Results tagged ‘ Brickman ’

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.

America’s Front Lawn is planning a Makeover


The National Mall is planning a much-needed renovation of a few of  the 30+ panels this year and the first phase is slated to begin late this summer.  www.nationalmall.org/nationalmall.php    What a great project and something ( Brickman‘s Sportsturf team) is excited to be a part of as the official turf consultant for the “Trust for the National Mall“.   Over 20 million people see the Mall every year.  The parks service issues around 3000 permits for multiple functions and one of the main complaints from people  is how it always looks.  Trying to compare this venue to anything else in the world is really difficult so we looked at every park and various large sports complex operations that appeared similar.    Keeping grass growing is tough in this transistion zone area …. much less trying to  keep it green with millions of people walking on it.    It’s a 3 pronged approach which includes renovating the lawn with better soils , drainage. and an irrigation system, managing the events a little differently and updating the maintenance operations.   The National Parks Service does an unbelievable job taking care of the mall with the resources they have.   With budget cuts and more people wanting to use the Mall it really is amazing what they achieve with so little. 

Sometimes when I talk to  people about the “Mall” in DC they really think I am talking about a shopping center.  Then I tell them its America’s front lawn and ….I get the AHA moment .  

There is a slate of turf folks involved in some capacity with this renovation including Dr. Peter Landshoot-Penn State,  Dr  Norm Hummel ,  Dr  Mike Goatley- Virginia Tech Turfgrass – Mike and his  folks are  working on a study regarding  turf protective coverings for events.  Steve LeGros  is helping with the fertility planning, etc…  All great turf people.

The renovation will involve removing existing soils, amending them,  adding drains and new irrigation and installing a few cisterns –  Each are 150’ x 34’ wide  x 10’tall.  250,000 gallons each and there are 2 in the 1st phase.   Completely irrigated turf areas with an automatic system and a full underdrainage system that will assist in collecting the rain water to fill the cisterns  .  Seed selection was fun –  After a full review of local seed varieties Peter and Steve narrowed down a 4 way blend of grass seed that everyone agreed on.  30% Wolfpack 2 Tall fescue, 30% Firenza Tall fescue, 30% Turbo Tall fescue and 10% P-105 Kentucky Bluegrass      HOK is the Architect of record.

More to come as this project develops.

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