Results tagged ‘ Atlanta Braves ’
Built in 1962 for the Atlanta braves and eventually home for the Montreal expos…twice, this complex became the training grounds for a lot of growth in our baseball industry and it is still yielding some interesting facts from the 90’s. Many may not know but this (now demolished) complex was actually the first dual use spring training venue to be used by two MLB organizations. The Braves had use of the main stadium and 4 fields and the Expos had use of 2 fields and 2 half fields. Both MLB teams changed in the stadium so everyday the Expos would have to walk by the Braves as they practiced on the main field and head back to the “backfields”. We also had FSL West Palm Beach Expos, 4 instructional leagues, fantasy camps, high school sports, concerts, etc.. It was fun managing the complex between 1988-1996. Many past employees that were with these clubs during the 90’s call it the glory years for the braves & expos organizations. I guess if you look at the past couple years of HOF editions : Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux, Martinez, Randy Johnson and Bobby Cox it makes sense.
What I find amazing today is not only did this spring training site start a trend for numerous other dual team spring training sites in AZ but it was also a GM maker. I’m talking about between 1989 and 1996 when the braves and expos were both considered the hottest teams in the national league. The molding of past and current GM’s and asst GM’s during this era is somewhat mind-boggling. Just a sampling of current and recent GM’s from both organizations that came out of West Palm Beach during that short 7 year time-frame included good friends like- Dave Dombrowski, Bill Stoneman, Dan Duquette, Neal Huntington, Bill Gievett, Frank Wren. John Schuerholz, Dayton Moore, Kevin Malone, Omar Minaya, Jim Beattie, Chuck Lamar, Dean Taylor. I’m sure I probably left out a few others and there were numerous Assistant GM’s that came out of WPB too. …And we can’t forget about the All-star scouting directors/farm directors like Gary Hughes, Paul Snyder, Ed Creech, Kent Qualls, etc…
i recall The competition between these two teams during ST was fierce during those years. They saw each other everyday and played each other more times than they wanted to but in the end…based on the careers of some the GM’s , players and the success of the clubs they were better for it.
Congratulations to the Hall of Fame Class of 2014. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox along with Frank Thomas. The Braves 1-2 punch had some help with an awesome manager Bobby Cox and pitching coach Leo Mazzone. You can throw in Smolzty, Avery and Merker and then Wohlers to close which kind of made it an unbeatable rotation.
Having worked for the Braves and managed the Spring training fields where Glav and Mad-dog competed during the 90’s it didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize this duo was destined for the HOF. West Palm Beach was the Braves spring home from 1962-1996. I started in WPB in 1988 and moved with the Braves to Disney in 1996 for a few more years during the Braves magical run.
Mad-dog and Glav would typically be the first guys to arrive in every morning around 7am. Always walk across the field to say hello, ask what the day looked like, which golf course to hit in the afternoon, where to fish, etc.. They were always appreciative of the field and our crew. Many times bringing breakfast sandwiches for the crew. I would walk in the locker room and ask how the mound performed that day and both would be happy to offer comments. These guys were SO consistent. I recall after a game where Maddox pitched in the bullpen, he thought the home plate was turned a little. Sure enough we put a string on it and it was off by ¼ inch. On another occasion, I asked him to come out to see the mound at Disney. He had thrown that day (which I didn’t get a chance to attend due to other mickey mouse duties) and I told him thanks for the autograph. He asked what i meant and I told him he always leaves a distinct pattern with his push off toe after each pitch. His foot placement across the clay and landing area was exactly the same every single time he pitched.
These guys set the tempo for the many winning seasons they had in the 90’s. Bobby would remind me every spring “this is where we start winning Mur so get us going right! ” With these two on the mound… that was easy!
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!