind posting to MLB’s  new blog website something about groundskeeping ,ballparks etc….   I said sure… what’s a post?    Then he told me to name the blog something and that he needed me to “post” something as soon as possible and that he would set up the name for my blog.  I had no idea what I was doing so I “posted” the above photo having recently returned from the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Next thing I know, I had a blog with my name on it beside one with Alyssa Milano and Tommy Lasorda.  That was pretty good company.     A lot has changed in 10 years.  The world of social media, groundskeeping/sportsturf management and life in general has been a wild ride since 2005.   Our company merged and now we will be  Brightview,  our kids have graduated high school (and college), the WBC was created,  managed multiple MLB Season Openers and exhibition games, twitter craze, Instagram, vine, stumble, etc….

Olympic Games are Underway...Rain an all!Loved this photo of Mark and I in Beijing…might have started the selfie craze!!

 So 357 blog posts later, thousands of shares, hundreds of thousands of views, comments, visitors, tags, etc…. I can honestly say thanks to Mark Newman the creator of MLB’s blogosphere for asking me to blog about the best job in the world.    I’ve made a ton of friends along the way through this blog and received a lot of nice notes about the field tips I’ve posted.   It’s all about learning which I continue to do daily through interactions with my peers in the sportsturf industry.  I love to teach and share information about building and managing safe fields.   It’s a great industry if you ever want a career change.  Join the STMA and check it out!

Anyway Happy 10th anniversary Mlblogs!   Looking forward to another 10.

Montreal draws 96000+ for two MLB exhibition games


montreal logoThis past weekend they played a couple games between the Reds and the Bluejays at Montreal’s old (but fun) Olympic stadium. The two game series drew over 96000 people.  I heard a lot of folks say. Wow ” MLB should come back.  What do you think?  I just said that would be cool.”   However for me the event was more of a walk down memory lane seeing old friends from my Montreal and West Palm beach days when I worked with the club.

montreal crowdMontreal’s Olympic stadium has quite a bit of history.   From the 1976 summer Olympic Games to the Expos,  numerous concerts , soccer , truck pulls, RV shows ,  you name it…this place has hosted it.    Former expo Steve Rodgers was with me as we walked the field and he talked of when the homeplate was actually closer to where the mound is currently located.  The synthetic turf surface is called nex-field which has about 3/4lb of rubber per sq ft worked into the fibers.  This particular synthetic turf was designed for soccer.

During the trip I had a chance during to talk with a few local people in Montreal about  baseball in their awesome city!   So I took a poll.  It’s very unofficial and really random so the accuracy has got to be legit!

I asked 5 people  4  questions.

  1. Are you from Montreal?  3  were from Montreal, 1 from Haiti and one from India
  2. Are you a baseball fan?   3  yes’s  – 2 no’s.
  3. If they would like to see baseball back in Montreal? 4 yes and 1 no
  4. Have you ever been to Olympic stadium to see an event?   5 yes  and 0 no’s
  5. What is favorite sport?  just so I could gant their responses (and that they understood what I was saying since I don’t speak French.)   ALL 5 said hockey so that worked.

More details on the folks I polled: (The 5 included 2 cabbies,  1 customs agent and one bartender and some guy from Montreal i was sitting beside on the plane.  3 guys 2 girls.

I think my poll was promising,  Personally (again my personal opinion) I think Montreal would be a great place for a team someday in the future but before that happens they need a plan.  We all heard the same dialogue from Commissioner Manfred  where he wants to see a strategic plan on how they plan to make it work for the long haul.  Does that mean a new stadium or rebuild existing?  Selecting the right owner?    This past weekend was a small piece of the puzzle.  It confirmed interest from the folks in Montreal that they enjoy seeing baseball.

One year ago today – MLB Opening day Sydney Cricket Ground transformation – time lapse video


MURRAY COOK'S FIELD & BALLPARK BLOG

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Pretty slick music too. It’s still hard to believe we got this done in 17 days. Dugouts, bullpens , locker rooms, field, backstop, tunnels, padding, foul poles, batters eye etc.  the list goes on and on. The boys at evergreen rocked the house with the field install and my buds at the SCG, wow.

http://m.mlb.com/video/v31565453/sydney-cricket-ground-gets-a-baseball-makeover

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MLB hosts 1st Field Maintenance Clinic in Managua


???????????????????????????????We had a great turnout of sportsturf managers and groundskeepers from across Nicaragua attending the clinic last week.  A lot of great comments and questions were generated by the group.   The best part was that this was the first time this guys and gals had ever been together.  By the end of the day they were talking among each other comparing field techniques and ideas.

The country of Nicaragua is planning some exciting baseball growth in the near future as it relates to ballpark upgrades as well as building a new national stadium  in Managua that is slated to begin this summer. The site below will be home to the country’s new stadium.

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One of my true joys in being a part of the wonderful industry of sportsturf and sharing knowledge I have picked up from many others along the way.

 

The First 2-Team Spring Training Complex – West Palm Beach 1962-96


MURRAY COOK'S FIELD & BALLPARK BLOG

WPB Municipal

Built in 1962 for the Atlanta braves and eventually home for the Montreal expos…twice,  this complex became the training grounds for a lot of growth in our baseball industry and even though it has been demolished,  it is still producing some interesting stories in baseball today .   Many may not know but thiscomplex was actually the first dual use spring training venue to be used by two MLB organizations.   The Braves had use of the main stadium and 4 fields and the Expos had use of 2 fields and 2  half fields.  Both MLB teams changed in the stadium so everyday the Expos would have to walk by the Braves as they practiced on the main field and head back to the “backfields”.   We also had FSL West Palm Beach Expos, 4 instructional leagues, fantasy camps, high school sports, concerts, etc..  It was…

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The First 2-Team Spring Training Complex – West Palm Beach 1962-96


WPB Municipal

Built in 1962 for the Atlanta braves and eventually home for the Montreal expos…twice,  this complex became the training grounds for a lot of growth in our baseball industry and even though it has been demolished,  it is still producing some interesting stories in baseball today .   Many may not know but thiscomplex was actually the first dual use spring training venue to be used by two MLB organizations.   The Braves had use of the main stadium and 4 fields and the Expos had use of 2 fields and 2  half fields.  Both MLB teams changed in the stadium so everyday the Expos would have to walk by the Braves as they practiced on the main field and head back to the “backfields”.   We also had FSL West Palm Beach Expos, 4 instructional leagues, fantasy camps, high school sports, concerts, etc..  It was fun managing the complex between  1988-1996.  Many past employees that were with these clubs during the 90’s call it the glory years for the braves & expos organizations.   I guess if you look at the past couple years of  HOF editions : Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux, Martinez, Randy Johnson and Bobby Cox  it makes sense.  

What I find amazing today is not only did this spring training site start a trend for numerous other dual team spring training sites in AZ but it was also a GM maker.   I’m talking about between 1989 and 1996 when the braves and expos were both considered the hottest teams in the national league.  The molding of past and current GM’s  and asst GM’s during this era is somewhat mind-boggling.   Just a sampling of current and recent GM’s from both organizations that came out of West Palm Beach during that short 7 year time-frame included good friends like- Dave Dombrowski, Bill Stoneman, Dan Duquette, Neal Huntington, Bill Gievett, Frank Wren. John Schuerholz,  Dayton Moore,  Kevin Malone, Omar Minaya, Jim Beattie, Chuck Lamar, Dean Taylor.     I’m sure I probably left out a few others and there were numerous Assistant GM’s that came out of WPB too.  …And we can’t forget about the All-star scouting directors/farm directors like Gary Hughes, Paul Snyder, Ed Creech, Kent Qualls, etc…

i recall The competition between these two teams during ST was fierce during those years.  They saw each other everyday and played each other more times than they wanted to but in the end…based on the careers of some the GM’s , players and the success of the clubs they were better for it.   

How to Build a Professional Pitchers Mound


MURRAY COOK'S FIELD & BALLPARK BLOG

Sydney_mound There have been several requests recently about this topic…and for the record….building a mound has several options and this is just one.

First a bit if history:

Rule 1.04 in the MB rule book states, ” The pitchers plate shall be 10 inches above the level of home plate. The degree of slope from a point 6 inches in front of the plate shall be 1 inch to 1 foot and such degree of slope shall be uniform”. The rule book gos on to detail other mound specifics regarding the pitching rubber, the diameter and the size of the level area on top of the mound.

It didn’t used to be this way.  In the late 1800’s approximately 1859,  there was no pitching rubber,  only a  line that was drawn in the dirt about 45 feet from the home plate. A few years later they changed the line to…

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Wrapping up a Crazy 2014 & Wishing Everyone A Happy New Year!


MURRAY COOK'S FIELD & BALLPARK BLOG

It is very hard to believe 2014 is almost over!   So much to be thankful for from a personal and professional viewpoint.   I can honestly say that 2014 was an amazing year on a lot of levels in the baseball world.

This year I traveled more than others … logging a couple hundred days, to 13 different countries. a few hundred thousand miles.   Highlights of the 2014 year regarding sports and stuff would be:

20140324-043246.jpg

* MLB Sydney Opener in Australia.   What a great project working with some awesome people in Australia!

koshien st

* Japan Samurai All Star series. Working with our friends in Japan on 5 stadiums in 10 days

*   Toronto 2015 test event games in Ajax.  Planning for the games next summer at a cool sport complex where baseball and softball are side by side.

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* SportsField maintenance clinics in Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and…

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Wrapping up a Crazy 2014 & Wishing Everyone A Happy New Year!


It is very hard to believe 2014 is almost over!   So much to be thankful for from a personal and professional viewpoint.   I can honestly say that 2014 was an amazing year on a lot of levels in the baseball world.

This year I traveled more than others … logging a couple hundred days, to 13 different countries. a few hundred thousand miles.   Highlights of the 2014 year regarding sports and stuff would be:

20140324-043246.jpg

* MLB Sydney Opener in Australia.   What a great project working with some awesome people in Australia!

koshien st

* Japan Samurai All Star series. Working with our friends in Japan on 5 stadiums in 10 days

*   Toronto 2015 test event games in Ajax.  Planning for the games next summer at a cool sport complex where baseball and softball are side by side.

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* SportsField maintenance clinics in Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Holland.

* Cuba relations warming with the USA sounds promising.

* Kansas City royals in the World Series were exciting to watch.  Especially happy for Trevor and his crew

guadalajara charros stadium . jpg

* Guadalajara got a new ballpark out of a track and field venue.

* Commissioner Selig officially stepped down. What a tenure!   Rob Manfred was a great replacement choice and a guy who really likes international game development

* We heard some promising news from baseball’s international elite folks at WBSC  about the high probability of baseball and softball getting back in the Olympic games by 2020.

athens 2004

* We celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

* The company I work for Brickman merged with their arch rival valleycrest.   A new name was revealed this month. Brightview which sounds really cool.  We are better together for sure!

After close to 40 years in this industry the years seem to be going faster.   I guess that’s a good thing.  2014 was also a year of troubled times for many people and  countries.   We are a people living on one planet and it’s obvious we have a lot of work to do make it a better place for our children to live but I’m sure we will figure it out.  Just like a baseball…. it takes teamwork and prayer.

Made alot of friends this year in different countries spreading the word about the STMA..  A major thanks to our brickman crew and subs  who helped out all year.  couldn’t have done it without you!

Looking into the crystal Base-ball 2015 looks to be similar in travel and potential events.   Wishing each of you a prosperous, safe and wonderful 2015!   HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Prepping Latino Americano Estadio for the Cuba vs Orioles 1999 series


While we are at it. Another look at the O’s vs the Cuban All-stars event of 1999.

MURRAY COOK'S FIELD & BALLPARK BLOG

Cuba_opening_game Baseball fields around the world are managed totally different from what you might expect. Here, in the good ole USA, our stadiums have automatic irrigation systems, state of the art drainage systems, weather stations, hydraulic pitching mounds and high tech maintenance equipment!  We are so fortunate! 

In 1999, the Baltimore Orioles played the Cuba National Team in an exhibition in Havana, Cuba.  The stadium and field needed upgrading before the  deal could be completed so I was asked to put together a team to make it happen. The American crew consisted of AL Capitos, Budgie Clark, Greg Meeks and myself.   It took 3 weeks to complete what could have been completed here in days.  For example:

1. Irrigation – The field was hand watered with a fire hose. One person all night!

2. Aerfication– We brought over an aerfier on the barge from Miami with other equipment. The field…

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1st Field Clinic in Cuba Builds Relationships


It’s a #TBT moment. All about building relationships through sport.

MURRAY COOK'S FIELD & BALLPARK BLOG

As part of the USACuba Friendly Game Series this week,  we held the 1stMLB Field Clinic in Havana this week.  The Cuban Baseball Federation invited us to lecture on baseball field maintenance at Estadio Latino Americano.  All 16 pro clubs from the country had representation at the clinic.  What these guys have to work with would amaze many of you.  Picture yourself having only a residential riding mower, 4 rakes, 4 shovels, no tarp, no clay, no soil conditioner, weed control, ant control, etc…. to prepare for an international tournament in front of thousands of people.    These guys do this everyday.  I just love the passion the people in Cuba exhibit for the game of baseball.  That passion was also  evident in the groundskeepers that care for the fields.   I have had the privilege of traveling to this country several times.

It was the first time…

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