A whirlwind couple weeks of baseball in Japan has come to an end and with it some fond memories. This is one of the greatest international events MLB puts on every couple years. We worked side by side with our Japanese friends to renovate and maintain 5 different ballparks where the MLB All-stars took on the Japan Samurai. Crisscrossing Japan from Okinawa to Sapporo with stops in Osaka and Tokyo was fun but challenging. We had the chance to meet some really awesome people along the way, see some old friends and make a lot of new ones. Its so cool spending time with folks that tend to fields and work on stadiums around the world that speak the same language…baseball! Its truly unique that event though we actually speak different languages that when were working on the field we understood each other and what we were trying to achieve. This tour is really about building friendships through sport and I can say in that regard it was a major success.
MLB has been playing in Japan for over 80 years and this tour celebrated that relationship. The Japanese and Americans share a passion for a sport that we both call our national past time. This tour brought us to some new destinations that allowed us to develop new relationships by working together on the fields and ballparks. We learned new exciting things from one another such as equipment and materials they use vs what we use.
Note: We actually started a little more than a week before the event started prepping fields around various other events that were being held at each venue before the all star tour. .
Day 1-4 – Our first stop was in Osaka where we spent time with the ground crew and local ballpark staff preparing the field and venue for the first exhibition game at Koshien stadium, Home to the Hanshin tigers. The history of the field resonates each time I spoke with members of the ground crew and staff. There are quite a few interesting facts about this ballpark built in the early 1920’s with an original capacity of 80000. Over the years the size was reduced and now holds about 40k. Baseball actually started in this country around 1870 and the MLB tour has been a true exchange of values and cultures since the 1920s.
In 1934 Connie Mack brought a group of MLB all stars on a tour of Japan stopping to play in Koshien. Eighty years ago players on the 1934 team of all stars included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Fox, Lefty Gomez and one interesting journeyman Moe Berg. What I find fascinating about Moe being on this team is that he was supposedly not in koshien the day they played at the park in front of a sold-out crowd. According to various stories from the locals he was supposedly in Tokyo filming parts of Japan. This film was eventually used by the CIA. A book written later after World War 2 called “A catcher and a spy” outlines some of Moe’s history as a spy for the CIA. There is also a large plaque in a green garden located beside the stadium that sports the bust of babe Ruth and the importance of the 1934 tour.
As for the history behind Koshiens darker black Infield color, it is a sandy mix with a little silt and a very small amount of clay. There is some volcanic ash and local organics that attribute to the dark color. It truly is hallowed ground for many reasons and we highly respected that heritage as we worked on the field. We asked about ways to firm it up but we’re told of the history and respected their request. Shortly after only re-building the mound and homeplate with small amounts of MLB clays from the states, Kanazowa-san the head curator of the field wanted to see the soil conditioner we brought over. Obviously the red color was something they were concerned about but he was very interested in the properties of the product. One thing led to another and he agreed to allow us to use the red conditioner on the mound and batter’s box. So for the first time since the ballpark was constructed, there was a little color on this field (which will be removed shortly after we leave). But the real story is that he wanted to see what it did and how it was used and if he liked the product, we explained that he could have it dyed black to match Koshiens black infield mix perfectly.
Day 2. Obviously pulling off an event like this at multiple parks requires some scheduling and help so our Brickman sportsturf team was composed of Chad Olsen, Eric Ogden, Zach Zverson and Isaiah Lienau. These guys worked some long long shifts while crossing Japan a few times overseeing the field preparations.
Day 3 – the Osaka dome is what we called it, but it’s actually the Kyocera dome. Located about 20 minutes from koshien. Ewata-San is the head groundskeeper of this busy venue. ( sorry about spelling Ewata-san) We helped him re-build of the mounds, bullpen and touched up homeplate. Outside of that it was pretty easy. What a great crew to work with and so respectful of not only the field but everyone and everything in the stadium. This dome was designed with crazy acoustics. You can stand in a spot directly under second base in the center and produce the perfect echo that is so clear it’s scary. I worked with ewata 10 years ago this year when the tour came through. So cool to see him and see how he has continued to make his field look and play so well regardless of the extremely high use.
Day 4 – this was a travel day to Tokyo for the team. I took a quick day trip to Okinawa to see how the field renovation was coming along and check in with Isaiah. Chad and Eric were spending another all-nighter prepping the dome in Tokyo for the next 3 games. Photo below is the MASKED-MEN of the Tokyo dome. Having fun.
Day 5-7. The Tokyo dome has quite the history with MLB events. We have played several openers and all star tours at the Tokyo dome. These 3 games Friday Saturday and Sunday were all sell outs. The ground crew was led by kaweke and tamba. I’m writing these names as they sound not by the exact spelling. This is another venue that goes through some major transitions for other events. We have worked with these talented young me since they were entry level on the crew and now they are the Chiefs…along with the “masked-man” and “mama boss.” Always nice to see them. photo below is Osaka dome crew
Day 8. Another travel day to Sapporo stadium located in the northern part of the country. Basically on the same latitude as upstate New York. What a cool city. I mean that literal as well since when we arrived it was snowing with a few inches on the ground. Thankful for the dome in this city!
Day 9. The Sapporo dome is massive. Hosting some serious indoor sports including the ability to move a soccer field in and out of the venue in just 3 hours. The roll up turf was installed in 12 hours for our game. We had to work in hard hats dung the mound, base-pit and homeplate renovations.
Day 10. Another travel day to Okinawa. This was almost a 4 hour flight taking us from a place compared from Maine to Key West.
Day 11. And final game in Okinawa at cellular field was nice. The field played pretty good and was similar to koshien with an all infield clay area. This field had a heck of crown at almost 1. % fall from around the mound so raising the mound and home-plate as needed. Also we were able to add a little bit of clay to several spots around the infield. It was clay from Sapporo. This helped us in these areas as the infield skin here was much sandier than koshien. Another sellout crowd and great weather and crew to work with.
All in All, the entire event was a success. The Japan samurai won the tour this time. First one since 1990. they had a great team and that played the All stars with a lot of heart. The Japan Samurai won 4 of seven from the entire series. Ewata-san came down from Osaka to help us at this field. Obviously we couldn’t have completed all this work without the help of our interpreters yomuri’s sato-san and MLB’s ryo-san. These guys went above and beyond the call of duty to help us navigate the country and obtain the things we needed at the parks. Forever indebted to them and more importantly their friendship. I wish we could have an overall team photo of this entire Japan field contingency group but at least we got a few of each ground crew. Really cool event in a cool country.
We can learn a lot from other cultures. Having had the privilege to travel to various countries I enjoy sharing what I’ve seen and learned with many of you. I receive a lot of positive feed-back from readers of this blog and I thank you for the kind words. I write this blog for my own pleasure meaning “I’m not paid to blog”…and hopefully things shared will help someone with their field. The world is really not that big and when we engage ourselves in other cultures and meet new people it puts things in perspective. Thanks again to all the Japanese groundcrews and for a job well done and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
Late last week the Korean Baseball Organization ( KBO) hosted the inaugural Baseball Field Maintenance Clinic at Jamsil Stadium. The educational event was attended by ballpark operations and sportsturf managers from all the 9 Professional KBO clubs. We covered a lot of ground in one day including mound and homeplate care, turf management and light repairs, but the best part was the interaction between each of the attendees. One fun topic was sharing info about the STMA and how the organization brings people together to learn about ways to make their fields safer. We even used our Korean slides Kim Heck put together!
I really enjoyed watching the guys put the lines down at Jamsil with a very unique chalk marking system Using a metal tube filled with chalk, one person would rake the tube over rails in the template which gently dropped the chalk in a nice line. Pretty cool!
This group had never been together in one room so when we went outside they began to exchange info and share stories about each others fields..or at least that is what my interpreter told me. I would like to thank the KBO for hosting this wonderful event.
The 2014 MLB all star series will be held the first couple weeks of November. The best of five series will be played in the Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo domes with two exhibitions planned at Okinawa and Koshien. The history of the Japan All star tour event dates back quite a ways. This will be the 36th time a group of MLB players will travel to Japan to compete in a friendly series and the 11th All Star tour.
during the site checks our first stop was Okinawa. A small island located way south of the mainland. It’s about a 2 hour flight from Osaka. There is a lot of history in Okinawa as it was considered the turning point of WWII. This is a really cool ballpark which sports a Japanese traditional baseball field which is composed of an all dirt infield. Japanese players have been competing on these type of fields for over 75 years. It’s a 25000 seat park and it was very loud and clear that the Okinawans are excited about hosting an exhibition game. There is a large military base located near by and I’m sure there will be some serious fans supporting their favorite MLB and Japan All stars.
There are two parks proposed for competition in Osaka. Koshien stadium is the older venue with the most history of baseball in the country. Connie Mac brought a tour here in 1934 featuring the likes of Babe Ruth and others. In the early 90’s MLB international and the players union had another tour which stopped by koshien. The park is truly unique hosting the national high school tournament every year. The park is packed for these games. The venue has a all dirt infield, big foul territory and a natural grass outfield. Koshien stadium is about a 30 minutes drive from the Osaka dome.
The other venue planned for games is the Osaka dome. I remember last time it was for the 2004 MLB all-star series. It was good seeing old friends and more importantly seeing the mound and homeplate improvements they had made. They did an amazing job at matching the infield clay around the base pits with the synthetic turf color.
The 4th planned venue is in Sapporo and it is also a domed ballpark. Again this is another impressive dome with huge foul territory and a synthetic turf surface. The outfield wall is about 20ft tall and the distance to the fence is respectable at 330 down the lines and 400 to center. This venue has the ability to open the center field wall and “float” in a regulation size natural grass soccer pitch. The size of the building is massive. I was told by the local management that the entire Tokyo dome can fit inside this dome!
The Main venue for the games will be in Tokyo at the ever so popular and well-known “big-egg” . The big news for this venue is it has a new synthetic turf surface which was really needed. The amount of events this facility sees is truly impressive. Always great to see and work with our friends at Yomuri and the grounds staff in the Tokyo dome.
Looking forward to the tour and working with our Japanese friends.
Technically, 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 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.
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Planning to rebuild your homeplate? If it looks like this well I think you waited to long. I see to many fields and once in a while i run across one that makes me cry. Im not going to mention where this field is but obviously there is a problem with both safety and playability.
Preparing to build a field starts with homeplate. The entire ballpark is determined by where the back tip of homeplate is located. orientation is always discussed as an issue and what MLB recommends is a direction fo North-Northeast which works fine for ballparks North of the 3o latitude. Homeplate areas vary in size typically they are 26 ft in diameter however many make them larger to 30ft to reduce turf wear and tear. Again 26ft is a recommendation. The actual home plate is made of rubber and has five points. A regulation home plate is a 17-inch square with two corners of the…
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could steeper mounds reduce arm injury?. Check out this story by mlblogger Tracey and a history of the mound
It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago this month was the start of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. It actually started in early August, but I moved to Athens with my wife and teenage kids in tow the first week of July. We look back on the Olympic experience of 2004 often and this year is special. A lot has changed since 2004. It was the year after 9/11 and the security flying internationally was at its all time high. Even the security for the games was the most it has ever been.
I was fortunate to see my boys volunteer as batboys and my daughter volunteer with the sports presentation team. The friendships made during this event continue 10 years later not only for me but for them as well. Angelos Dimitripolis, competition manager made it all possible. Along with Panos Mistup0lis President of the greek federation and Tom Mazarakis. Our operation and management team was composed of a few Americans from Brickman Sportsturf and hundreds of local and international volunteers.
The complex was composed of 4 natural grass baseball fields and 2 softball fields. They were constructed in 2002-3 at the same time using the same materials and grass. We were involved in the design and construction of all the fields working closely with IBAF’s Miquel Ortin and President Aldo Notari . We developed some pretty nice baseball and softball fields for the competition. The volunteers made this event so great. Just to many friends to name them all but via social media we still chat on facebook and twitter. Our field staff was great. Hats off to the Josh, Cindy, Dave , Budge and for softball Rick and Darrell. As for the games, Cuba was the gold medal winner with australia taking silver and japan the bronze.
I recently returned to Athens back in 2012 to do an inventory on the fields and some of the unused equipment. The Softball fields were rough but 2 of the baseball fields are still used by the federation. Tom M. and his team take care of the fields and do a great job with what they have . After the Olympic games they put a lot of unused equipment in storage. A pretty cool story that has not been told revolves around how MLB, USA baseball, The Greek federation and the IBAF worked together to purchase a lot of the unused equipment and spread it around europe to help grow the game. Even though it was 8 years old it was still in great condition. The greek federation used the funds from the sale to cover travel and lodging to compete in the 2012 European Championships that year. Just think, After 8 years the Olympic event in Athens was still helping to grow the game.
Our World baseball softball confederation WBSC led by President Fracarri is leading the charge for our sports return to the Olympics in 2020. Make sure you support your local federations and spread the word about baseball and softball.
Ok so this isnt the best mower stripping equipment! Having fancy mowers is nice and stripping your lawn like the Pros can be accomplished by brushing your grass. Those beautiful shades of green stripes on the fields you see at sporting events are not painted on! (Actually, I have been asked this question by a few readers over the years).
First, Its not as hard as it looks to put those stripes in your yard..even a 7 year old can do it (under a parental eye) and I was a witness too that particular youth event as it was my son that put them in our yard many years ago with his bubble mower.
The stripes are actually made by rolling or bending the grass in opposite directions. In pro parks they use a vertical reel type mower. Its all about the equipment …NOT THE PAINT! Some big league parks…
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Every year the fall brings you good things. Along with the fall baseball classic it lets you revive your home lawntime before winter. In an effort to keep it simple stupid (the KISS principle) you should plan your renovation according to your geographical area. Different grasses + different climates = different turf programs. Northern grasses are fescues and bluegrasses while southern grasses are bermudas, St Augstine, bahia and then you have transition grasses. This is the tough one because you can have overseeded bermudas and zoysias.
Bottom line,a little work this fall can improve your lawn for the spring. Here is a list of projects you may consider for your lawn.
1. Get a soil sample and have it tested by your local extension office. This sounds tough but its as simple as it sounds. Every county has an extension agent that can send you in…
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Enjoyed visiting the ballparks last week that will host the 2014 European Baseball Championships. Thanks to CEB President Jan Esselman and Czech Republic VP Lucie Cubikova for handling all the logistics. Our friends in Regensburg Armin, Philip, Juergen and Martin were also a big help in getting around the country and seeing the park on a last minute check up. The event will be held in mid September and played in 4 cities. Regensburg Germany and Trebic, Ostrava, Brno Czech Republic. Baseball clubs in Europe are operated much differently than the clubs and leagues we have in the USA. Each city typically has a sports club that houses several sports. In some cases the sport has their own field and venue. Kids begin to use the club at a young age and work their way up in the levels. In most cases they do not have a high school or college baseball sport program so the club development fills the gap. It’s a really cool concept as it brings the community together similar to the way our MLB academies function in the states.
It’s great to see baseball growing in Europe. A testament to the work that the IBAF, CEB and the World Baseball Softball Federation are doing to grow our game.
Chad also took a look at a pre-event training field in Paris France. All synthetic field except mound and plate. All of the tournament competition fields are natural grass.
I also had an opportunity to see the new ballpark in Hoofddorp , Holland a suburb of Amsterdam. These guys are not hosting any of the European championship rounds this year but i had a chance to see the progress on my return. What a nice baseball venue! The CLub team and city should be real proud of this park that has 5 fields and they added 2 half fields. Ike , Joe and Chad are helping to train the local volunteers how to maintain the field. This week they are hosting an MLB clinic.
Hoofddorp ( Amsterdam)
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