Originally posted on MURRAY COOK'S FIELD & BALLPARK BLOG:
Retired Colonel Joe Bevilacqua is the Superintendent of the American cemetery in Nettuno Italy and has also helped us with the field preperations over the past few weeks with equipment and resources .During our conversations he wondered if the USA baseball team may have some time to come over to the cemetery to see the site. One thing lead to another and it worked out that Team USA could be there a few minutes before BP of the Netherlands game.
The site is as impressive as Arlington with over 8000 Americans laying rest from the Anzio beach invasion ofthe allied forces during WWII. The 77 acre site is American property. The players were obviously moved by Colonel Joe’s presentation of the invasion and the cemetary facts.Joe has a crew of over 16 guys that maintain the grounds which werebreath taking.
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We kicked off the first series of MLB Field clinics in Canada this past week. In conjunction with MLB operations and Baseball Canada they selected some great locations for the hands on educational workshops. We started in Vancouver at historic Nat bailey park. Then to centennial park in Edmonton and finished Friday in Winnipeg. We had great turnouts in all 3 clinics. A lot of work by Jim Baba, baseball canada executive director and his staff to organize these events was critical to the success. Thanks to Jim and his crew. Chad Olsen and I are headed up the education content with Bob Curry from Covermaster and a couple reps from Turface. What was great were the added resources for education coming from the STMA (sportsturf managers association) and the Western Turfgrass association (WTGA). These groups provided literature, CD’s and special guest speakers that included presentations from their executive director and board members. The MLB Clinic sessions focused on basic field maintenance as well as budget planning and networking. It was the first time these groups had been together so it was exciting to see them exchange emails and phone numbers during the breaks. Sharing information is what it’s all about.
The majority of the attendees were from the parks rec departments and private schools. In BC and Winnipeg we had a group of volunteers that were responsible for managing the fields after the city performed mowing and other duties. I have a very soft spot in my heart for volunteers in this industry. Seeing people give up their vacation time and family time to be a part of a working clinic to take care of their home baseball and softball fields. WOW! It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Back in 2005 I started Blogging for MLB.com. My good friend Mark Newman thought a grounds keeping blog might be pretty unique to provide information to folks around the world related to taking care of sports fields and or your homelawn. I’ve been asked some fun questions about my blog ( that I write out of the love for educating folks about the sportsturf industry). Looking back at 2005 when I started at a few of the early blog stories , I came across one that highlighted some facts about natural grass. A lot has happened in 9 years but one constant has been the evolution of better, stronger and more durable turfgrasses for our baseball fields.
During this crazy spring weather where we are seeing temps go from 80 degrees to 30 with snow OVERNIGHT, i take my hat off to all the natural grass turf managers that get those fields ready everyday for the teams. It’s a tough job and the average person has no idea what happens behind the scenes on a daily basis. Not to mention the stress of making sure the field is safe for your players day in and day out. Salud!
Below are a few excerpts from the 2005 blog about some turfgrass facts.
Blue grass, Bermuda grass, Zoysia, Buffalo, Rye grass, bent grass, Tifsport, 419, St Augustine, Bahia, 318, k-31, Limousine, U-3, Tifway, Fescue, Creeping red etc… I could go on for days…Which one of these is not a real grass? U-3 is what you call three grasses in your yard and you don’t know what they are!
Breaking it down to the basics: Grass selection is based on Cool Season and Warm Season grasses and the mysterious transition zone. Cool season grasses is what you have in your lawn from about the Maryland/Pennsylvania border north and warm season grasses start in Virginia and go south South. The transition line varies across the states. There are pockets in Virginia, Maryland, Texas and even Utah that you can grow both types…which explains the “transition zone”. Picking your grass should begin with the zone you are in. From that point you can get really creative with 1000’s of varieties of grasses. The bottom line…keep it simple. Don’t go crazy with a bunch of different seed choices in your lawn. That could lead to a bunch of fungus problems. 2 or 3 varieties is OK but more than that is probably not necessary.
Here are some fun grass facts you can throw at the neighbor while you are out working in your lawn!
FACT- The first white house lawnmower. Washington and Jefferson used sheep to keep the lawn under control!
FACT- “There are over 200 varieties of tall type fescues in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware. The type everyone knows about in the store and probably the first type…was K-31.
FACT- The grass seed state is Oregon with sales over 300+ million per year.
FACT- In the 1800’s golf courses in the UK were infected with a pests called ….. Earth worms! This resulted in some of the great courses in Scotland developing along the seashores. Worms do not care for the salty/sandy soils. In the US, night crawlers are actually good for the earth!
FACT – Groundskeeping is actually Mankinds first profession: Genesis 2:15 …. The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.
FACT- First lawnmower. invented by Edwin Budding in the early 19Th century. In 1870, Elwood McGuire designed a mower that made a big impact on the homeowner. By 1885, the USA was building 50,000 push mowers a year and shipping them everywhere.
FACT- A survey in 1994 listed 43 million acres of turf in the US.
FACT- The cooling power of grass! 8 average front lawns have the cooling power of 70 tons of air conditioning. (The average home has a 3 to 4 ton central unit)
FACT- Fresh Air… a 50×50 square pieces of grass generates enough oxygen for a family of four. As mother natures filter it absorbs carbon monoxide, nitrates and hydrogen fluoride and releases oxygen.
FACT- Last one – A test was conducted by dropping 12 eggs onto a dense small piece of natural grass from 11 feet. NONE BROKE! On a thin turf piece 8 broke…. and all 12 broke when dropped from 18 inches onto a rubberized track.
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.
I took a lot of photos of the 2013 season opener in AUS and the various stages of the field and ballpark construction that we helped manage. Hard to believe we built an MLB ballpark in 17 days. What a great event an a great field crew. I will work to post more as I get them uploaded. Over the course of a few weeks the above crew of contractors, maintenance staff and volunteers did something very special. A special thanks to Eric Ogden, chad Olsen, Chad Kropff and Darrell Lemmer. Also a big thanks to Tom Parker who is the curator of the SCG. What a wonderful person he and his entire staff are to work with. What an unbelievable experience put on by Moore Sports. Jason you rock.
For the past 14 years tom Nicholson director of Oceania baseball and business development has worked tirelessly at bringing a mlb game to Australia. Congrats Tom.
In the near future we will begin to plan a youth field in Melbourne for Chris Lane who was a college student and baseball player in Oklahoma. Chris’s parents attended the game and were given a homeplate from the commissioner of baseball , Bud Selig. The homeplate ceremony was the most moving part of the MLB series. A moment of silence was also shared by the 38000 people in attendance at the game. The below photo of Tom Nicholson and Chris Lanes folks.
After 16 months of planning, the 2week conversion of the Sydney Cricket Grounds ( SCG) pitch for MLB’s 2014 Season Opener began this week and is moving along very well. We have stripped the areas of the field where the clay will be installed for the mound, baselines, infield and warning track. Evergreen is the local contractor hired by Moore Sports to perform these duties. This week we will begin the fencing, backstop, batters eye, foul poles, dugouts, bullpens and interior areas of the locker rooms.
The SCG field crew headed up by Tom Parker have been awesome. They just finished the cricket season last weds and we began the grading of the field Thursday. Over the course of the next couple weeks we will move about 1200 tons of materials on and off the field to build the playing surface. The majority of these products including clays,warning track and rootzone materials are locally provided. Gail Materials has provided some infield clay products. They also provide clay products for the Padres and Dodgers. Turface infield conditioners will be used to topcoat the field along with Covermaster providing all the padding. Since we are unable to sink posts in the ground to support the fence structure, we will need to bring in over 100 tons of counter weights in order to secure the outfield fence. Its a large project that has a lot of moving parts but if anyone can pull it off its the crew at the SCG and Scott Egelton with Pier Properties who is acting as PM.
The bermuda turfgrass also known as “cooch grass” is maintained just under 1/2 inch high during Cricket season. We are raising the cut to almost an inch so it is more in line to where the Dodgers and DBacks are currently training in Arizona. Only 2 weeks after the MLB event is over the MRL takes the pitch so the field is actually going through 2 major conversions in over a month. All the sod harvested from the pitch is being used at nearby venues.
More to follow as this project continues.
Now that the 2014 MLB Panama exhibition series between the New York Yankees and Miami Marlins has been officially announced, I can tell you we have been hard at work prepping the field for over a month. Rod Carew stadium in panama is no stranger to big league games and events. Last years WBC qualifier , the 2011 baseball World Cup and the 2004 olympic qualifier have been great events at the ballpark constructed in the late nineties. Seating about 27000 with short dimensions to the left and right field fence at 321ft the hitters may be drooling, but beware of this illusion because the ballpark sits in a valley that can suck the lift out of baseballs that should have easily cleared the fence. On sunny afternoons we have seen the opposite. It’s a standard 400ft to center. The ballpark was designed to expand to 45,000 but that has stalled in the past years. Rain tends to plague this rainforest region but in 2011 a new drainage system was installed in the field and it works wonderfully. The area of the ballpark is continually expanding which like anywhere else in the world causes traffic congestion. The taxi drivers in panama are ” talented” drivers with each having an entire horn-honking vocabulary. Everyone knows everyone!
This series was planned to show appreciation for one of the greatest closers in baseball , Mariano Rivera . The renovations of the ballpark actually began to take place after a movie production that caused a bit of damage to the infield and outfield. All areas have been sodded and the field is looking better for the mid march series . Our sportsturf team , Joe and chad have been putting the finishing touches on the mounds and bullpens with the local field crew. I can assure you this ballpark will be rocking when the hometown hero Mariano and the Yankees take the field. It’s going to be crazy! Big tip: If you plan on coming to the game , come early…..Real early.
Baseball’s pitching mound has evolved several times over the years. Back in the late 1800s, it was 45 feet from home plate and the pitcher could take a couple of steps with the ball when throwing. Later, the pitcher had a 6-foot-square box as the designated area and had to stay within that box when throwing. The mound was initially defined in the rules in the early 1900s with the pitching rubber at a height of no more than 15 inches above home plate. Because mounds were at varying heights up to 15 inches, the rule was changed in the 1950s, setting 15 inches as the uniform height. Baseball became a pitcher’s game. In the late 1960s, pitcher Bob Gibson had an ERA of 1.12 and MLB’s top hitter, Carl Yastrzemski, was batting .301. During the 1968 season, over one-fifth of all MLB games were shutouts. The rule was officially changed in 1969, establishing the height of the pitching rubber at 10 inches above home plate–period–not 10 inches above the grass. That rule changed the way the game was played. At 15 inches, pitchers were told to “stand tall and fall.” With the change to 10 inches, it became “drop and drive.” The pitchers would drop down and push off from their right or left leg.
That 10-inch height is mandatory for major and minor league baseball, NCAA Baseball and most high school programs. (Check the official governing body for rules at each level of play.)
First Steps in Building your Mound. Be prepared
This is the method I use for new construction or total reconstruction of a mound. There are many other methods, but I’ve found this is the simplest way.
You’ll need a plate compactor, hand tamp, landscape rake, shovel, level board, a small tiller , hose and a water source. I prefer the professional block-type, four-way pitching rubber. my good friend Chad Kropff at Bulldog field equipment came up with a really nice pitching rubber that does not bubble up when tamped to hard. You can flip it each year and get four years of use from it.
Picking your Mound Clay
The most important thing you need is the clay. I suggest using two types: a harder clay on the plateau and landing area and your regular infield mix for the sides and back of the mound. The harder mix has more clay, with a typical mix about 40 percent sand, 40 to 50 percent clay and 10 to 20 percent silt. The infield mix for the rest of the mound is typically about 60 percent sand, 30 percent clay and 10 percent silt. Suppliers offer several options in bagged mound mixes, some of which come partially moist, some almost muddy and some as dry as desert sand. Be aware of those factors as you evaluate your clay sources. Any of the commercially bagged, vendor-provided mound mixes are heavy in clay and good to work with. When you purchase the material from a vendor, you know you’ll be getting the same thing each time. Bricks are also available for the harder clay. Some people prefer these, which are packaged moist and ready to go into the ground. Others prefer the bagged mixes for more flexibility in establishing moisture levels. If you have a local clay you think is good have it tested by a local agronomist for clay content.
You’ll want to have 8 to 10 tons of clay available to build the mound; 2 tons of the harder clay and 6 to 8 tons of the infield mix. You’ll need wheelbarrows or utility vehicles for loading and unloading it–and people to help move it.
The most accurate way to set your distances and heights is to use a transit with a laser. If you don’t have access to this, you can use a string line run between steel spikes with a bubble level that you clip onto the string. Or, you can build a slope board.
Where does the mound go on a field?
Plan for the proper orientation when constructing a new field or when building a mound for practice purposes. You’ll want the line from home plate through the pitcher’s mound to second base to run east-northeast so the batter isn’t looking into the sun when facing the pitcher. As you prepare to construct the mound, use the transit and laser or string lines to make sure home plate, the pitcher’s mound and second base are accurately aligned and everything is square.
For a regulation MLB field, the distance from the back tip of the home plate to the front of the pitching rubber is 60 feet 6 inches. The typical pitcher’s mound is an 18-foot circle with the center of the pitching mound 18 inches in front of the pitching rubber. That makes the measurement from the back of the home plate to the center of the pitcher’s mound 59 feet. Too often, the rubber is accidentally placed in the center of the pitcher’s mound so be sure you have the measurements right.
If you’re using the string line, place one steel spike behind the pitching rubber location and one just beyond home plate. Put a pin at the 59-foot point in the center of the mound area and stretch a 9-foot line out from it, moving it all around the pin to mark the outer line of the 18-foot circle. If the grass is already in place, protect it with geotextile and plywood while you’re building the mound.
As you begin to install the clay you will build the mound in 1-inch levels, creating the degree of moisture you want in each level so it will be just tacky enough for the new layer to adhere to the previous one. Use a tamp to compact each level. It’s important that the hard clay used to build the plateau and landing area is a minimum of 6 to 8 inches deep. You can put down plastic or wrap the tamp with a towel or piece of landscape fabric to keep it from sticking to the clay. You can’t add soil conditioner between these layers, as that will keep them from bonding together. Check the measurements of the height, using the transit and laser or the string line, with every lift of clay.Leave the pin in the center and place a second pin where the pitching rubber is going to be and mark the pin at 10 inches above home plate. Then, start bringing in the clay to form the base of the mound. Establishing the right moisture content within the clay mix is the key to building the mound. That consistency has been described as just a bit drier than that of Play-Doh when it first comes out of the can. It’s one of the instances where the science and art of sports field management mesh, learning by doing what that right consistency is given the material being used, the outside temperatures and humidity levels, sun, shade or cloud cover, wind speeds and direction. These factors vary daily–and often hourly–and make a difference in the formula that will keep the mix at just the right moisture level.
When you’ve built up the subbase with hard clay at the 60-foot-6-inch area to a 10-inch height, construct the plateau 5 feet wide by 34 inches deep. Position the front of the pitching rubber 60 feet 6 inches from the back of home plate. Set it firmly in place, making sure it is level across the length and width, with the top surface exactly 10 inches above the level of home plate. Draw a centerline through the pitching rubber and run a string from home plate to second base to confirm the rubber is centered.
With the pitching rubber in place and the plateau completed, you can begin to build the slope toward the front of the mound. Begin the slope 6 inches in front of the toe plate creating a fall of 1 inch per each foot. Double-check the accuracy of the slope using the transit and laser or the string line.
You’ll be using the harder mound clay to create the pie-shaped front slope of the mound, as this section will provide the landing area for the pitcher. Use the same method of clay mix, water and tamping, working in 1-inch increments.
You’ll use the infield mix to construct the remainder of the mound. Begin working from the back edge of the plateau using the same layering process. Use the edge of the slope board or a large wooden plank, positioning the top edge on the back of the plateau area and the other edge of the board on the edge of the grass to guide the degree of slope for the back and sides of the mound. Looking at the mound from the front as a clock face, you’ll be completing roughly the area from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to transition into the wedge in the front of the mound. You’ll want a smooth area of slope for the back and sides so that the side section precisely meets the edge of the pie-shaped wedge that is the front of the mound. Upon completion, the mound should look like a continuous circle with no indication that different materials have been used.
The dimensions, working from the outer edges of the 5-foot-by-34-inch plateau, are mathematically accurate to make the back and side segments a perfect fit. They tie into the wedge with the 1-inch to 1-foot fall of the front slope that begins 6 inches in front of the pitching rubber.
Once the mound is completed, top it with a 1/8-inch layer of infield soil conditioner so it won’t stick to the tamp. Then, cover the mound with a tarp and keep it covered to prevent it from drying out and cracking. Once the mound is properly constructed, you’ll have only the easier, but ongoing, task of managing the moisture level as you repair the mound after every practice and game.
Excerpts of above article Published in Sports Management Magazine
It’s hard to think of baseball during these frigid days, but its sunny and warm in Australia as we prepare for the MLB season Opener March 22nd – 23rd. During this site visit we had a chance to see some Cricket and watch the Ausies take on England. The new stand ( pictured above) that is located behind homeplate is just about finished and looks beautiful. It was actually designed with baseball dugouts that can be covered with temporary seating for the other sports that play at the SCG.
The Sydney cricket ground (SCG) is considered the hallowed grounds for cricket in all of Australia. However that connection does not protect the grounds from the additional use it receives annually. Cricket season runs from November to March, then AFL Rugby is typically late March till Sept. Other high traffic events include, charity cricket games and this spring the SCG will host our season opener. During our site planning meetings we witnessed daily tours with people criss-crossing the field. Just like any other major sports venue this facility has learned to adapt in order to meet the demand of a sports crazed country. Hats off to Tom Parker and his crew for keeping this pitch looking great.
The photo above is a view from behind the homeplate area. The planning for the Cricket, to baseball, to AFL football conversion has been extensive. We are shipping over a few clay products and soil conditioners to work with local materials from the states and padding from Canada. We found some nice local warning track mix, and a great sod farm. We are having to coordinate this conversion over a 10 day period. The playing surface is just a part of the overall conversion. Other areas of the conversion include entire outfield and foul territory fencing system, wall padding, bullpens, foul poles, batters eye, backstop structure, netting, dugouts, locker rooms , etc… It’s going to be challenging and fun all at the same time. Our awesome conversion team includes the SCG crew, Moore Sports, Evergreen and Pier Properties plus a few other subs. More to follow as we get closer to this event. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in just a couple weeks so hope I you can stay warm with the thought that baseball season is just around the corner.
Congratulations to the Hall of Fame Class of 2014. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox along with Frank Thomas. The Braves 1-2 punch had some help with an awesome manager Bobby Cox and pitching coach Leo Mazzone. You can throw in Smolzty, Avery and Merker and then Wohlers to close which kind of made it an unbeatable rotation.
Having worked for the Braves and managed the Spring training fields where Glav and Mad-dog competed during the 90’s it didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize this duo was destined for the HOF. West Palm Beach was the Braves spring home from 1962-1996. I started in WPB in 1988 and moved with the Braves to Disney in 1996 for a few more years during the Braves magical run.
Mad-dog and Glav would typically be the first guys to arrive in every morning around 7am. Always walk across the field to say hello, ask what the day looked like, which golf course to hit in the afternoon, where to fish, etc.. They were always appreciative of the field and our crew. Many times bringing breakfast sandwiches for the crew. I would walk in the locker room and ask how the mound performed that day and both would be happy to offer comments. These guys were SO consistent. I recall after a game where Maddox pitched in the bullpen, he thought the home plate was turned a little. Sure enough we put a string on it and it was off by ¼ inch. On another occasion, I asked him to come out to see the mound at Disney. He had thrown that day (which I didn’t get a chance to attend due to other mickey mouse duties) and I told him thanks for the autograph. He asked what i meant and I told him he always leaves a distinct pattern with his push off toe after each pitch. His foot placement across the clay and landing area was exactly the same every single time he pitched.
These guys set the tempo for the many winning seasons they had in the 90’s. Bobby would remind me every spring “this is where we start winning Mur so get us going right! ” With these two on the mound… that was easy!
A good friend in our baseball community Eric Harshman and his wife have adopted a child in Congo africa and due to the government, they along with several other families are being held up by red tape as explained in this article . Eric is the groundskeeper for the university of Kentucky.
A simple signature from the governments minister of immigration is all that’s needed and that will send these families home. . The New York daily posted a story this past week about their plight. In an effort to get the baseball community’s support please sign the attached petition and also write your congressmen to put pressure on the government in Congo to release the children to their legal families.
Wishing everyone a Happy healthy and prosperous New year!
Looking ahead at 2014 looks to be pretty busy for the international projects. Kicking off with the MLB Opener in Sydney is only a start. Also several exhibition games are being played in different parks. Enjoy the holiday and drink responsibly. Taxis are the way to go!
Twas the night before Christmas when all through the park
Not a mower was running because it was dark
We covered our grass with a turf blanket clothe
Just hoping the wind, would not blow it off.
The park was all prepped for a short winters nap
So I Snapped up my jacket and pulled down my cap
When all of a sudden there came such a noise
It wasn’t the reindeer but a group of young boys.
How could that be on Christmas Eve?
It was way to late…I just wanted to leave.
When I looked over the field to my eyes would appear
Those kids trying to start our favorite John Deere.
At first I was mad as I watched them at play
When I was a kid I was the very same way.
They spoke not a word when the cart wouldn’t start
As I heard one whisper , “Let’s dip-set this park”.
They pushed the tractor, back under the cover
And scaled over the fence , one after another
No damage was done, thank goodness for that
It was kids, being kids and not being brats.
Last season was long , we all would agree
Our fields took a beating for all to see
Throughout the year we would try and rebuild
Do you think Saint Nick might bring a new field?
We need to re sod , our crew would say
And the boss would shout out , Absolutely No Way!
The cost is too high and the owner’s made cuts
He said to be thankful, it couldve been us.
It takes hard work we tried to explain
Those concerts you book are more than a pain
Alas he would cave , you can get your new grass
Just get back to work and please stay off my @?&#$.
It’s sure to be fun for those who can wait
Merry Christmas to all…..especially my blog mates!
Two of our brickman team members Larry Cammarata senior horticulturalist and Peter Brugeman Ops Manager volunteered their time , expertise and resources to help install a new irrigation system for “Med & food for kids” in Cap Haitian , Haiti. The non profit farm grows Haitian peanuts to produce life saving food for Malnourished children. With the improvements to the new irrigation system the future crop cycles will grow larger pods , fewer disease issues and develop a complete life cycle.
They also helped the Haitians understand the different crop development stages of the peanut and how to vary the water delivery to those crop stages for a better harvest.
It’s great too hear about how our company gives back to communities around the world.
Proud to be part of the Brickman team!
The SCG members stand is a beautiful building. The foundation of the stand was laid out by British soldiers in the 1850’s. In the photo you can see the construction of the DBacks dugout on the first base side. A lot of progress since our last site visit.
The Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants played NSW at the SCG in 1914. The members stand is at the Right in this old photo as the white sox take the field. The history of this venue and how it has brought our countries together over the years is pretty cool.
First and foremost, Congrats to the Boston Red Sox on their 2013 WCS victory as well as my good friend David Mellor and his groundcrew. It was a great series.
Although the series has just ended field renovations have been underway in numerous places preparing for the 2014 season. Its a busy year for us with renovations in Lancaster and Tennessee. Also ongoing new construction in Amsterdam at the Pioniers new complex and in Australia as they prepare for the ABL season openers next next week. Not to mention a major renovation at the SCG for the 2014 MLB Opener. Hoping mother nature is good to all the contractors.
Lancaster was still “looking” OK , but after a field sees 8-10 years of high use it needs to be resurfaced because rain water begins to drain more slowly through the profile due to all the organic matter that develops over the years. The main reason it has performed so well has been the great turf managers that have taken care of the field. Anthony DeFao and Josh Viet…Two guys in 10 years. The field’s successful performance over the years reflects their hard work and dedication. The ODP group has always supported our efforts in in building and managing their fields.
Finishing touches in Hoofddorp on the Pioniers new sport complex. The main stadium field is going to be a real gem. The folks in Amsterdam had a big storm recently and some of the warning track mix washed onto the field. In an effort to remove the very small gravel they broke out the vacuum cleaners. That’s commitment!