Results tagged ‘ Baseball ’
A couple weeks ago, MLB played a game in Havana, Cuba between the Tampa Rays and the Cuba national team. What began as a goodwill baseball tour turned into something a bit more historic. I started to hear a lot of chatter late last year regarding the potential of playing another MLB game between Cuba and a MLB team. Commissioner Manfred even mentioned the Rays team was selected but no official date was set for some time. It was an on again off again event for a while. Then the White House called and planted a seed that eventually developed into President Barrack Obama i.e. @POTUS (an family) attending a ballgame at Latino Americano stadium with Cuban President Raul Castro an a host of other dignitaries from both countries including Secretary John Kerry. The event marked the first time a US sitting President visited the country since Calvin Coolidge went over on a battleship 80 years ago. To say it was an honor to work this event would be difficult to put in words, But Im going to give it go.
What immediately became a critical component to making this event happen was ensuring we could upgrade the existing field and ballpark. Everyone agreed the field an parts of the ballpark were in poor shape. The idea of two countries who’ve been somewhat “distant” for many years began with the simple task of working together on solutions to ensure the playing surface was safe for both teams. It was a challenging project made possible through a common goal that would guide us in rebuilding the field to meet everyone’s expectations.I’ve found in my 25 years planning these international events for MLB you learn a lot about people when you work side by side performing manual labor. It’s funny how shovels, rakes and wheel barrels all work the same way in every country. So that’s where our ballpark groundbreaking ambassadorial meetings began. I’m sure everyone has seen photos of those groundbreaking events where they line up VIP’s and politicians holding gold-plated shovels. We didn’t have those kind of shovels. We had rusty square & round point shovels. (with Long , short and numerous broken handles). There were no ties or suits. Just a bunch of Cubans an American with hoes and shovels. Let’s put that thought in perspective. The Cuban country had (has) limited sports field related resources and we needed to renovate the country’s main sports stadium in about 6 weeks. Core projects included removing the entire infield grass and raising the field grade, removing all the foul territory grass, fine grading then replanting both areas. We also had to install a new warning track, new pitcher’s mound, bullpens, home plate and foul poles. This type of renovation would be a fairly standard project in the USA except we are in Cuba. SO…we shoveled, raked, wheel barreled and spread 60 tons of infield clay, 500 tons of warning track mix, 50 tons of topdressing …BY HAND. We planted 8000 sq ft of grass on the infield BY HAND using 6×6 inch squares of Bermuda plugs. FYI , there are no laser graders on this island, no big roll sod harvesters…just string lines to level the grades before grassing the field. I will have to say the Cuban people we had the privilege of working with over a six-week period were absolutely unbelievable! We learned so much from each other. Not only about field maintenance, but about the world where they live. We shared meals daily. We drank Cuban coffee out of a water bottle. Drank Montero Narajaro soda. We talked about our families, tipped some local Galion Rum ( that’s not gallon that’s Galion a Cuban brand) at the end of the day an laughed about simple daily events. It was a true exchange of culture while building relationships between two people who love the game of baseball an shared the same passion for sportsturf management. As the event began to take shape we did not have full buy in by the Cuban government for delivering us materials so what resources they had were slow to come. Eventually, once both country leaders confirmed they were attending the event, resources i.e: labor from the Varadara golf course, local products , a loader and assorted street rollers (and more wheel barrels) started to roll in daily. Meanwhile we were working up a list of “Whitehouse” approved sportsturf equipment and materials that would be (legally) shipped to the country about 2 weeks before the event. I mentioned earlier something about the poor condition of their local shovels and rakes. Well , we barged over numerous new landscape rakes, tamps, shovels and hand tools etc…designed for baseball field maintenance. We also brought our Cuban friends infield clays an conditioners from Duraedge and Diamond Pro. We even shipped over a TORO Sand Pro, edgers , tillers , plate compactor , CoverMaster tarps, Beacon ballfield equipment , C&H cages, OMG it was Feliz Navidad!! To the point some of my Cuban friends began to cry. Especially Oscar who had hand edged the entire field with a 3 ft machete for years. He watched the new gas powered edger trim a line in minutes with disbelief. I believe Juan was most excited about the big plastic tarp culvert for the new field tarp. What they had before was a steel culvert that weighed 5 tons. It was not movable unless you had 40 people. They had no idea specialized hand tools had been designed for ballfields. It was such a great feeling to give these products to the grounds staff at the stadium on behalf of MLB and the MLBPA. Having worked on this field for the Orioles vs Cuba game in 1999, I had a pretty good idea what we were getting into. In fact my old friends from that event Juan, Carton and Higinio were still working at the stadium. Led by this group of my amigos we knew the people in Cuba were going to be 100% behind the project. There were numerous moving parts to purchasing and sending equipment to Cuba. Communication on the island was also difficult with no US cell phone service and what they had was very limited. It took a HUGE team effort from a lot of folks including NYC MLB peeps (Mickey , James , Paloma and especially Jesse) to coordinate all the shipping docs, government approvals, and have the products arrive safely.
Of all the projects we had to complete , the infield renovation was the most challenging. It required us to raise the homeplate grade 5 inches to level the area properly to meet MLB mound height requirements before resodding. But that was the easy part. The hard part was growing in the Bermuda turf grass plugs in a country that did not have testing labs to check local rootzone materials and topdressings an their best fertilizers were for agricultural purposes, not sportsturf. Great for tomatoes but grass…that was tough. The 419 Bermuda sod was harvested from Indio Hatuey ( the countries agricultural center north of Havana near the beautiful Varadera golf course.) Director de la OSTB, Luis Oliveras a local Turfgrass specialist had the turf grown to be the best it could be with the resources he had but once harvested it had a long way to go before it was playable. The farm just had barely enough Bermuda plugs to finish the infield so the foul territory was grassed with a Zoysia. The Zoysia and Bermuda were struggling from lack of consistent watering. So we brought in reinforcements to help with the growin. My good friend Cindy
Unger from Palm Beach spent a month in Cuba. A few days later, Luis an his team came up with an above ground irrigation system to assist with our water problem. I even brought over Chad Price to take a look at the project. Chad Olsen and I assembled our Cuba Brightview sportsturf team which included STMA members Zach Severns Head GK from Augusta greenjackets, Anthony DeFeo Tennessee Smokies, Justin Sadowski from Potomac nationals, Isaiah Lienau, NY Mets. We also had a cameo visit from STM Neil Pate ( dubbed director of paint). Even old salemite Tracey Schneweis came over to the island to help us out. It was a great team. Chad and Eric Ogden had their hands full with the 2 WBC qualifier sites in Mexico and Panama. Yes March was busy!
The field played great as reported by several Rays players thanks to a massive team effort from both countries! All in all, I made 5 visits to the country in 3 months which would end up totaling about 6 weeks on the island. My Spanglish expanded but without Frans from INDER (our official government interpreter) we would have all been in trouble. He was so professional and ..healthy!
It was truly an honor to be a part of this historic event between our two countries but what I will take away from this more than its historical value are the friendships that were built to last a forever. #amigosforlife #shoveldiplomacy
New Zealand is destined to become a baseball powerhouse if Ryan Flynn , CEO of Baseball New Zealand has anything to do with it and by the way he does. We had the chance to tour the country looking at potential field locations with several of the board members from baseball New Zealand a couple months ago. We toured sites in both Christchurch and Auckland. In addition to looking for new field locations we also held MLB’s First field maintenance clinics in this country. Members from local club leagues that manage their fields came out to learn a few tips on dimensions and mound construction. and both were well attended. Peter Elliot is on the NZ baseball board and did a outstanding job with the press in Christchurch as did MLB’s infamous Jim Small who heads up Asia/Oceania development.
According to recent NZ baseball stats, the growth of the game in NZ has increased over 1000% in 3 years. They now have about 6000+ members. New Zealand is predominately a fastpitch softball country for the men’s sports. Kids (guys and girls) grow up playing softball which is pretty cool. They have tons of softball tournaments and leagues. In most countries around the world, baseball & softball organizations share the same office space and fields. Hopefully this will become the case in NZ.
In the meantime the NZ national team will prepare for the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifier ( WBCQ) to be held in Sydney mid-February. In the last WBCQ they almost pulled off an upset over Taiwan. Let’s just say they learned a lot from the 2012 WBCQ and are planning to go much further next year. Should be a great tournament with Australia, South Africa and the Philippines competing at Blacktown Sportspark in Australia. This was the former home of Competition field 2 for the 2000 Sydney Olympic games. Spent a bit of time at that ballpark over the years. Its going to be a great tournament! A big thanks to Riki and Dan T for helping with all the logistics around the islands!
The 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto will finish up this weekend at the President’s Choice Ballpark in Ajax, Ontario. It started July 6th with practices and ends July 26th. For the first time they have both men and women’s baseball/softball competitions. We have witnessed some tremendous games played on some pretty nice fields maintained by some really awesome people. The “people” are town of Ajax staff, TO2015 competition staff and volunteers and that’s what makes these events so special. Everyone working together! The volunteers are really special and range in age from 17-70. Starting early in the am helping with all the field duties from pulling the big tarp to dragging the hose around because they want to be a part of the games. They work just as hard as everyone else and love just being at the ballpark! The heart of a volunteer is HUGE! We couldn’t have done it without them. Thanks Jack and Randy for bringing them together!
On the sport side, Team Canada took the Gold medal in men’s baseball and USA won Silver with Cuba winning Bronze. Women’s baseball is wrapping up this weekend which is looking like another Canada vs. USA showdown. Same with USA women’s softball who are 5-0 going into the medal rounds this weekend.
The complex is composed of 2 natural bluegrass baseball fields and 4 natural grass softball fields. One baseball field was existing and was totally reconstructed with new dugouts and bullpens. The premier field was a soccer pitch which was transitioned in an overlay process to be the main stadium this past spring. It will remain a baseball field as a legacy to the event. I don’t foresee the town ever turning it back into a soccer field after seeing team Canada win the gold medal on the field and plant a “Toonie” at 2nd base.!!! (That’s what Canadian teams do when they when big games. I’ve seen it before. They run to a grassy area and dig up a piece of grass and push the 2 dollar coin into the soil for…luck.) At softball we had 1 premier field, 1 competition and 1 practice field. The 4th field was used for staging of locker rooms. These fields were upgraded with a few bells and whistles for the games as well. We had a good time working with the town staff with training etc…before the games.
As for how the fields were designed and built, we pretty much used every baseball field product from every distributor in America and Canada on this project. We had 3 or 4 different soil conditioners. 3 different clay’s A couple different tarps. All kinds of equipment and materials. We could’ve had a trade show!!! The photo above says it all, great crew and staff. Our guys Eric, chad and Joe were amazing as usual but the Competition team and overlay team made it work. Thanks to Bob O. for the vision and congrats to Canada on winning the Gold medal!
All in all a successful event…eh!
This past weekend they played a couple games between the Reds and the Bluejays at Montreal’s old (but fun) Olympic stadium. The two game series drew over 96000 people. I heard a lot of folks say. Wow ” MLB should come back. What do you think? I just said that would be cool.” However for me the event was more of a walk down memory lane seeing old friends from my Montreal and West Palm beach days when I worked with the club.
Montreal’s Olympic stadium has quite a bit of history. From the 1976 summer Olympic Games to the Expos, numerous concerts , soccer , truck pulls, RV shows , you name it…this place has hosted it. Former expo Steve Rodgers was with me as we walked the field and he talked of when the homeplate was actually closer to where the mound is currently located. The synthetic turf surface is called nex-field which has about 3/4lb of rubber per sq ft worked into the fibers. This particular synthetic turf was designed for soccer.
During the trip I had a chance during to talk with a few local people in Montreal about baseball in their awesome city! So I took a poll. It’s very unofficial and really random so the accuracy has got to be legit!
I asked 5 people 4 questions.
- Are you from Montreal? 3 were from Montreal, 1 from Haiti and one from India
- Are you a baseball fan? 3 yes’s – 2 no’s.
- If they would like to see baseball back in Montreal? 4 yes and 1 no
- Have you ever been to Olympic stadium to see an event? 5 yes and 0 no’s
- What is favorite sport? just so I could gant their responses (and that they understood what I was saying since I don’t speak French.) ALL 5 said hockey so that worked.
More details on the folks I polled: (The 5 included 2 cabbies, 1 customs agent and one bartender and some guy from Montreal i was sitting beside on the plane. 3 guys 2 girls.
I think my poll was promising, Personally (again my personal opinion) I think Montreal would be a great place for a team someday in the future but before that happens they need a plan. We all heard the same dialogue from Commissioner Manfred where he wants to see a strategic plan on how they plan to make it work for the long haul. Does that mean a new stadium or rebuild existing? Selecting the right owner? This past weekend was a small piece of the puzzle. It confirmed interest from the folks in Montreal that they enjoy seeing baseball.
The 2014 MLB all star series will be held the first couple weeks of November. The best of five series will be played in the Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo domes with two exhibitions planned at Okinawa and Koshien. The history of the Japan All star tour event dates back quite a ways. This will be the 36th time a group of MLB players will travel to Japan to compete in a friendly series and the 11th All Star tour.
during the site checks our first stop was Okinawa. A small island located way south of the mainland. It’s about a 2 hour flight from Osaka. There is a lot of history in Okinawa as it was considered the turning point of WWII. This is a really cool ballpark which sports a Japanese traditional baseball field which is composed of an all dirt infield. Japanese players have been competing on these type of fields for over 75 years. It’s a 25000 seat park and it was very loud and clear that the Okinawans are excited about hosting an exhibition game. There is a large military base located near by and I’m sure there will be some serious fans supporting their favorite MLB and Japan All stars.
There are two parks proposed for competition in Osaka. Koshien stadium is the older venue with the most history of baseball in the country. Connie Mac brought a tour here in 1934 featuring the likes of Babe Ruth and others. In the early 90’s MLB international and the players union had another tour which stopped by koshien. The park is truly unique hosting the national high school tournament every year. The park is packed for these games. The venue has a all dirt infield, big foul territory and a natural grass outfield. Koshien stadium is about a 30 minutes drive from the Osaka dome.
The other venue planned for games is the Osaka dome. I remember last time it was for the 2004 MLB all-star series. It was good seeing old friends and more importantly seeing the mound and homeplate improvements they had made. They did an amazing job at matching the infield clay around the base pits with the synthetic turf color.
The 4th planned venue is in Sapporo and it is also a domed ballpark. Again this is another impressive dome with huge foul territory and a synthetic turf surface. The outfield wall is about 20ft tall and the distance to the fence is respectable at 330 down the lines and 400 to center. This venue has the ability to open the center field wall and “float” in a regulation size natural grass soccer pitch. The size of the building is massive. I was told by the local management that the entire Tokyo dome can fit inside this dome!
The Main venue for the games will be in Tokyo at the ever so popular and well-known “big-egg” . The big news for this venue is it has a new synthetic turf surface which was really needed. The amount of events this facility sees is truly impressive. Always great to see and work with our friends at Yomuri and the grounds staff in the Tokyo dome.
Looking forward to the tour and working with our Japanese friends.
The World Series is not the only pro baseball going on this weekend. Its also the start of the 2013 Caribbean Winter League Season. We started reviewing the pro parks in the Dominican Republic this past week. This will be our 3rd series of winter league cub evaluations. It was great seeing the progress they are making on the fields. I recall during our last set of inspections they were needing equipment and materials that was not available on the island. After seeing just a few of the DR parks this year, we noticed a marked improvement of the playing surfaces and the facilities. ( Photo above is Santiago’s ballpark.)
( Photo above in Santo Domingo) There are several reasons that I believe relate to the continuing improvements of the facilities and fields. MLB OPs has been hosting field clinics every other year in the DR, the MLB DR office has expanded and is a huge resource for the clubs as they determine ways to make there parks better. You also have clubs that are devoting more time and funds towards making their parks better for fans and players. Everyone wins! 6 years ago most of the fields were a bit rough and the ground crews were frustrated with lack of materials and overuse. Still room for improvement but…There is a new breeze blowing and it’s going in the right direction. Nice work by the MLB DR office and the WL. ( La Ramona Ballpark Below)
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.
This 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.
Last week I was a guest of the KBO (Korean baseball organization). In an effort to upgrade their parks now and in the future we visited each stadium and spoke with operators and care takers collecting information about their facilities. Korea is in the process of renovating and building new parks as the KBO league expands. All of the ballparks range in size from 10,000 to 28000 capacity. All of the fields are Kentucky bluegrass or synthetic grass. A couple stadiums are moving away from synthetic back to natural grass.
One of the older stadiums was called Jamsil ballpark. The ballpark was used as part of the 1988 Olympics. According to the locals, the two teams that play here are considered the Yankees – red sox of Korea. I must have heard it 10 times and from the looks of the sellout game I attended, it sure felt like it. You can draw a line through the center of the stadium between the fans cheering on the bears or the twins. One of our tasks was to check the lights and at Jamsil stadium and we were allowed to perform the light check during the 5th inning. As with most Asian leagues, after the 5th inning they re-line the field and the umpires take a several minute break. The players actually go out in the outfield and stretch again. That was the first time checking lux levels in front of 27000 people.
FYI – This country is passionate about their baseball. We had the chance to attend a few games and it was electrifying! The other thing that struck me was the demographics of who attended the games. I would estimate, more than half the crowd was between the ages of 18-30. There was a party in the stands that was choreographed with songs for each player. The songs played straight through the entire at bat of the home team or visiting team. Even when the hitter was swinging away! Something you don’t see in other countries.
Korea’s first domed stadium is underway (top photo) . Considering the temperatures in March are similar to Detroit , the warm building will be enjoyed by the local communities in the winter time. It will also make the fans happy during those hot humid summers with AC.
The best part of the Korean ballpark tour was meeting the people and making friends . A big thanks to the KBO team especially Joey, Sean, Jason and Mr. Haun! You guys rock! Sports brings people together and just like baseball in any country our game is a common connector. Looking forward to the next trip already!
A new park is underway in Culiacan , mexico. The future home of the Tomateros is designed to hold 18000 people! Its a natural grass stadium with some wonderful site lines. This is going to be a fun project because the city is really cool. The architect took some time in designing the seating bowl which will generate a lot of fun for fans. It’s going to truly be a fan friendly facility. The planned opening is October 2014.
The owners of the club are the Ley family. They are really excited about this new sports venue in their home town and deserve to be. They are a good family with a long history in the Mexico and the baseball community. The club has a very strong history of winning the Mexican Winter league and has had numerous championships over the years. This park is being constructed directly beside the current baseball stadium so logistics will be challenging for the 2013 season but in the end, they will have new jewel in the Mexican winter league. Congrats to Juan Manuel Ley Lopez, his family and the architect Jim Sevilla
The blue grass planted only a couple weeks ago is coming up nicely and the ballpark is completing the steel/concrete risers. The city of hoofddorp and the contractor are pushing the bluegrass along for full establishment this fall. The ballpark will end up seating about 500-1000 but will be able to expand to 25000 seats. the project will be completed by November 2013. It will open in the spring for the Pioneers Club team and be used by the Dutch Federation for training their national clubs as well.
Pretty cool ballpark. Kudos to Chad, Kevin, Eric, Isaiah and Anthony.
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. 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!
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
A great first day for the two clubs at the renovated ball park in Regensburg for the World Baseball Classic. Field held up great as did the weather. GB’s Sam Dempster was excited to see the field and the upgrades. Canada’s Ernie Whitt and Greg Hamilton also had some great things to say about Armin Wolfe Arena grounds. Always good to get the first day over. Martin Brunner and his groundcrew did a great job managing the practices. With 8 practices and only 6 games it sounds a bit upside down but that’s baseball.
GB’s squad actually met yesterday for the first time with the pros that joined them. i think with the influx of pro guys for Czech, Germany and GB this will be an interesting tournament. By the way… Thanks to Dan Bonanno and Kevin for painting some awesome logos! You guys rock!
The 2004 Olympic baseball stadium in Athens is currently not a baseball venue but a soccer venue. I went by in late 2012 and it looked ok. At least they are using it for a sport! See a lot of articles lately saying all the venues are falling apart or abandoned.
There is only one “main” olympic stadium still being used for baseball which is in barcelona host of the 1992 games. The 1996 olympic stadium was Fulton county stadium which was torn down,the 2000 olympic main stadium in Sydney was a showground for cattle and was only a temporary venue for the games. However west of Sydney is the 2nd olympic venue and it has been resurrected by mlb and is used in the abl league. The 2008 wukesong baseball olympic stadium in beijing and both Practice fields were reduced to rubble shortly after the games. So the Olympic baseball stadium in Athens below is still there. Maybe someday it will see a baseball game again.
In the suburbs of Amsterdam a municipality called Haarlemmermeer has started to build a new sport complex for the Hoofddorp Pioniers baseball club. The site will compose of 5 fields including A 700 seat permanent seating bowl. Plans to have the ballpark completed by the end of 2013. Its going to be a really cool little park with all the amenities such as locker rooms, pressbox, fan experience etc.. For more about this wonderful project check out the masterplan called Park21.. http://www.park21.info/en
The level of competition and the expectations of your field users dictate the kind of pregame maintenance routine you’ll have. The routine is a short version of your daily and weekly long-term care. It’s an integral part of the multitude of tasks that need to be done prior to a game. The following basic routine is what would take place in typical, sunny weather conditions. Obviously, rain, snow or other disruptive weather would require major adjustments.
The game day maintenance process actually begins the day before, with the focus on putting the field in its best playing condition for the next scheduled game time. The day starts with mowing. Generally, the foul lines are repainted and the coaches’ boxes marked once mowing is completed. Since time will be limited for the pregame prep, water the infield area heavily early in the morning and/or the night before to reach the best amount of moisture by pregame so only a light wet-down is needed prior to game time. You may need to add water throughout the day, depending on the type of infield surface you have. Smooth out the mound and home plate area and cover them again.
Whether the field serves recreational or pro-level play, make sure you have the right equipment and tools for the pregame routine in good operating order, staged and ready to go. Develop a checklist. Cover all the details in advance. Put gas in the utility vehicle or field rake; chalk in the chalk box, etc.
This is a highly orchestrated routine, and you are the conductor. Develop a plan; assign specific duties based on the time frame you normally have, and make it consistent. Review all the details, making sure every crew member understands how everything works and knows exactly what to do. Practice to ensure it flows smoothly, striving to make it a little better each time.
Pregame for rec-level baseball
This pregame routine for recreational-level baseball is plotted for a quick 15-minute fix with a two-person crew, designated here as “Jack” and “Jill.” Jack drags the infield, generally with a cocoa mat, but if the surface is chewed up from practice, using a screen mat. It’s an on-the-spot judgment call, so have both mats staged and ready. Jack pulls the practice bases and inserts the plugs prior to dragging.
Generally, the infield foul lines would already be in place, having been lined out and put down earlier with a chalk marker. If not, Jack will drag the larger infield area, and the lining and chalking will take place as soon as dragging is completed.
Jill starts doing the home plate and mound work. If there’s no hitting mat, Jill will need to do hole repair with packing clay. If a mat was used, Jill just smoothes the area, first using a rake and following with a screen mat or cocoa mat. Jill then sets the batter’s box frame and puts down the chalk.
By now, Jack has finished dragging. He moves on to fix the pitcher’s mound, paint the pitching rubber and home plate and do any needed touch up on the foul lines in the infield area. Jill starts watering the infield, taking care to avoid the foul lines and the grass. Jack comes in to hold the hose once the other tasks are completed.
Jill places a towel (or an old plate) to cover home plate, lightly waters that area and removes the towel. If there are any dirt issues, Jill sweeps it off with a towel and takes a handful of chalk from the chalk box, rubs it into home plate to help dry it and removes excess chalk.
Once the watering is complete, Jill marks the coaches’ boxes if they haven’t been marked previously. Jack sets the bases and does the final inventory to ensure all equipment is off the field and the setup is complete.
Assignments are adjusted for a three or four-person crew. For example, one person will pull the practice base and insert the plug at second and start dragging from second to third base. The third or fourth person will pull the practice bases at first and third, inserting the plugs. Crew members three and four will start the infield wet-down along the third base side, while person one moves on to drag along the first base side.
Pregame for pro-level baseball
At the pro level, in addition to basic pregame maintenance and setup, there’s an entire practice setup and take down. The question to keep asking is, “What else can I do to protect the field and make it better for the game?” The array of tools to accomplish that typically include: the pitching deck and the geotextile turf protector that goes under it, the batting cage, the turf protector for the back that fits around the batting cage and the extensions or separate pieces for the fungo circles, the trapezoid section that goes on the grass in front of home plate, the home plate mat, the protective screens for first and second bases, the ball shagging screen and two ball baskets on wheels.
Take a full inventory of the tools and equipment you have to make sure it’s all staged prior to use and picked up afterward. Each person is responsible for his or her assigned area and they provide the check, down to the tiny details. If they took 32 pins onto the field to anchor a protector, they need to be sure 32 pins came off.
For years, it was the custom in the major and minor leagues to take batting practice first and the infield practice afterward. When batting practice comes first, the setup usually takes about 20 minutes and starts when the team comes out to get loose. Over the past couple of years there’s been a trend for teams to take the infield practice before batting practice. If that’s their preference, you have to prepare to put the batting practice things out there the same way, but very quickly.
Another trend in the MLB is for the visiting team to take infield practice just once while in town and the home team just once during the home stand, generally prior to their first batting practice. For most low-level minor league play, everyone takes infield practice, with each team working for 10 minutes. Pregame practice is always a double cycle; the home team goes first, then the visiting team.
Communication between the head groundskeeper and coaches is key the night before the game to find out the plans for the next day. That may include an early practice, which means a few infielders or pitchers will do some drills prior to the typical batting practice. Some pitchers don’t want to throw off the pitching deck. Bottom line, whatever they want is what you do.
Communication with the front office is essential, too, so you know all the details for the first pitch and pregame ceremony, including the performance of the national anthem. You need to know who will be coming onto which area of the field and when it will take place so you can plug it into your setup schedule. Sometimes you’ll place a fake home plate for the ceremony. Your grounds crew will need to replace it because they know how to walk across home plate, approaching it from behind the catcher’s box to avoid tracking chalk around the batter’s box.
You need a lot of people to accomplish all this, typically five or six people for the minors and eight to 10 for MLB level. In Beijing, I had 14, which was necessary because some of the equipment was so heavy. With the increased numbers, activity and visibility, the orchestration becomes even more important.
On a typical practice day, batting practice (BP) comes before infield practice. You’ll have only 2 to 2.5 minutes to remove everything you’ve placed for BP. If your exit for the cage and screens is through the center field gate, you’ll need to take the cage and screens all the way off before infield practice can begin. If the exit is on the first or third base side, you can stage them off the field in foul territory temporarily, and then complete the removal.
Once the practices are completed for both teams, the pregame maintenance and setup begin. The basics are similar to the rec-level pregame routine, with more detail work added. One crew member will be dragging; others will be sweeping up loose clay around the mound and home plate; some will be removing any clay from the grass edge; some will be clearing any debris from the grass off the clay; some will be smoothing the area around the warning track with a fan rake; and one person with a smoothing board, rake or small drag will be working along the edges of the infield. At least four or five people will be holding the hose, with the one at the nozzle being extremely careful to keep any water from falling on the grass. Wet grass, which could result in a wet ball or damp cleats that pick up clay, is unacceptable on a sunny day at this level of play. Some crew members put down fresh chalk on the foul lines.
At all levels, the game bases are set after the watering is completed so they’ll be dry and not slick. For the pros, there’s a specific way of placing them so the logos are set consistently at first and third.
The head groundskeeper makes one final field walk, checking to ensure the setup is complete and no small details have been missed. If there is an issue, it’s fixed immediately and addressed prior to the next pregame setup. The goal is perfection.
Once you establish the most efficient plan, make it so consistent that it becomes routine so you can do it fast enough, but not so routine that you become complacent. If your guard is down, sometimes you forget something. Above all remember you are part of the “show” and a key member of the team, therefore presentation and how your staff looks on the field is also very important. Same shirt, cap, pants adds to the professionalism of your crew. Planning for the unexpected is also important. Things like irrigation system breaks, the water hose breaks, the cart runs out of gas while dragging the field, a base anchor is bent etc… Things happen so its best to have a procedure in place to deal with the unexpected.
The above article was published in Sports Field Management Magazine
The MLB Dominican League Office in the D.R. hosted the 4th annual MLB Dominican League Field Maintenance Clinic this week at the Cleveland Indians Academy in Boca Chica. We had a great turnout with about 45+ sportsturf managers and operators representing 26MLB clubs and 5 winter league baseball stadiums.
The MLB Academy development in the DR has been growing extensively the past 5 years. Each club has invested in building new and upgrading existing 2 or 3 field complexes that sport great fields and facilities for the young athletes.
As a teacher by trade, it is a wonderful feeling sharing knowledge and experience to help fellow turf managers around the world improve and develop their skills.
Below are a few general tips and considerations that can be used as a template or checklist when planning and or building a baseball field. First and foremost.
- Hire your sports turfmanager, or field consultant.
- Develop maintenance budget and begin to order equipment. A reputable field contractor can install a professional level field in 45 days so it’s important to be ready to take care of it when they lay down the grass.
- Secure the services of a qualified surveyor and field contractor and or field project director. Making small mistakes during the planning period could result in costly maintenance problems down the road.
- If you’re sodding the field, locate the grass source and determine the type you need based on your area. It’s important to do this early in the process so you can have the turf tested and growing properly before it is harvested.
- Determine elevation and grade lines to confirm existing grades and how they will change to allow your field to drain properly.
- Have a soil analysis completed to find out what type of soils you are dealing with. You will want to send the soil sample to a certified testing service that understands the difference between testing soils for roads, builds and sports fields. They are very different tests. They will test for particle size, percolation, soluble salts and PH. etc…
- Roto-till hard pan and subsurface soil if your site proves to be an impermeable surface.
- Determine irrigation system mainlines and outlets.
- Excavate and pour concrete footings for light towers, dugouts, stands and locker room.
- Determine the drain tile system, drain outlets, sewer system.
- Now is the time to install electric lines, cables, outlets to light towers, dugouts and stands
- Lay out stabilized areas; haul in aggregate for warning tracks, paths to home plate in front of dugouts, coach’s box, on deck, and fungo circles.
- Replace or prepare native topsoil – from soil analysis formula, mix in soil structure amendments. This material can be stockpiled on site. Again if you are building a sand based field system you will remove all of the soil from the existing field and replace it with a pea gravel drainage system and sand based root zone for the growing medium.
- Sterilize native soil materials if possible. Taking care of the weeds in this material can save a lot of money trying to spray out weeds in the future.
- Roto-till the soil for uniform and thorough mixing. Rework the area to grade elevations with laser grader
- Recheck grade elevations with surveyor’s report.
- Roll the area to a firm soil.
- Now would be a good time to install the backstops, fences, scoreboard, flag pole, foul line marker.
- Build the install homeplate pin and the pitcher’s mound
- Spread a starter fertilizer before laying down your grass
- Finish grading with laser device.
- Remeasure diamond and recheck grade elevations carefully.
- Set the home plate, pitchers plate, base anchors.
- Mark all grass lines, circles, arcs and boxes with chalk or lime.
- Plant the area (seed, sprigs, or sod)
- Build your bullpens and install warning track
- Finish construction and installation of dugouts, light towers, stands, locker rooms, showers, toilets, storage space, concession stands, and parking lot
The success of your field will depend on three factors. How it was built, how much it will be used, and how it will be maintained. These 3 pieces are critical to define before you put a shovel in the ground!