Results tagged ‘ BASEBALL FIELD ’

Japan’s Unique Baseball Field Equipment


Thought it would be cool to share these photos of a couple tools we checked out in Japan.   Koshien stadium has some interesting pieces of equipment and tools.  IMAG2350 twoman tamp

Homemade tamps are pretty common in Japan.   The two-man tree stump type tamp and the “bat-tamp” were pretty unique.  We only saw a couple steel type tamps that are typically used in other countries.

roller

 

To see these units in action at Koshien you need to check out this link that Ben Platt put together for us.  Dragging the field in the 5th inning at Koshien.  So cool.

toro broomer

Due to the large infields on there outdoor parks, they actually came up with a misting system and a dust control box over there TORO sand-protrap rakes and brooms.  I asked TORO here in the states if they had seen these attachments.  The misting system also sports a couple 20 gallon  tanks on each side of the sand pro.

We also used brooms for mid inning clean up of the infield.  A 17-man mid inning drag was a first.

drag crew

2014 MLB Japan Tour – Making friends through baseball


koshein crowd

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. .

koshein crew

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.

koshien st

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.

osaka dome photo

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.

osaka

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. 

tokyo dome masked men

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

sapporo 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.

okinawa crew

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.

okinawa field

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.

KBO Hosts First Baseball Field Maintenance Clinic in Seoul


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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!

korea liner

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.

2014 MLB Japan All-Star Tour ballparks


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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.

IMAG1283 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.

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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.

IMAG1331The 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.

DSC06259The 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!

MLB Opener in Japan 2008
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.

Canada’s First MLB Field Maintenance Clinics a Success!


canada clinic group

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.

canada clinic chad photo

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.

Natural Grass Facts for Sports


panama 2014 field photo

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!

phase 1 complete!

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. 

Have fun!!

Sydney Cricket Grounds Conversion for MLB Season Opener Underway!


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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.

scg layoutThe 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.

IMAG5603The 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.

To Russia with Rake: First Pitcher’s Mound in USSR


first mound in USSR

With the 2014 Olympics taking place in Sochi , Russia it brought back some fond memories of my tours through this wonderful country.     The photo above is actually the first pitchers mound constructed in the USSR.  I didnt even know it until after it was built and the countries president of the baseball federation told our entourage.   Charlie Eschbach President of the Eastern League at the time, took the hill for the first pitch.

The event was the  USSR Diamond Diplomacy Tour .  For about a month we took a  group of Double AA professional players on loan from multiple MLB clubs to compete in a friendly series of games against a young Soviet Union National team in the fall of 1989.     The USSR was still under communist rule so seeing a bunch of Americans walking around the Kremlin for a few weeks was rather odd for the locals.   The tour was managed by Sal Artiga President of Minor League BAseball and Eastern league ownership but the core guys were Peter Kirk and Charles Eschbach.  The games began in Kiev’s 80,000 seat Dynamo football stadium.   I had a fun time explaining the rules of the game and dimensions in Russian but we got through it.     Some pretty good players ( Don Buford Jr, Troy Neel, Jeff bannister (now manager of the rangers)  Dan Simmonds, Steven Scarzone, Tommy Shields) were on the team not to mention managers Dave Trembley ( Houston Astros)  Stump Merrill ( NY Yankees) and even MLB umpire Jeff Kellogg.

Start stadium in Keiv

The first game was somewhat lopsided with the USA team scoring way to many runs.  Something had to change or it was going to be a very long tour.  We spent a few days trying to level the field and put up temporary home run fences, backstops etc…    After we played in Dynamo stadium we headed to a smaller stadium in Kiev called “Start Stadium”  (above) .   This stadium had a dark history as it was host to a  game during WWII known as the Death Match.    The story goes… German’s had occupied Ukraine and in a way of winning over the locals played a Russian team made up of “bakers”  who were actually ex-pro players from the Russian leagues.  The Russians won the game even though they were warned by the SS not to win.

kiev stadium

According to the story we were told in Kiev, after the soccer game about 10 players from the  team were placed  in concentration camps and several were shot.    Well… when the USA  players heard this story,  they re-thought the game plan for this makeshift ballpark because they were  the first American Pro baseball team to play on the field. dave trembly in USSR

After some internal discussion, it was determined to not “go as hard “ for  this game.  USA won but not so lopsided.    It was a good time to show diplomacy in this tour to say the least.   After the second series they decided to create the “UNITY” games and  hold a mock draft and split the teams up more evenly to the satisfaction of the Soviets and USA.

From Kiev ( in the Ukraine)  we went north to Estonia and played in Tallinn  (Kadriorg) stadium.  Once  Again  we had to recondition a soccer field for a baseball match.   Here is where we constructed the first professional pitching rubber on Soviet soil. ( TOP PHOTO)   It wasn’t  much,  but ESPN and the owners  played it up like it was the  creation of the Washington Monument.    Along the way in each city we made some friends and I still think about them to this day.   Most of my groundscrew were 12- and 13 year old kids playing baseball for the club teams.     

Before leaving for the USSR,  I had read about the trading frenzy the locals had for USA  goods.    Jeans and shoes were a hot commodity.   They wanted to trade rubles for dollars and that didn’t go over very well.    I took over a sega game video station an traded for a box of maroushka dolls, hats, etc..  Still have a couple.

tallinn_stadium estonia

After Tallinn we headed to our final stop in Moscow.  They actually had the only real baseball field in USSR but timing was bad for our games.  We were now in late  September and the weather was pretty bad.   It started to snow, sleet etc..  which shut down the opportunity on our final days in the country to play on a real field.   Weather  forced us improvise and set up an indoor soccer arena for the final game.    Arena ball at it’s best!!!  (PHOTO BELOW)    With 25ft tall nets and the entire sides covered,  it was perfect.    Ground rules were simple… play it off the net anywhere.   We used a box of athletic tape to mark off the field dimensions and actually taped down the bases to the turf floor.  It was pretty cool.     ESPN’s “This Night in Baseball”  followed us around the country and did a story.   I found the 30 minute show  in 2 parts on Utube.  Part 1 and  Part 2

Moscows Arena Baseball Game

Although this event was 25 years ago  its nice to look back and see where the game has gone internationally. MLBI and IBAF have done so much in recent years to expand the game.     Ironically the Soviet Union broke apart about a year after the tour.   I guess the diamond diplomacy part worked after all :).

basilica

I went back a couple years ago to check out a venue for the Baseball World cup.  Jim Baba Canada’s GM of “everything to do with baseball” traveled with me.  Just a great guy.  We went to see  M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University Baseball Venue and although it had potential, we just didn’t have the time or resources to pull this one off.   The game is growing around the world faster than ever thanks to WBSC.

How to Build a Professional Pitcher’s Mound


wbc 09 mound repairBaseball’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.)

How to Build a Pitchers Mound ....and maintain it!

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.

Precisions matters, so measure for every step in the mound building process.

Building Mounds in Japan (Continued)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

A Christmas Groundskeeper Story


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Twas the night before Christmas when all through the park
Not a mower was running because it was dark
We covered our grass with a turf blanket clothe
Just hoping the wind, would not blow it off.

The park was all prepped for a short winters nap
So I Snapped up my jacket and pulled down my cap
When all of a sudden there came such a noise
It wasn’t the reindeer but a group of young boys.

How could that be on Christmas Eve?
It was way to late…I just wanted to leave.
When I looked over the field to my eyes would appear
Those kids trying to start our favorite John Deere.

At first I was mad as I watched them at play
When I was a kid I was the very same way.
They spoke not a word when the cart wouldn’t start
As I heard one whisper , “Let’s dip-set this park”.

They pushed the tractor,  back under the cover
And scaled over the fence , one after another
No damage was done, thank goodness for that
It was kids, being kids and not being brats.

Last season was long , we all would agree
Our fields took a beating for all to see
Throughout the year we would try and rebuild
Do you think Saint Nick might bring a new field?

We need to re sod , our crew would say
And the boss would shout out , Absolutely No Way!
The cost is too high and the owner’s made cuts
He said to be thankful, it couldve been us.

It takes hard work we tried to explain
Those concerts you book are more than a pain
Alas  he would cave , you can get your new grass
Just get back to work and please stay off my @?&#$.

So be true an honest at whatever you do
Be it mowing or raking it’s a reflection on you.
From the holiday season and throughout the New Year
There’s one blog to read its Marks Blogosphere

Now Newman, Now Sanchez ,Now Platt and Bloom
“Keep off the grass” the groundskeeper will fume.
Soon after New Year’s,  spring training will begin
Before you know it, baseball’s back again.

Next season will start with an Opener down under
How long is that flight, the players must wonder.
Our DBacks and Dodgers are excited to play
At the SCG pitch ….on MLB clay!

It’s sure to be fun for those who can wait
Merry Christmas to all…..especially my blog mates!

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SCG renovation underway for 2014 MLB opener


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One end of the pitch is being graded to be more like a baseball infield in preparation for the 2014 MLB opener. They removed about 45000 sq ft of grass and slightly leveled the area where the infield will be placed in front of the new grandstand. The grandstand also had permanent dugouts installed as part of the total renovation. The SCG is not touching the cricket wicket so those hallowed grounds are safe. The SCG crew is awesome. What a great group to work with.image

Haarlemmermeer municipality new baseball field


imageThis  Natural grass baseball field construction  project in the suburbs  of Amsterdam is almost complete.   It was put to the test after a heavy rain storm Monday evening and throughout the entire night.   Overall, It rained several inches Monday and the field was totally dry as we walked across it Monday morning.    The warning track also didn’t have a single puddle.   This field was constructed on a parcel of land that is 5 meters below sea level.    Great job city , architect and contractor.

Alamodome’s Big League Weekend a Success


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Its official.    The H.E.M big league weekend in San Antonio held at the Alamodome featuring the Texas Rangers and the San Diego Padres MLB exhibition series in a first-ever baseball field layout was a success.  The Ryan Sanders group and the Texas Rangers achieved what they had hoped to see.  A great field, great crowds and an event that has been talked about for a long time.  You really need to see the following link to understand what was achieved in this event the day before easter.  Alamo Dome 1st ever baseball Conversion.  It shows the Dome going from a arena football event to  the game in 5 days.   Two totally different floor layouts.

The transition teams for the exhibition match at the dome (Astroturf, Ryan Sanders Sportsturf, Alamo Dome staff, padding crew, John and his vinyl guys ) did an outstanding job with the renovation.     When you do something that has not been done before,  you really need a group that is focused on the final goal.   Every issue that became an obstacle or a concern was approached with a positive attitude in order to come up with a solution.  Safety issues were set as the main priority and operational challenges were continually defined.   The grounds crew from the Missions ball club also chipped into help with the event.   I will have to say there were quite a few challenges but the team that was assembled worked very well together to ensure success.     Garrett and his entire crew were top notch.  Reid Ryan and JJ Gottch were a great management team.  They were not only great grounds guys but chipped in at the last minute to be the ballboys down the lines during each game.

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The Rangers won both exhibition games and ironically it wasn’t as lopsided as people thought it would be.  The right field fence is only 285 down the line.  Although the guys had fun with the short porch in BP,  during the 2 games it may have only been a issue in 1 home run.    In fact the Ryan Sanders group made BP part of the fun for fans allowing them in to catch all the homerun balls.  They also  added special balls with stamps on them with the sponsor logo  for prizes.  Pretty cool.   Another highlight was working with my “old” friend Tom McAfee who is the operations manager at the Alamodome    A great supporter of baseball in the area and more importantly can still run a pretty good line!   Thanks Tom to you and your team.

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How to Build a Baseball Infield


infield watered.jpgTechnically, 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.  The photo above is from a youth league in Taiwan where the kids use water cans to darken the soil in the shape of an infield.  Below – – They mark the field too.  Just awesome!  

Young Taiwan GroundCrew makes it happen!

Infield construction

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 nail drag scarifies the surface and digs deeper to further loosen the infield mix. With any drag, be careful not to drag too close to the turf edge.
Annual laser-grading is used to check the infield slope and correct any inconsistency.

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.

Managing moisture

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.

When necessary, crews can level the infield skin using a string line and hand-held tools and hand-pulled drags.

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.

Dry down

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.

Edging the infield as a weekly maintenance practice will reduce lips and keep turf edges smooth. This Turfco Edge-R-Rite was used in 2004 during the Olympics. Along with edging the bermudagrass, it doubled as a small sod cutter.
Rolling infields is an important practice to stabilize the areas.

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.

We bored into the infield to check soil conditions and discovered a layering of different clays. We had to rototill to remove the barriers so the clays would not “plate” when the players took the field.

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.

Managing Lips

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

Groundskeeper- Mankind’s First Job!


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According to the Bible, Adam was given a job to take care of the grounds in the land of Eden. It would appear that this was our world’s first employment offer. Genesis 2-15And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” . According to Christianity we are decedents of Adam… therefore from a groundskeeper. After tending the turf in the garden, Adam was offered a promotion to name all the animals including the groundhog which eventually led us to groundhog day ..

Over the weekend our sportsturf industry received a fair amount of press due to all the great turf managers working at the Superbowl and also from a fun article that Mark Newman wrote about Ground Hog Day / Grounds Crew Day which came out the day before the Superbowl. The article provides an analogy regarding the same Biblical verse.

Here is the irony! After the SuperBowl half time show they ran the Dodge truck commercial featuring the voice of “Paul Harvey” one of my favorite radio shows ever! Paul eloquently spoke about how God made farmers to tend to the land, sow the seeds, milk the cows, etc.. a really good commercial no doubt referring to the same verse.

So MLB.com and the NFL painted a similar message over the weekend about farmers and groundskeepers. Its a good day for the men and women who tend the earth! How about that!
Fyi – Genesis 1-11. “And God said let the earth bring forth grass…

New Ballpark in Hermosillo Opens with the Caribe World Series


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The 2013 caribbean world series began today in Sonora mx The field is looking pretty sharp thanks to Chad Olsen and the construction team in Hermosillo. The young sea spray Paspalum Turfgrass will be under a lot of use in the next week of games.  A great event to open this new ballpark to the world. I’m just excited for the people of Sonora and their new venue. I am sure the city leaders and staff are Proud of the accomplishment. This park will set a new standard for future stadiums in Mexico and South America.

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2013 Caribbean World Series Venue looking sweet!


Hermosillo Pics 030The new Sonora stadium in Hermosillo Mexico is almost complete. Typical details remain as with most major stadium projects,  but this park is setting a standard for future venues outside of the USA.   With the help of the D-backs  relationship over the years the Naranjeros plan to fulfill a plan to build the best ballpark in Mexico.  Congrats to the team ownership and municipal government.

hermosilo jan 2013Lets just say they are making a really good run at the title of the best park in Latin America!     Congrats to Chad Olsen and our Brickman sportsturf team that have put time into the  new field development over the past several months.

1st Field Clinic in Cuba Builds Relationships


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.

Fun stuff.   Thanks to Ellier, Chad, Juan and the entire Latino Americano grounds crew for their  help.

Baseball Field Maintenance


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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 asJack” 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.

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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

The Fish have arrived!


We literally checked out the new fishbowl in Miami today.   Make it very clear this is now the Miami Marlins not the Florida Marlins. Also more importantly we have green grass and today they put the fish in the tank!    Yes little sun fish,  tropical fish,  swimming around behind homeplate.  Pretty cool.

They really did  a great job of capturing the local culture’s flair for bright color schemes throughout the ballpark.   And as another touch,  they actually planted some ficus trees in  center field.  I would like to think (personally speaking) this was a gesture of homage towards the old municipal stadium in West Palm Beach that also had ficus trees in center field for 36 years….. considering big chunk of the Marlins staff are former Expo employees.    But really, its more  likely because its the fastest growing tree. shrub in south Florida.  And its green!

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