The National Mall is planning a much-needed renovation of a few of the 30+ panels this year and the first phase is slated to begin late this summer. www.nationalmall.org/nationalmall.php What a great project and something ( Brickman‘s Sportsturf team) is excited to be a part of as the official turf consultant for the “Trust for the National Mall“. Over 20 million people see the Mall every year. The parks service issues around 3000 permits for multiple functions and one of the main complaints from people is how it always looks. Trying to compare this venue to anything else in the world is really difficult so we looked at every park and various large sports complex operations that appeared similar. Keeping grass growing is tough in this transistion zone area …. much less trying to keep it green with millions of people walking on it. It’s a 3 pronged approach which includes renovating the lawn with better soils , drainage. and an irrigation system, managing the events a little differently and updating the maintenance operations. The National Parks Service does an unbelievable job taking care of the mall with the resources they have. With budget cuts and more people wanting to use the Mall it really is amazing what they achieve with so little.
Sometimes when I talk to people about the “Mall” in DC they really think I am talking about a shopping center. Then I tell them its America’s front lawn and ….I get the AHA moment .
There is a slate of turf folks involved in some capacity with this renovation including Dr. Peter Landshoot-Penn State, Dr Norm Hummel , Dr Mike Goatley- Virginia Tech Turfgrass - Mike and his folks are working on a study regarding turf protective coverings for events. Steve LeGros is helping with the fertility planning, etc… All great turf people.
The renovation will involve removing existing soils, amending them, adding drains and new irrigation and installing a few cisterns – Each are 150’ x 34’ wide x 10’tall. 250,000 gallons each and there are 2 in the 1st phase. Completely irrigated turf areas with an automatic system and a full underdrainage system that will assist in collecting the rain water to fill the cisterns . Seed selection was fun - After a full review of local seed varieties Peter and Steve narrowed down a 4 way blend of grass seed that everyone agreed on. 30% Wolfpack 2 Tall fescue, 30% Firenza Tall fescue, 30% Turbo Tall fescue and 10% P-105 Kentucky Bluegrass HOK is the Architect of record.
More to come as this project develops.
Over 80% of the game of baseball is played on the infield, which is why the infield clay is one of the most important components of the field.
Recently, I have received a couple of emails asking the question, What is the infield clay really made of? In layman terms, it is composed of three materials. Sand, clay and silt. The tougher question is what are the percentages of the content of each material, and the particle size of the sand. The composition is the true science of the infield clay even though the daily maintenance performed on these fields at a higher level is sometimes considered more of an “art”. Most companies that provide ball diamond mix state they have a something like a 60%-70% sand ….20%to 30% clay and 10% to 20% silt. Most infield clays and baseline clays are about 5 inches deep. Bellow that there is a level of sand and pea gravel on the big league fields.
As a general rule of thumb this distribution makes sense, but the key factor is the sand particle size which comes in numerous variations from “gravel” to “very very fine”, Angular and round and so on. Separate tests are performed on the infield clay mixture to determine the sizes and distributions of materials as well as the percolation rates which give you an idea on how it may drain or dry out. Normally infield clays do not drain very well and are not really supposed to depending on the level of field you have. You can obtain pretty much any type of blend you want from numerous clay companies. The geographic location and your budget will drive your selection to the material you can obtain.
When I worked for the City of West Palm Beach managing the spring training facility for the Atlanta Braves and the Montreal Expos we used a higher sand base 75% sand 15% clay 10% silt with a medium course level sand that allowed the rain to pass through the infield clay a little easier. These days I use a more stable clay with a analysis of 40% clay 50% sand and 10-20 silt. This is a real heavy mix but can take a ton of abuse. Where you live and how much the field is used also drives the decision on the type of infield clay you may have.
Everyone that has been to a professional game notices the time the crew takes on dragging and watering the infield clay before the game. The key to a good infield and making it a great one is how you manage the moisture level in the clay. Kind of like the Goldilocks & the three bears nursery rhyme ” not to hot, not to cold, etc…your infield clay needs to hold the right amount of moisture to not be to soft, to dry, to hard or to moist. Companies now manufacture a material which is known in the industry as a soil conditioner. It is applied to the top of the infield to help control moisture. These materials are sometimes called, “Diamond Pro” , “Turface”, “Terra green” , “Pros Choice” etc…they are basically a calcined clay heated to a very high temperature and sized and colored to your liking.
Maintaining the infield’s moisture level requires consistent monitoring and maintenance. Coaches and players are continually giving you feedback on the condition of the infield helping you determine where you need to be with the moisture and maintenance methods used. Based on the weather, climate, time of year and even the team that is on the field, your maintenance of the clay could change a little on any given day. Its one of the most unknown interactions in professional sports. That’s why they sometimes call the groundskeeper the 10th man on the team!
Having seen a few things around the world of baseball, one that really was interesting was the way Japan pro clubs took their BP. Basically they would set up 2 BP cages side by side, have 2 BP pitchers and 2 BP catchers ( that used a stool and put each ball back in the BP bag) . These guys would have their BP pitchers alternate throwing pitches to the hitters in each cage basically doubling the amount of swings you could take in an hour of BP. That’s not all. ..When you were not in the cage you were doing soft toss so the hitting groups will swing the bat during their entire 20minute group time. There would no infield but they do have a pitchers area under a net in centerfield to protect them while they were doing their field strength conditioning. Not much I can add to this blog except that our Japanese friends really know how to get a lot of work completed in a short time frame.
Over the years I have used and seen quite a few different portable pitchers mounds. The outdoor pitching decks have become a great tool for turf protection on natural turf fields. The indoor pitching mounds have provided great winter work for those folks up north. The indoor mounds have greatly improved since my college pitching days. Now we are seeing more portable pitching mounds being used for workouts on softball fields and being used for games on youth fields. I guess that’s ok for the recreation level but once you start wearing spikes the turf on those pitching platforms becomes a different problem both for the pitcher, mechanics etc…
Generally, there are a few different types of portable mounds that are specifically constructed for Outdoor or indoor use. There are pro portable mounds and recreation mounds. Basically its a slightly raised box that is a minimum 7ft long x 4ft wide. The plywood type portable mounds are raised slightly by running 2×4 pieces of wood under the structure. These work ok but the are cumbersome to move and may not last very long. I’ve seen in south america where they construct their own wooden type platforms, but they are always flat with no slope. They are basically plywood and outdoor carpet. The photo at the top of the blog is a welding experiment I was admiring in Prague a couple of years back. The wheels need to be changed so they don’t tear up the grass and leave ruts but its a good start for a frame.
I recall in Beijing they built a couple and they were constructed so large they needed to be carried to the field by 7 people. I came back a few months later and they had one that 1 person could move but..the wheels were the support for the pitcher while he threw BP and that caused problems because they couldn’t support his weight. There is a need to have small stanchions or posts placed next to the wheels or in the center of the deck to stabilize the pitching platform. Sometimes these stanchions or small posts are to long and thin so they tear the turf when you lift it.
Lately I’ve had some emails asking where folks can find portable mounds. I’ve been pretty lucky with the pitching decks I have ordered from Beacon. OnlineSports has a couple that look ok. I like Burbank Sports net Companies portable mound as well ( photo above) . The aluminum construction makes them sturdy but light weight. Big tip: Remember that you will need to purchase a taller L-screen when you get a standard 8 inch high pitching deck. The BP pitcher can be taller than the screen which is not very safe. Purchase an outdoor pitching platform that is made from aluminum and has wheels on one side so 1 person can move it off the field quickly. Bottom line is that building these platforms may save you a few bucks but unless you have the proper tools and products it may be just as cheap to purchase them.
Stopped by The Ballpark in Arlington this week to visit with Dennis Klein, head groundskeeper for the Rangers and coincidentally it was ring day for the Texas Rangers American League Champions. Each full-time member of his crew also recieved a championship ring. Hats off to Nolan Ryan and the Rangers for taking care of the ground crew. As usual the field looked immaculate.
It was a beautiful day in Sugar Land for the groundbreaking of a new stadium (StarTex power Field) to open in the spring of 2012. The $27.9 million dollar ballpark is a natural grass field that we are excited to be a part of in the design construction and maintenance. Peter Kirk and ODP have done it again. Quite a few folks turned out for the event including Bob Watson and Deacon Jones, both baseball greats live in the community. Unfortunately Brooks Robinson couldn’t make it because he was going into surgery, but in typical Brooks style, he called Peter to check how the groundbreaking was going just before he went in for the procedure. Hoping brooks has a speedy recovery!
One of the major parts of the field that requires a lot of TLC is the infield clay. Many people watch the dragging ritual before a game but probably do not realize that it’s the 4th or 5th time they have dragged the field that day using a variety of drags.. You have flex drags, rigid drags, coco mats, nail drags, float board drags, harrow drags, etc..
In addition to dragging the field before the games, groundskeepers at the pro level even drag the field during the games. There are several methods to dragging a baseball field and several factors you need to consider as to the type of drag(s) you may choose. Types of infield clay, the moisture level and your equipment will dictate the level of dragging and best type of drag you will need. Many sport complexes use the 3 wheel “sand pro” type units to pull a drag. They are fast and very agile. Some folks prefer a small smooth tired tractor to perform this function because it tends to leave less tire tracks and ruts. We even see fields being dragged by hand in some parks. Because that’s all they have to drag their field with…also many believe hand dragging puts the best finish on the infield.
The 4 ft x 6 ft flex mat is probably the most used in recreation level fields. If you need to perform a leveling task you should use a rigid drag. A rigid drag pulls more material in the screen and does not float with the contours like the flex drags. If you don’t have a rigid drag you can partially fold your flex drag which helps it to not float. The 3×3 rigid drags do a great job on the baselines as well as areas around the mound and plate by keeping them level. Sometimes for the infield, A heavier drag or one with a leveling bar on the front is needed when the clay particles do not break up easily. Another tool is the float board. These are sometimes handmade from wood or steel and are designed to level your infield.
- It’s not a race so take your time especially as your turn. Always keep the drag about a foot away from the grass and always pull the bases when you drag. Trying to dodge second base might be fun but you are changing the grade of the your field and causing lips when you hit the turf with the drag.
- If the drag doesn’t fit down the baseline?don?t pull it down the baseline! You need to rake these areas and use a smoothing board or purchase a drag that fits.
- Initially do a small circle pattern across the entire field then make a center line drag from end to end.
- Alternate patterns and dragging direction on a daily basis from Clockwise to counter clock wise.
- Select the finish drag that provides the smoothest surface.
- Coco mats are common for final dragging because they basically brush the clay and do not move material like the big drags.
- Some flex mats have a leveling bar on the front that helps to remove small bumps from the workouts.
- Before dragging make sure you have proper moisture and have used a ?nail type? drag to remove the deep ruts.
- Give the field a little water after the drag to stabilize the surface.
- At some of the allstar games you have seen designs in the clay areas. This material is calcined clay and is a lighter color than the rest of the infield. It may appear to be a ridge but it is a soil conditioner used regularly for infield maintenance.
- Monitor the moisture in the infield clay throughout the day. If its to dry add water but do so after you complete you’re dragging routine in the morning.
- After the games ask the players how it played and tweak your plan as necessary.
- Have fun!
Dragging the field is part of the art of infield maintenance so pay attention to te soil as you drag it to determine if you’re using the right drag.
What makes a baseball field so beautiful is in the eyes of the beholder but how it becomes that lush field of manicured grass is all about the sportsturf manager and his staff. (For those old-timers groundskeepers are now called sports turf managers.) Baseball fields haven’t changed drastically since the 1840s back when the sport was known as knickerbockers. The bases were measured at 90ft then and they remain that distance today. The mound however has changed quite a bit. In the last 20 years, field playing surfaces for all levels have improved tremendously, Standards have increased and the need for safety was stressed. even with all of the new fancy equipment and field protection materials there is still one part of the field that remains a true art. Managing the clays. The infield mound and homeplate. To hard or to soft. It’s all about moisture and how your field takes the water during certain times of the year. Mother nature has a calendar but she will sometimes tweak it a bit and throw everyone a curve like the Yankees practicing in a snow fall a couple of days ago. The turf managers in the north had a pretty rough winter and those fields are green and ready. I’ve blogged a bit about lot of How to grow your fields etc… but each spring seeing our fields go green after harsh winters is really amazing. The amount of hours and time spent on maintaining these fields is immense.
With the 2011 Baseball season officially underway we need to say thanks to our Spring training site ground crews for getting the guys ready for the season and the job our MLB and Minor League clubs are preparing to begin. Have a great season!
Now that the baseball season has started people are going to be heading to ballparks all over the USA. If your flying to see your favorite team play I have a couple tips for you. After flying a few million miles, I can honestly say there needs to be some type of flying etiquette among the many folks who travel. Kind of like golf has , “don’t walk on the greens in front of someone’s ball” or for baseball’s infielders, “don’t walk across the pitcher’s mound”. There are those simple “dos and don’ts” when you travel in an airplane. Being a little courteous to the people sitting next to you that are streaking through the sky in the same aluminum tube heading to the same place should be simple. Right?
Here are a few flying tips I believe should be added to the friendly flyer list.
- Honoring Military Flyers - People, please step aside and let these guys and gals go to the front of the line! I was returning back from a trip through DFW a few weeks back and an entire battalion was returning from Afghanistan for a 2-week furlough. Our TSA’s held up the regular customs line so these guys could get through a little quicker. The person behind me was not happy about waiting which was pretty difficult to understand how my fellow American could be so heartless.
- Is your bag to big – no really! Everyone has seen it, carry on bags are meant to be carried on. Check point: If you can’t carry it, how can you put it in the over head bin! More importantly when you are slinging your shoulder bag or briefcase down the aisle on your back or side and you feel that bump- bump – bump … that’s the bag hitting people in the head because it doesn’t fit the way you are carrying it between the chairs. Turn it around and hold it in front of you.
- Aggressive Seat recliners – This one really gets me as I’m 6’4” and have a rather long femur bone. I can bet 8 out of 10 times as soon as the person sits in front of me way before the plane takes off, the person will throw the seat back into the ultimate recline position and not give it a second thought. Be courteous when you lean your seatback. Look behind you ( just like you do when you back up your car) to see if the person has his legs in his chest already. As the flight attendant says: “Please keep your seats in there straight up and locked positions”. For that short 45 minute flight, I’m sure you will make it without needing that extra 3 inches of tilt! One other tip on seats: When you are getting up from your seat don’t pull on the seats in front of you even if the person is one of those aggressive seat recliners.
- Early Boarders - This particular system is getting out of hand. When the gate agent says “If you TRULY have small kids or a little extra time getting down the gateway before everyone else gets on board” that’s ok with me and my fellow business flyers, but when the plane lands you shouldn’t be the first one out of your seat hustling your family or grama to the next flight faster than I can walk…that’s a no-no. Stay seated and let those that waited for you to board to de-plane first. If you have a tight connection, tell the flight attendent and she ”may” assist with getting you to your next flight by calling the gate agent.
- Sneaky Center Seaters - Ok …we know you want to sit on the aisle or window seat, but just because you ended up in a center aisle seat that doesn’t mean you can take over both arm rests. It also means you can’t lean on me or the window sitter. And if the window sitter has the window pulled down…you can’t reach over and raise it up…it’s his or her window!!!! Ask politely and I’m sure they will raise it or close it for you.
- Seat beggars - yes, unfortunately there is a name for that person who wants your aisle seat in exchange for his center seat so he can sit next to his or her significant other on the plane. I have surrendered my seat gladly on numerous occasions because there are rules with family and kids as they need to sit next to parents, but beyond that you need to take your assigned seat and not take it personally. If you’re going to fly with family and friends book early so you don’t have to move the people that booked their seat weeks ago. If your switching an asile for an asile thats one thing but trading your center seat for the asile takes a lot of guts to ask. Be prepared to hear the word no thank you.
- To Chatter or not to chatter - Big tip. If someone has head phones on they are not really looking to drum up a conversation. If someone has sunglasses on… the same. Not to be rude just wanting to relax from a day at work or a long night. It may be your vacation but some people work on the plane or sleep because they just finished a 15hr meeting.
- Kids …I love kids! – . I know I’m not the only one that has felt the thumping on the back of their seat from the kid sitting behind you. Also kids cry and I really do appreciate the mothers that try to attempt to keep the child quite but this isn’t the time to teach tough love when he or she has a tantrum. Traveling with kids is tough so make a plan to handle those situations before you fly.
- Shoelessness - You know that your feet smell bad and I don’t really need to know it either. Nuff said!
- Traveling as a group - Party time for some, not for all . Just be courteous to your neighbor. If he or she is trying to sleep and you are heading to the Bahamas’ and want to start the party on the plane. Stick with the virgin Bloody Marys. Along with this one there are the LOUD TALKERS - THE GUY OR LADY WHO HAS THE RESONATING VOICE that you can hear from one end of the plane to the other. You can’t help it and that’s cool, but Dude…,we are all glad that aunt Jessie came out of the surgery ok but just remember that you need to tone it down on the plane …please.
- The “Newby” Flight attendant - You know who you are…. Really…I know you’re just wanting to protect the passengers; but… is it really required to enforce people to watch you do the pre flight demonstrations. The more experienced flight attendants go through the exercise without making eye contact. Also when I’m sleeping in my chair and you roll the cart down the aisle and my knee is slightly in the aisle say excuse me instead of a “post” I’m sorry for the bloody leg. Maybe I didn’t hear the message about “keeping your legs and limbs out of the aisle” through those terrible speakers on the plane or maybe your voice was drowned out by the guy in the next row with the resonating voice.
- Concourse Driving- Have you ever been rolling through the airport and the person in front of you comes to an abrupt stop to look at his phone and you end up running into the person? Once you enter the airport and start your way to the next gate, pretend you’re driving your car. Enter the roller bag train like you would traffic. When you need to review your documents or pick a place to chat..Please don’t stop in the middle of the concourse. Merge you, your bag, family and friends off to the shoulder of the carpet.
All that being said, just be nice to folks on the plane and you will start racking up those frequent friendly flyer points. I’m sure the airlines will come up with a way for you to redeem those someday. Maybe even give you some free tickets tot he next ball game!
Just finished up a tour of a few ballparks in Panama that are being considered for the 2011 Winter League Season as well as the 2011 Baseball World Cup. This was my first trip back to Panama since the 2003 pre-Olympic Qualifier which did not end up the way team USA hoped but we did send a good country representing our region to Athens which was Canada. I clearly recall these games and how much it rained in September and October. Daily heavy rain that covered the field with 3 and 4inches of water…every day.
Anyway on this trip we didn’t have rain. It was beautiful weather and since several of the ballparks were rather far apart and our time was limited the President of Panama allowed us to use his Helicopter and plane for our entourage. Landing and taking off in the outfield of each park was quiet an experience. I was hoping we didn’t cause any damage to the fields and if so it was a minimum. First Stop was a stadium in the city of David located on the Pacific side of the country called Kenny Serracin. It’s an hour chopper flight and about a 5 hr drive from Panama City. An old park with a lot of charm that needs some TLC. It has potential and the people are really behind making the improvements. The second stadium was Omar Torrijos Stadium in Santiago. A newer stadium with more amenities and overall nice site lines. The 3rd stop was Rico Cedeno stadium in The City of Chitre. Nice turf needed some lip maintenance and some upgrades. Our 4th stadium was in Remon Cantera in the city Aguadulce and on our final stop in Panama we ended with the gem of Panama the Nacional Stadium called Rodney Carew Stadium.
Our hosts were tremendous from the government officials to Ruben , Lauren, Guy, Ramon, Raul, and Tito the congressman. This tournament is one the heels of the Pan American games that will be helped in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico. Yes it’s going to be a very busy, busy fall. Panama City…WOW . It has changed so much since 2003. Truly unbelievable. Also thanks to our hosts for taking us to the Panama Canal. When I was their last time we were stuck at the park everyday for a month and couldn’t get over to see it. Another great landmark that hasn’t changed much since 1913.
MLB’s Field & Venue Maintenance clinic was held today at the Yankees Training academy in the Dominican Republic. We had over 60 participants representing all 30 MLB clubs in attendance plus Sports turf managers from all of the winter League Clubs. This being our 3rd clinic in the DR, I can clearly see the great improvements that are taking place in the fields as well as the expanding knowledge base of sound maintenance practices from each of the clubs grounds staff.
The Yankees training complex has for regulation fields, and dormitories for over 100 players. It is as nice as your typical spring training complex in the states. The growth of these high level training centers is exploding throughout the DR and with it comes opportunity for a lot of people in the groundskeeping industry.
Hats off to Joel Araujo, the MLB Dominican League office and Chad Olsen for helping make this another wonderful educational session for our turf friends in the Dominican republic and a special thanks to the guys at Diamond Pro for sponsoring this event.
Just a little update on recent site visits and future plans.
Columbia - A couple weeks ago I spent some time in Barranquilla talking with the Mayor and his constituents about a stadium they are planning to build in the near future. We are rolling forward with helping design and development a new ballpark. Jimmy Char , Federation President is also having us help with developing a youth baseball complex. Great people in Colombia and the improvements to the City infrastructure sing I was there 5 years ago was amazing. Still a way to go but roads and better housing for residents was greatly improved.
Lagos de Moreno - A city outside of Guadalajara, Mexico will be hosting the 2011 Pan Baseball Games. We met with the folks in the city Lagos de Moreno and talked about their new ballpark which was opened a couple years ago. Needs a few tweaks before the event next fall but it’s great to see a new ballpark built in Mexico. Checked out quite a few ballparks in the city for potential use during the tournament but even those will need some work. I’m sure we will be assisting them with the improvements through the next several months. Teams playing in this tournament will be able to use pro players.
Field Clinics - Heading to the Santo Domingo next week to begin the series 2011 series of our international venue and field maintenance clinics. First stop is the Yankees training center near Santo Domingo. From there we head over to Puerto Rico and Venezuela then back to Mexico before heading over the pond later this year. It’s going to be an active year an I am sure I will be reaching out for some help to the guys in the industry.
National Mall - Over the past couple weeks found out I was dubbed “Official Turf Consultant to the National Mall & Memorial Parks by the National Trust” . This is a credit to the Brickman Sportsturf team and the company. Great job guys! Finally a local project and one that I am really excited to be involved with because after all … it is our countries front lawn!
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 have developed some very special designs over the years like Cal Ripkens #8 in the field when he retired and Dave Mellor’s beautiful “Red Sock”designs at his field in Boston. There are even parks that mow the grass in one direction to show “no stripes”. The Skyline at Shea a few years back was nice as well.
There is a myth that the grass bending could effect the ball…again that is a myth as long as the groundskeeper changes the pattern every few weeks it will not effect the ball roll. More importantly the bermuda grass tends to cause more snaking of the ball. You should try to mow the grass in the direction the ball is rolling to the outfielder.
For years, in order for the homeowner to put those cool stripes in there lawn , they had to purchase an expensive walk behind reel mower. Your standard rotary mower can’t really perform this function because it requires a roller or some type of vertical movement to push or brush the grass in one direction. This brushing and rolling is alternated as you travel back and forth on the grass. That’s it!
Recently, I have noticed a few companies beginning to sell striping attachments that you can put on your existing mowers. In fact the large commercial “Z mowers” ( the mowers you see zipping around..you know the one.. the guy uses two handles to maneuver it instead of a steering wheel) Some of Those units now have a striping kit that can be attached to the mower. If you look behind the mowing deck and in front of the wheel on the mower photo, you can see the attachment on this EX-mark mower that TORO distributes.
Before going out and buying something to stripe your field or lawn you need to know what type of grass you have because it may affect the ability to stripe the grass.
The Northern grasses such as Bluegrass and fescues always stripe very well. Also dormant Bermuda grass…. over seeded with rye type grass seed in the south does a great job. Where you may have some trouble is striping bermuda type turfs in the summers. Its possible but these grasses need to be mowed in various directions or they tend to “grain” which will cause the ball to roll funny on the field.
I actually had a small stripping mower at my yard a couple years back before the heat wave caused the county to impose water restrictions. McLean and National Mower companies actually sell striping mowers. I would also look for the striping attachment as an option for your brand of mower.
Its time to get those mowers out and ready for spring!
Presidential Lawn Mowers?
Did you know George Washington was a highly skilled farmer and gardening enthusiast? He was very involved with his property’s landscape planning at his home in Mount Vernon. He managed a vegetable garden and numerous fruit trees. You can actually head over in the spring and they still harvest from the garden. According to a couple articles I read over the years, he even grew hemp in his garden back in the day…for medicinal purposes only I am sure. I wondered how they started mowing the lawn at the white house. I guess Woodrow Wilson brought in some sheep to offset some maintenance expenses as the photo depicts above. That would have been around 1910. Before that they used hand sickles or scythes.
By now the true sense of “baseball spring training” is in full swing and all the pitchers, catchers and positions players are beginning that ritual of planning for the upcoming season. Tomorrow, February 22, not only means baseball season is just around the corner it’s also a federal holiday to celebrate our countries First President George Washington’s Birthday. It kind of picked up the Presidents day tab sometime in the 80′s as people threw Lincolns Birthday in there as well. Here in the state of Virginia where GW was born, the holiday is legally known as “George Washington Day” Ironically other states have included their Presidents with GW. Alabama celebrates Washington / Jefferson Day even though his birthday isn’t until April.
Happy Birthday George!
There are numerous types of grass that is used to cover our baseball and softball fields.
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. Every country has different grass growing zones but they all are defined by cool and warm season grasses. 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 fungus problems. 2 or 3 varieties different 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 shopping for seed at the seed stores!
FACT- The first white house lawnmower. George Washington and Jefferson used sheep to keep the lawn under control!
FACT- “There are over 200 varieties of of tall type fescues in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware. The type everyone knows about in the store and one of the first types…was K-31.
FACT- The grass seed state in the US is in 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 – Next time your significant other asks you if you are going to the mall and you want to work in the yard say:
“And let the earth bring forth grass..and the earth brought forth grass” Genesis 1:11-12
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.
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.
The weight of the infield mix is in the clay and the silt and that’s what retains the moisture. You may be in an area with a lot of rain, and if you don’t have much maintenance help for tarping you’ll want to have a bit sandier infield mix. If you have a heavily used field or one for university or professional play, you’ll probably want a more stable infield with a heavier mix containing more clay and silt to withstand the wear and tear of multiple events. For some infield mixes with lesser percentages of silt and clay, a conditioning amendment of calcined or vitrified clay is worked into the top 1 to 2 inches of the mix to help bind the clay and stabilize the infield.
When constructing a new field or rebuilding an existing one, the general depth of the infield material for the baselines is approximately 5 inches. The depth, the type of material used and the subbase components are subject to budgetary constraints. There are fields with the infield mix placed directly on the subbase soil, some on a sand layer over the subbase soil, some directly on a pea gravel layer and some on geo cloth covering any of these subbases.
Opinions differ on whether a geo cloth layer will be detrimental to drainage. While drainage within the infield mix will vary according to the percentages of clay and silt, it is generally slow, so many prefer the geo layer for other advantages. It can keep pea gravel from migrating up into the infield mix and bordering grassed areas. Geo cloth on the pea gravel does keep the infield mix from sifting into the gravel, reducing the need for continual addition of the mix during the first few years of construction and helping stabilize the surface more quickly.
To counteract slow drainage within the infield mix, many fields are constructed with a slope to help move the surface water off the clay and into the grass. A slope of about .5 percent, extending from the edge of the pitcher’s mound out past the 95 arc should provide sufficient water movement for most fields. Some skinned baseball infields and some softball fields are constructed with a greater percentage of slope.
It’s critical to achieve consistency of slope across the entire surface. Use laser-grading equipment and a skilled operator. Otherwise, once all the material is in place, run string lines from the infield grass to the outfield grass across the infield and work your way across the field with shovels and rakes. Keep moving the string lines every 1 to 2 feet, and check and recheck for accuracy as you move.
An in-ground irrigation system with a zone that only waters the infield clay is one way to deliver volumes of water quickly. When water patterns are diverted in windy conditions, hand-watering will be required to reach the places missed.
Quick-connect outlets behind the mound and behind home plate provide access to hook up a water hose. Some field managers place quick couplers at the infield corners behind first and third base in the grass. A 1-inch hose is preferred to deliver a larger volume of water faster. A retractable hose reel installed in the ground behind the mound makes pull out and rollback easier and eliminates hauling the hose out and back for each watering.
Select hoses and hand-nozzle sizes based on the number of fields you need to maintain and the size of your crew. Ideally, your nozzle selection should be able to apply enough water to reach the desired depth for the initial soaking and to lightly mist repeatedly to maintain the desired moisture level. Some infields drain so well that you can “puddle” the infield after a night game and it will be perfect for play by morning.
Top it off
Using the different calcined or vitrified clay amendments as the top surface coat can make it a little easier to manage the skin moisture levels and achieve consistency. You don’t want the players to pick up wet clay on their spikes or have the infield get too dry during the pregame workouts. With a topping of 1/8 to .25-inch, you can soak the infield as you would normally and have a good surface for workouts and sufficient moisture retention for the game. Consistency of depth is extremely important during the initial application of the top layer both for accuracy of the slope and footing for the players. Once in place, use a cocoa mat or the back of a fan rake so you’re just lightly smoothing the top surface and not moving piles of material.
An infield tarp is an important tool in moisture management. No one likes to use it, but covering the infield when you have rain issues can be the quickest and easiest way to preserve playability.
The worst thing you can do following a heavy rain on an uncovered field is to work the field too early. Let the sun do its work on the dry down before you get out there to squeegee, rake and dig. The dryer subsurface material will try to draw down the moisture from an undisturbed wet surface. If you must work existing or added material to dry down the surface, use a roller squeegee rather than a rake to spread the water so you’re not cutting into the wet material and disrupting that downward movement.
If you have depressions with standing water, fill them with calcined clay and let it soak up the moisture for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, spread out that moist material to dry further, or borrow a technique from ground crews in South America to remove excess water with no surface penetration. They use a supply of 12-by-24-inch foam-rubber sponges (old padding) and place one in an area of standing water, step down on it, allow it to absorb water to capacity, pick it up, wring it out and use it again.
Another technique to combat light rain or drizzle, and to use between innings when the dirt is starting to look shiny, is to apply a very thin layer of conditioner using a regular walk-behind or hand-held spreader set for the largest opening. You’ll get a more consistent layer than pouring conditioner from the bag or putting out piles to spread.
Working the dirt
The right equipment used properly is critical in maintaining the infield skin. You’ll want a series of different types of drag mats, rigid and flexible steel mats for breaking up dirt clods and leveling, and cocoa mats for finishing the surface. You’ll need both a fine nail and heavy nail drag for scarifying the surface and digging deeper to further loosen the mix and allow better moisture penetration. You’ll need rakes, brooms, edgers and rollers. The 1 or 2-ton roller will become your favorite tool.
The three-wheel field rakes produced by the major equipment suppliers do an excellent job, and they come with an assortment of attachments, as well as connection points for other implements. You also can use a small tractor, lawn mower, utility vehicle or golf cart to pull the drags.
Always pull the bases and insert the plugs so you can drag the entire infield. Pay close attention to the wear areas around and in front of the bases, such as where the first baseman plants his foot. Consider incorporating a heavier clay mix 10 feet out from first base and also at second and third base to make it easier to reduce divoting and keep indentations from forming. Follow different routes when driving equipment onto the field to reduce compaction issues. Transport the drags to the field and drop them at different spots each day. When working the field, keep attachments, drags and screens 6 inches away from the grass at both edges of the base path to avoid lip build up. Use a variety of dragging techniques, continually altering your patterns and incorporating circular spirals and figure eights. Go slow, especially in the turns, to avoid slinging materials.
To avoid creating lips when hand-raking, always rake up and down the base path, not across it. Work the grass edges with a fan rake or stiff-bristled broom after every practice, workout and game. If you don’t have the staff for that, use the water hose to blast the infield mix from the grass edges at least once a week.
You’ll want to edge the infield grass periodically, cutting away turf to remove any lip buildup, then backfill with new infield mix, tamp down firmly and test the edge. There should be no transition between the grass and the clay. If you can feel even the slightest difference with your foot, the ball can feel it when it hits, and that’s what causes a bad hop.
This article was published in sports field management magazine
Although its winter, Baseball season is closer than we think and now is the time to plan for the new ball yard! People have been sending me
some baseball field construction questions about “How to build….the field…the mound….the infield
etc..? Ive posted a few blogs over the years about these tasks but before you get into the details lets talk about the basics.
First and foremost; Building a baseball field takes planning and unfortunately sometimes
more money than you may have in your budget. One of the first questions to ask yourself is … Do you have enough land or property and will be the field
be oriented properly? A field is about 100,000 sq ft but when you add parking, backstops, dugouts bullpens etc. this number creeps up to 200,000 sq ft quickly. I would also suggest the following questions be
asked of those involved before you put a shovel in the ground.
1. Usage of the field: Who? How much? and when? These questions will guide you towards the level of field you will need to build.
2. What Type of Grass: Natural…Bluegrass or Bermuda?…or synthetic? A big push on synthetics lately have had a lot of folks going that direction but be very cautious when considering this choice as there is still extensive maintenance to the field and eventually you need to change the turf after the warranty runs out. To clarify – synthetic has its place in the sports industry but just do your homework.
3. How much money do we have? That’s a loaded
question but after the previous questions it is time to bring the
accountant in! Where can we find the money to build the field we want?
Are there Grants? Private? Municipal Funds? Donations?
4. Who will maintain the new field and at what level ?
In house maintenance? Outsource maintenance? Again …budget the
entire field including maintenance operations before you build it.
Example: Don’t build a Ferrari when you don’t have the budget to
take care of it. Taking care of a high performance sports field takes a
lot of money
5. Selecting someone to design and build it? Again..
its an examination of your internal resources and if you have staff
that understands how to develop a design or construction
specification thats great. Designing your new field with the right goals for usage
is what you should be shooting for. Hiring a reputable firm to design
your field is critical to the success of the field.
6. Should you hire a consultant for owners representation?
Unless you have a sportsturf manager in your organization that has had experience the design ad development of sports fields it may be a good idea to bring in someone to help out. 7. Should we consider asking for Sponsorships to help offset material
costs? There are venodrs out there tat will reduce pricing of materials to land a long time agreement but they are limited due to the economic climate.
8. Can the Community help? Have you heard of the MLB’s Baseball
Tomorrow Fund? A great place to start looking for possible grants to help you subsidize your field construction
Once you have decided on some of the issues above and hired a
reputable sports field contractor to install your field, You will be on
your way towards building your field of dreams.
Tis the season to give thanks to everyone for getting through another challenging year. Economic times are still playing into a lot of the decisions we make on and off the field but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and if the spending I’ve seen in the malls thus far this season are an indicator then we should be back on track this year.
Although a tough year it was very active with several new projects starting up as well as numerous field clinics. I believe we did 8 clinics this year and all were very well received. Had a great Clinic in Compton at the MLB Urban Youth Academy last week. About 50 people attended. After wards we had a raffle and a couple of the vendors gave away some items and MLB had grab bags with T-shirts and hats etc.. You would’ve thought that the MLB grab bags would go first but it was the tools. 2 tamps and a rake were snatched up first.
The Australian baseball league took off this year and can only improve for 2011. Everyone be safe have a great Christmas and a happy New year
With the league now officially opened and the wonderful positive results Ihave heard from various sources, I really think the new league is going to only get better and better. The ballparks are not typical pro parks you see in the states but its a start and provides us something to build on. Kevin Moses is jumping from city to city helping the local field maintenance teams at each of the ABL clubs tweak their fields and ballparks. Most recent opening was Narrabundah (photo above) with over 1300 people on the 17th. The City of Canberra is the capitol of the country and they made a nice investment to bring baseball to the area. The local community leaders were heavily involved in upgrading the field conditions for the beginning of the league. As it stands the crowds have been strong and the fields are holding up at all of the ABL venues. I believe the greatest challenge is coming up this week. The Melbourne Aces home field at the Showgrounds completed the Equitana event yesterday and the season opens Friday. Not much has been renovated as the grounds needed to remain unchanged for the horses. I’m sure everything will work out, but bottom line an entire field needs to be built this week.
Just finished another MLB Field Maintenance clinic. This one was in Houston. My first time back since I worked on the design of the field at minute maid stadium way back when it opened. The Field Clinic was held at the Houston Astros Urban Youth Academy. A great place managed by Daryl Wade. Super person with a passion for the program. We had about 75 people attend. Have to thank Chad Olsen ( our Ops Man) , Dan bergstrom Astros and Dennis Klein Rangers Head groundskeepers. We covered quite a bit of information for this group and what made it fun was that the guys an gals that attended were really into it from 9am to 300pm. The academy opened up last summer and hosts a number of events. Turface helped to sponsor the event which was free to all attendees.
Great Job guys. Next stop is LA on December. Last one for the year.