Over the past couple months i have spent some time checking up on some ballparks for the upcoming winter league in Puerto Rico. The Winter League has a rich tradition in the PR. In addition to the WL they have very strong local Double A clubs supported by small communities around the country. The development of ballparks for this league is really something. Stadiums in Kayay ( top photo) , Yauco ( below), and Mayamon have recently been completed. 2000 to 4000 seat venues.
With the first round of WBC qualifiers over we can now shift to the next set in Panama and taiwan. But first I need to thank Martin and his 18U baseball team (which was also our ground crew) for doing a great job during the tournament. Those kids not only helped with all the field duties but carried the flags during the ceremonies, worked the MLB road show, helped in the locker rooms etc…. They would definitely be my choice for MVP of the tournament. Baseball wise, Team Canada dominated the tournament with both pitching and hitting. Germany had a good club but the boys from up north were just to powerful.
Armin Wolfe Arena has now hosted to major tournaments. By taking their 1000 seat ballpark and turning it into a 5000 seat facility with separate locker rooms and office space, they were able to provide a great venue for both the fans players and staff that worked the event. We had some rain threats but nothing of great alarm. Also glad to have kevin and Dan on hand to help make this event a success.
All in total the field and venue held up well in front of 4000 people. Canada moved up a notch with a win over GB 11-1 that was ended in the 7th due to the 10 run rule. Compliments to great ground crew from Germany along with Dan and Kevin. After 9 two hour practices these guys really did a great job holding the field together.
A great first day for the two clubs at the renovated ball park in Regensburg for the World Baseball Classic. Field held up great as did the weather. GB’s Sam Dempster was excited to see the field and the upgrades. Canada’s Ernie Whitt and Greg Hamilton also had some great things to say about Armin Wolfe Arena grounds. Always good to get the first day over. Martin Brunner and his groundcrew did a great job managing the practices. With 8 practices and only 6 games it sounds a bit upside down but that’s baseball.
GB’s squad actually met yesterday for the first time with the pros that joined them. i think with the influx of pro guys for Czech, Germany and GB this will be an interesting tournament. By the way… Thanks to Dan Bonanno and Kevin for painting some awesome logos! You guys rock!
This past week was a bit of a blur. From Amsterdam to Munich to Regensburg. With the teams starting to arrive tomorrow for the WBC qualifier in Germany, I am sure they will be excited about the field upgrades and temporary facilities built for the event. Great Britain> Canada arrive tomorrow and the Czech and Germany clubs bus in for the event. All the teams are posting some big names MiLB names on the roster. The big chatter in European baseball is that the EURO baseball Championships just ended in Rotterdam and Italy came in 1st after a “unique” play off system beating Nederlands. Its pretty typical to see these two clubs be in 1 & 2 slots. Spain was right up their too. Great Britain and Czech fared well but they didn’t have the pro guys that they will have for this event.
Anyway mounds, bullpens and infield have been worked on this past week. John Deere provided us with a nice mower to showcase. Our friends at Diamond Pro and BullDog Pitching rubbers sent over some products to jazz up Armin Wolfe stadium. We even scavenged a Covermaster tarp from the 2004 Athens Olympics that was still in storage for the games since Regensburg did not have one. Pretty cool but it has no leaks after sitting for 8 years on a pallet. Our volunteer Regensburg U18 team helped spread some product today. What a great group of kids.
Rod Carew Stadium in Panama continues to make progress. Fields and facilities are being upgraded with some major and minor improvements to host the World Baseball Classic. Regensburg received a new infield and Taiwan will be seeing some new mounds and home plates as well as turf upgrades. Even the training sites are planning improvements in Managua, Santiago, Cartagena . These improvements include field clinics and training for the local staffs which establishes a higher field of play surface for the clubs to train there athletes. Its not a surprise that “better fields make better players”.
After a light morning rain the soil was perfect for laying sod on the National Mall yesterday. The 50 ft long x 4 ft wide fescue/bluegrass rolls of sod went down without a hitch. Probably some of the most beautiful fescue I have ever seen that came out of Tuckahoe sod farms. Shortly after the first few rolls were place on Panel 33 in front of the capital they turned on the big eagle rainbird irrigation heads and they performed wonderfully. The irrigation and drian lines are placed about 4ft deep which is just below the tent stake line.
This day has been a long time coming and it wasn’t without a lot of planning. The sod was laid on an engineered topsoil sand blend which will be a perfect medium for growing the grass and keeping it healthy. The National Parks services and Trust for the national mall were also on hand overseeing the installation process. The first panel which is about 90,000sq ft will be completed today and in another few weeks we will start on panel 29. Congrats to Clark construction there team on making this day finally come to fruition.
After 12 years it looks like Rod Carew stadium in Panama will get a new field. After working with a great crew and staff on this field for many years, Pandeportes and the LOC committee is replacing the field before the 2012 World Baseball Classic qualifier in November.
The WBC is considerd the new Baseball World Cup. The last World Cup was held here 2 years ago. During the last world cup at Rod Carew, we had several rain outs due to pour drainage of the outfield and infield turf areas. The USA vs.Canada Bronze medal game was cancelled and we almost had to cancel the final. With the rainy season ( Oct-Nov) typically dropping an average of 12 to 15 inches of rain each month, a new field with an updated drainage system was badly needed. The old system served its purpose over the years. In fact back in 2003 during the Olympic Qualifier we had similar rains fall but the field was only a few years old and handled the water pretty well.
The work plan is to remove a couple feet of material which includes about 6inches of thatch of 12 year old Bermuda along with a series of geo clothe fabrics. We will be adding a new drainage system, irrigation system, 10″inches of sand for the grass, and the new sod will be zoysia Turfgrass. We used zoysia on the new fields in Aguadulce and Santiago when they were renovated in 2010 for the World Cup. They have performed very well. Along with the new field there will upgrades to the stadium drainage and locker rooms. Thanks again to Gil, Guy, Lenny, Ruben and Lauren for making this happen!
Its been another crazy summer for maintaining baseball fields around the country considering the 100 degree days, not to mention the pressures of keeping them playing safely and looking great. This blog is for a few of our guys who really make that happen on our Brickman Sportsturf team. Next blog (when I have time) I will post the rest!
Camden Riversharks hosted the Atlantic League All -Star tour this year. Sportsturf manager Isaiah Lienau and his crew.
Southern Maryland Bluecrabs ballpark Operations Manager Kevin Moses and his crew.
Long Island Ducks baseball field managed by Sportsturf Manager Eric Ogden and his crew.
Lancaster Barnstormers Baseball field . Managed by Anthony DeFeo and his crew.
Staten Island Yankees baseball field managed by Ryan Woodley Sportsturf Manager and his crew.
York Revolution baseball field managed by Rob Borman, Sportsturf Manager and his crew.
Sugarland Skeeters ballpark managed by Sportsturf manager Brad Detmore and his crew.
First, it feels a little weird not having baseball or softball in the Olympics this year after working on baseball and softball fields during the past 3. It’s really hard to believe. So what happened? I have been asked this question a lot lately. In 2005 news folks reported that the IOC decided to vote baseball and softball out of the Olympics. Baseball was eliminated by a vote of 54-50 and softball was deadlocked at 52 which resulted in removal of the sports. ESPN put out a story about a so-called secret meeting where they voted off baseball and quickly tried to vote in karate and squash to replace Baseball and Softball. That’s why there are only 26 sports in the 2012 Olympics instead of 28. http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/news/story?id=2103234
In 2006 a re-vote was taken and it was 46-42 against baseball and 47-43 against softball. The first Olympic sport to be removed from the games since they booted polo in 1936.
The answer to “why” depends on who you ask and what you read as to the reasons baseball and softball lost the Olympics. Some say it was politically influenced because of anti- American feelings, others say it was due to differences regarding drug testing. Some say it was due to not having the best players represent the sport. All of these theories can be debated as to their accuracy but i do know that the IOC had their eye on introducing new sports to the games and unfortunately baseball and softball drew the short straw.
In 2009 there was a 3rd IOC vote and again we were not even shortlisted to the top 3. At this vote, Baseball and softball presented separate bids. The governing body of baseball “IBAF” is working very hard to get the game back into the Olympics. This time with a potential for softball/baseball to have a combined bid. I think we have a really good shot at making it back in under the leadership of IBAF and the ISF.
The GOOD NEWS! The sport Federations are making major strides towards being included on the shortlist for the 2020 games . The reinstatement campaign is in full force and the game is growing tremendously around the world. I have seen numbers on the web where there are 2 million or 4 million even one report says 10 million kids playing little league baseball. If you want to support the game and see softball and baseball back in the Olympics you should send letters and support to the federations in your country. Send a letter to the IOC too! The more we grow the game in our hometowns around the world, the better our chances will be for inclusion into the 2020 Olympics.
As part of the USA–Cuba Friendly Game Series this week, we held the 1st MLB 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 all these guys were together and you would have thought they had known each other forever. We did a slide show to talk about materials and maintenance processes then went to the field for hands on training. Typically hands-on means most are watching but this event had all of the guys heavily involved. They really enjoyed the Sports Turf Management slides ( WWW.STMA.ORG ) as they were translated in Spanish. Such a great exchange between friends in sportsturf. Hearing stories about their fields and issues was no different than sitting in a room with my peers in the states.
They have created a pretty good clay for the island. Drains well and is designed to wick water past a certain point. Then it will firm up. On opening night of the series, we had an inch of rain and puddles of water all over the infield. With no big tarp to cover the field and we still played in under two hours.
Havana – After a crazy rain delay USA battles Cuba in the opener of the freindly series 4-3. The teams used to play each other pretty back in the early 90’s and now they started a new set of annual games. The Cuban players played are seasoned squad and the college level USA team did a pretty good job handling them. A great game on a very wet night. After an 1 1/2 rain delay we finally got the game rolling. Heavy rains fell for an hour. No tarp was available so it was back to old school groundskeeping. Awesome ground crew with Juan, Orlando and Elier.
Wow what a year (so far) for international sportsturf biz. So much going on for baseball around the world. Planning for the WBC and other events! It’s great to see the game growing on so many fronts.
Crazy week in taiwan and Japan dodging two typhoons. No big damage but a lot of rain.
We will be playing the WBCQ in new Taipei city ballpark in november. Nice stadium. Needs a little field work but in a cozy location. This weekend was another dragon festival in Kaohsiung. What a fun sport.
In early June went to Toronto to talk about 2015 Games development planning before heading over to Australia/ Auckland to see the ABL sites and other locations for possible games. The fall is going to be crazy again with field works going on in Panama, mexico, Regensburg and taiwan …plus a couple of clinics here and there. It’s great to know I have a great group of seasoned international traveling groundskeepers that can make these projects happen.
So if I have this right, I believe i set a new personal record for actual miles flown in a 30 day period a bit over 100k.
.In mid May I was in Europe checking up on the World Baseball Classic Qualifier site in Regensburg, then onto several other European cities including Athens and Amsterdam. Then to Mexico to see the status of the ballpark they are building in Hermosillo. Chad’s doing a great job on that facility and as i have said before this ballpark will be used for the 2013 Caribbean world series. After Hermosillo , stopped by San Juan to work with the guys on a new potential site for the PR baseball academy.
My Ausie friends have the travel thing down pat! Let me explain. After a day of meetings in Sydney on Thursday, we had a long travel day planned on friday beginning with a flight from Sydney to Melbourne. its a 645am departure from one of the busiest airports on the Pacific rim. Im thinking 4:00 am pick up and at the airport at 430. Tom says nope see you at 545am.. I was a bit skeptical
545am – Tom picks me up at hotel in downtown Sydney to drive to airport
6:00am– Arrive at avis to return the rental car
6:05am– enter terminal and go through security screening ( with my belt, shoes, socks…and NO BOARDING PASS)
610am– enter Qantas lounge. Pick up boarding pass and dine on a breakfast buffet that was outstanding
625am– Walk to gate
630am– take seat (on a full flight)
Flight departs at 645am on time. Over a course of 1 hour and not even having to rush the experience was amazing! I really liked the fact they allow anyone to pass security without a boarding pass. You can bring your friends, have meetings in the airport, family can meet you at the gate etc…
Traveling around Australia this week reminded me of the air travel we enjoyed before 9/11 changed our countries transportation system. We live in a safer world because of our security systems which I support but one can only wish we could some day return to a simpler way of flying with “no worries” .
The 2004 Olympic baseball stadium in Athens is currently not a baseball venue but a soccer venue. I went by in late 2012 and it looked ok. At least they are using it for a sport! See a lot of articles lately saying all the venues are falling apart or abandoned.
There is only one “main” olympic stadium still being used for baseball which is in barcelona host of the 1992 games. The 1996 olympic stadium was Fulton county stadium which was torn down,the 2000 olympic main stadium in Sydney was a showground for cattle and was only a temporary venue for the games. However west of Sydney is the 2nd olympic venue and it has been resurrected by mlb and is used in the abl league. The 2008 wukesong baseball olympic stadium in beijing and both Practice fields were reduced to rubble shortly after the games. So the Olympic baseball stadium in Athens below is still there. Maybe someday it will see a baseball game again.
In the suburbs of Amsterdam a municipality called Haarlemmermeer has started to build a new sport complex for the Hoofddorp Pioniers baseball club. The site will compose of 5 fields including A 700 seat permanent seating bowl. Plans to have the ballpark completed by the end of 2013. Its going to be a really cool little park with all the amenities such as locker rooms, pressbox, fan experience etc.. For more about this wonderful project check out the masterplan called Park21.. http://www.park21.info/en
Hermosillo Ballpark continuing to come out of the ground. The concrete work is probably 50% complete and the field will begin next month. Its going to be a really cool ballpark . I’m glad it will be natural grass as the heat there during the summer can be well over 100 degrees on a daily basis. The bermuda grass will love it.
The big steel is all in for suspending the upper deck of the volcano seating bowl.
The level of competition and the expectations of your field users dictate the kind of pregame maintenance routine you’ll have. The routine is a short version of your daily and weekly long-term care. It’s an integral part of the multitude of tasks that need to be done prior to a game. The following basic routine is what would take place in typical, sunny weather conditions. Obviously, rain, snow or other disruptive weather would require major adjustments.
The game day maintenance process actually begins the day before, with the focus on putting the field in its best playing condition for the next scheduled game time. The day starts with mowing. Generally, the foul lines are repainted and the coaches’ boxes marked once mowing is completed. Since time will be limited for the pregame prep, water the infield area heavily early in the morning and/or the night before to reach the best amount of moisture by pregame so only a light wet-down is needed prior to game time. You may need to add water throughout the day, depending on the type of infield surface you have. Smooth out the mound and home plate area and cover them again.
Whether the field serves recreational or pro-level play, make sure you have the right equipment and tools for the pregame routine in good operating order, staged and ready to go. Develop a checklist. Cover all the details in advance. Put gas in the utility vehicle or field rake; chalk in the chalk box, etc.
This is a highly orchestrated routine, and you are the conductor. Develop a plan; assign specific duties based on the time frame you normally have, and make it consistent. Review all the details, making sure every crew member understands how everything works and knows exactly what to do. Practice to ensure it flows smoothly, striving to make it a little better each time.
Pregame for rec-level baseball
This pregame routine for recreational-level baseball is plotted for a quick 15-minute fix with a two-person crew, designated here as “Jack” and “Jill.” Jack drags the infield, generally with a cocoa mat, but if the surface is chewed up from practice, using a screen mat. It’s an on-the-spot judgment call, so have both mats staged and ready. Jack pulls the practice bases and inserts the plugs prior to dragging.
Generally, the infield foul lines would already be in place, having been lined out and put down earlier with a chalk marker. If not, Jack will drag the larger infield area, and the lining and chalking will take place as soon as dragging is completed.
Jill starts doing the home plate and mound work. If there’s no hitting mat, Jill will need to do hole repair with packing clay. If a mat was used, Jill just smoothes the area, first using a rake and following with a screen mat or cocoa mat. Jill then sets the batter’s box frame and puts down the chalk.
By now, Jack has finished dragging. He moves on to fix the pitcher’s mound, paint the pitching rubber and home plate and do any needed touch up on the foul lines in the infield area. Jill starts watering the infield, taking care to avoid the foul lines and the grass. Jack comes in to hold the hose once the other tasks are completed.
Jill places a towel (or an old plate) to cover home plate, lightly waters that area and removes the towel. If there are any dirt issues, Jill sweeps it off with a towel and takes a handful of chalk from the chalk box, rubs it into home plate to help dry it and removes excess chalk.
Once the watering is complete, Jill marks the coaches’ boxes if they haven’t been marked previously. Jack sets the bases and does the final inventory to ensure all equipment is off the field and the setup is complete.
Assignments are adjusted for a three or four-person crew. For example, one person will pull the practice base and insert the plug at second and start dragging from second to third base. The third or fourth person will pull the practice bases at first and third, inserting the plugs. Crew members three and four will start the infield wet-down along the third base side, while person one moves on to drag along the first base side.
Pregame for pro-level baseball
At the pro level, in addition to basic pregame maintenance and setup, there’s an entire practice setup and take down. The question to keep asking is, “What else can I do to protect the field and make it better for the game?” The array of tools to accomplish that typically include: the pitching deck and the geotextile turf protector that goes under it, the batting cage, the turf protector for the back that fits around the batting cage and the extensions or separate pieces for the fungo circles, the trapezoid section that goes on the grass in front of home plate, the home plate mat, the protective screens for first and second bases, the ball shagging screen and two ball baskets on wheels.
Take a full inventory of the tools and equipment you have to make sure it’s all staged prior to use and picked up afterward. Each person is responsible for his or her assigned area and they provide the check, down to the tiny details. If they took 32 pins onto the field to anchor a protector, they need to be sure 32 pins came off.
For years, it was the custom in the major and minor leagues to take batting practice first and the infield practice afterward. When batting practice comes first, the setup usually takes about 20 minutes and starts when the team comes out to get loose. Over the past couple of years there’s been a trend for teams to take the infield practice before batting practice. If that’s their preference, you have to prepare to put the batting practice things out there the same way, but very quickly.
Another trend in the MLB is for the visiting team to take infield practice just once while in town and the home team just once during the home stand, generally prior to their first batting practice. For most low-level minor league play, everyone takes infield practice, with each team working for 10 minutes. Pregame practice is always a double cycle; the home team goes first, then the visiting team.
Communication between the head groundskeeper and coaches is key the night before the game to find out the plans for the next day. That may include an early practice, which means a few infielders or pitchers will do some drills prior to the typical batting practice. Some pitchers don’t want to throw off the pitching deck. Bottom line, whatever they want is what you do.
Communication with the front office is essential, too, so you know all the details for the first pitch and pregame ceremony, including the performance of the national anthem. You need to know who will be coming onto which area of the field and when it will take place so you can plug it into your setup schedule. Sometimes you’ll place a fake home plate for the ceremony. Your grounds crew will need to replace it because they know how to walk across home plate, approaching it from behind the catcher’s box to avoid tracking chalk around the batter’s box.
You need a lot of people to accomplish all this, typically five or six people for the minors and eight to 10 for MLB level. In Beijing, I had 14, which was necessary because some of the equipment was so heavy. With the increased numbers, activity and visibility, the orchestration becomes even more important.
On a typical practice day, batting practice (BP) comes before infield practice. You’ll have only 2 to 2.5 minutes to remove everything you’ve placed for BP. If your exit for the cage and screens is through the center field gate, you’ll need to take the cage and screens all the way off before infield practice can begin. If the exit is on the first or third base side, you can stage them off the field in foul territory temporarily, and then complete the removal.
Once the practices are completed for both teams, the pregame maintenance and setup begin. The basics are similar to the rec-level pregame routine, with more detail work added. One crew member will be dragging; others will be sweeping up loose clay around the mound and home plate; some will be removing any clay from the grass edge; some will be clearing any debris from the grass off the clay; some will be smoothing the area around the warning track with a fan rake; and one person with a smoothing board, rake or small drag will be working along the edges of the infield. At least four or five people will be holding the hose, with the one at the nozzle being extremely careful to keep any water from falling on the grass. Wet grass, which could result in a wet ball or damp cleats that pick up clay, is unacceptable on a sunny day at this level of play. Some crew members put down fresh chalk on the foul lines.
At all levels, the game bases are set after the watering is completed so they’ll be dry and not slick. For the pros, there’s a specific way of placing them so the logos are set consistently at first and third.
The head groundskeeper makes one final field walk, checking to ensure the setup is complete and no small details have been missed. If there is an issue, it’s fixed immediately and addressed prior to the next pregame setup. The goal is perfection.
Once you establish the most efficient plan, make it so consistent that it becomes routine so you can do it fast enough, but not so routine that you become complacent. If your guard is down, sometimes you forget something. Above all remember you are part of the “show” and a key member of the team, therefore presentation and how your staff looks on the field is also very important. Same shirt, cap, pants adds to the professionalism of your crew. Planning for the unexpected is also important. Things like irrigation system breaks, the water hose breaks, the cart runs out of gas while dragging the field, a base anchor is bent etc… Things happen so its best to have a procedure in place to deal with the unexpected.
The above article was published in Sports Field Management Magazine
Just looking over some old photos from the past few Baseball Summer Olympic Games and noticed a theme developing of some strange-looking mascots. In our biz, turf managers work pretty closely with the Mascots giving them some direction as to where they can and can’t go on the field. The last mascots that appeared to have some connection to the country were in Sydney for the 2000 Olympics. We had Ollie (after the kookaburra), Syd ( the platypus) and Millie (the Echidna). Made sense… animals from Australia, right? They even looked like animals.
The Athens 2004 Olympics is where it appears that the mascot theme began a movement towards the oddly shaped fellas. The names were spot on with Phoebus and Athena, God of light and music. I can understand the history behind why the mascots were chosen, but not the look of the actual character. I don’t think Athena looked like that. Don’t get me wrong the kids loved them but really what were they?
In 2008 Beijing, they expanded the mascot world with a host of more strange-looking things known as the Fuwa. I guess they were supposed to mimic the popular animals in china like the panda, antelope, the swallow bird and a fish. Unfortunately they all looked pretty similar (except for the colors). They reminded me of the Poke-man characters. They were fun but the only one I could connect with was the panda because it was black and white. I forgot they also added the “Olympic Flame” mascot. Guess which one that is?
For London 2012 it appears they are keeping up with the theme of different looking mascots. These guys ( gals …not sure) are called Wenlock and Mandeville. They are supposed to represent a couple of cities in London. Cities? Ok…I do like the color and their eye.
With London’s 2012 Olympics around the corner its pretty sad knowing baseball and softball will not be represented for the first time in 20 years. I don’t want to get into the politics as to why we are not in the games for 2012. As one can assume it has to do with the politics of multiple organizations and different agendas. It’s ironic that around about the time they introduced the strange mascots in 2004 they started talking about booting baseball and softball.
I do know that the IBAF, ISF and MLB are working together to get baseball and softball back in the games for 2020. Maybe by then, the phase of odd-looking mascots will fade.
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 square removed. The dimensions of home plate are 17 in. by 8½ in. by 8½ in. by 12 in. X 12 in. The home plate is set into the ground with the point at the intersection of the lines that extend from home plate to first base and third base. The 17 in. side of the plate faces the pitcher. The two 12 in. sides face the first and third baselines. The top edge of the home plate should be bevelled (have a slanted edge). Home plate is set into the ground, level with the ground. The homeplate should be a smooth slab of white rubber. The Schutt Bury-All type home plate is the most used throughout North America for higher level play.