Results tagged ‘ Major League Baseball ’
This past week MLB held there 4th field maintenance clinic in the Dominican Republic at the Kansas City Royal’s academy location in Boca Chica. We had over 55 attendees representing all 30 MLB clubs that operate academies on the island. These clinics are geared towards improving field maintenance techniques and helping the turf managers with issues at their academies. The clinics are FREE so MLB covers the costs of travel/meals and we pick up a couple sponsors to offset the costs.
This particular clinic focused on developing consistent maintenance techniques around turf management, infield clays and equipment maintenance. We had some great speakers, helpers and sponsors from around the globe. Sandro Moroni from Italy came over to provide some translation assistance and help with the turf discussions. Ken Curry came down from Canada to talk about covers and the padding that they provide at Covermaster. Rene Asprion chatted about mounds, soil conditioners and clays that diamond pro provides around the world. Eric Ogden did a great talk on infield skin conditioning. Good guys helping To make fields safer by sharing their knowledge and skills with others .
One of the coolest aspects about this particular clinic was having 10 former Dominican professional baseball players who were recently released attend the event. It’s part of MLB’s commitment towards helping these former players with careers after baseball. MLB’s Dominican Republic office creates educational resources for academies such as teaching English courses, life skills on how to live in the USA , how to manage your finances, etc… These classes take place after daily workouts at each of the academies.
So now even after their baseball playing days are over, MLB continues to help these young men find a new career. They are introducing other careers in baseball like umpiring and stadium operations etc.. That’s just awesome!
Also, a big thank you to Alex and Ishmael and the entire DR office that made multiple trips to the fed ex office to pick up Rene’s “special” FedEx package and return it for his brochures. (Inside joke). Rafael you have a great group of folks in that office!
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.
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.
Over the past couple days I had the chance to meet some future MLB groundskeepers at the Houston and New Orleans Youth Academy field maintenance clinics. It was a great event in both cities with a wonderful turnout of current and future turf professionals.
At our clinic in Houston, we had some super guest speakers. Dan Bergstrom with the Astros, Tom Burns with Diamond Pro and our Chad Olsen . We went through mound an homeplate construction, infield and turf management – stressing safety for the kids that play on the fields in their parks. One of the highlights was talking with a group of students from Nimitz High School who attend the Co-op AG program. The teacher brought the students to expose them to sportsturf management. It was great talking with them about a career in this industry.
From there we headed to New Orleans for their Academies inaugural clinic. This venue just opened a few months ago and is still being updated and improved. Most of the attendees were from local parks and rec as well as nearby universities. Again our speakers provided a lot of grass roots education for the group. Rene Asprion, Tommy Marks, Chad Olsen and I presented topics on turf maintenance, field layouts, construction and safety tips. A BIG Thanks to Darrell Miller, Eddie and D.Wade from the UYA team for all your help in pulling these clinics together. MLB is making a major effort to provide education around the world in developing better fields. These clinics are a key component of that initiative. Future clinics are being planned in Compton, CA and DC so stay tuned.
Had a great time the past couple days with the Academy and Winter league club stadium operators and groundskeepers. We had representation from 29 MLB Clubs and 4 of the Winter league stadiums. This was a free clinic to all the guys. Special thanks to our friends at Covermaster and Diamond Pro for helping out with the discussions.
The Tampa Bay Rays facility always shines. This year’s clinic went into 2 days and covered facility management and security of the academies. Carlos and Ismial from the DR office. You guys Rock!
New Taipei City stadium also known as Xinzhuang stadium is preparing for the WBC qualifier. New pitching mounds and bullpens along with new grass and a renovated infield surface will provide an improved playing surface. The ballpark is familiar to big events it has recently Hosted the MLB All Star Tour and past World Baseball Cup tournaments. A smaller ballpark that seats about 12500 the venue will also feature some updates in the locker rooms and batting tunnels. Don’t forget to check out the games later this month. They begin November 15th. New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines. www.worldbaseballclassic.com
Rod Carew Stadium in Panama continues to make progress. Fields and facilities are being upgraded with some major and minor improvements to host the World Baseball Classic. Regensburg received a new infield and Taiwan will be seeing some new mounds and home plates as well as turf upgrades. Even the training sites are planning improvements in Managua, Santiago, Cartagena . These improvements include field clinics and training for the local staffs which establishes a higher field of play surface for the clubs to train there athletes. Its not a surprise that “better fields make better players”.
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.
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
What a week. A lot of firsts even for this old dog. Great games both pretty close. A’s came out ahead tonight so now the A’s and Mariners are tied for 1st place for about a week. A lot of thanks go out to way to many people I cant remember for helping us pull this one off. Tamba, Hokike and my man Kas. Shawn took us through the first steps and chad Olsen played the key roll in making the event successful Along with the masked man and moma boss. Both supervisors that we nick named for fun
What a great crew of Japanese and American turf managers. Couple other fun shots of the final game.
Then there is cepesdes
And my fav..UMPIRES TRAINING!
Plans are well underway on the field and ballpark improvements at the Tokyo dome for the 2013 MLB Opening Series. Teams arrive tomorrow, practice saturday then back to back double headers before the opening games on weds and thursday between the A’s and Mariners . Reconstruction of bullpens, homeplates, mounds, base pits, turf repairs, etc… took place over a 38hour time frame due to the event constraints around the opening series…The guys worked in shifts from the crew but there were a few Yomuri warriors along with the grounds supervisors that worked straight through along with Chad-son an Murray-son. The dome is a slightly pressurized facility that helps support the roof membrane that covers the stadium. Built in 1988 on the old Velodrome site, you can still walk in the outfield and see the track railings. Every time you leave the park your ears pop from the pressure in the building.
This is our 5th time working in the “egg”. The staff has always been great and they recently made a few changes. The head groundskeeper Hoshimoto an his trusty assistant Suzuki retired last year after working 50+ years with yomuri giants and the Tokyo dome . They look like they are both 40! A true inspiration to sportsturf managers around the world. 50 years with one company! Hoshimoto was telling me about the earthquakes and how the dome was swaying last night. What’s cool is they promoted Tamba and Kohike from within showing consistency and loyalty to the young guys on the crew. The Dome is showing its age but at the sametime versatility to be able to host major events throughout the year similar to the rogers centre in toronto.
Going to be a fun event…i really like not having that big tarp to mess with!
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!
Big week for the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) Our conference starts this week in long beach ca. This will be my 25th year attending the conferences. Quiet a bit has changed and for the better. Great leadership and our industry staying true north with a vision to educate and share information about making sports fields safer and playable around the world has allowed our numbers to grow. When I started to become really involved with the association was in 1991, I think we had about 100 people show up at the conference in Vero beach. Now its in the thousands.
I have always enjoyed teaching and sharing what I have learned over the years in baseball. I recall sharing stories of my own turf problems and field issues with so many that its difficult to remember the number of times others shared their insight to make a project better or a field safer that i was involved with. It’s all about paying it forward. The expression “pay it forward” is used to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead. This conference is all about sharing ideas and learning new ones from others.
This past year we did several sports turf clinics around the world and this year we have a bit larger docket of clinics in the works. I believe we are up to 6 on paper. Dont want to let the cat out of the bag but they are all international. Its going to be a fun year with the MLB Opener in Japan, the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers and several new ballparks developing outside the USA. Looking forward to sharing those experiences and many others with everyone this year.
Hoping everyone has a great and prosperous new year.
In a great show of respect for Gary a group of MLB Groundskeepers selected a couple of sport turf industry greats in the trophy’s inaugural year. George Toma and Emil Bossard were announced as this years recipients for their outstanding contributions to the game and the sportsturf industry. I never had the pleasure of meeting Emil but have spent a little time with George over the years at conferences and turf events. He is a true inspiration to the world of groundskeeping. The Hall of fame committee members are Bill Deacon Mets, Trevor Vance and Justin Scott Royals, Bob Christofferson Mariners and Mark Razum Rockies.
To be considered for induction in the MLB Groundskeeper Hall of Fame, a person must have made a significant contribution to the sportsturf industry at the major league level and has not been employed full-time in the profession for at least 5 years.
Gary was one of the kindest people in the sportsturf industry. Always one to answer a question or talk about his field. He will be missed by many. Naming this award in his honor was truly an easy selection as it passed unanimously by the association members.
2011 was a busy year for STS. All Star GAmes in Taiwan, Panama’s BAseball World Cup, Field reviews and plans in Lagos de Moreno for the Pan Am games. On the homefront we were quite busy with the National MAll, ODP clubs SI Yanks, the Greenjackets etc… Now we prepare for 2012. Already quite a bit rolling with he MLB Opener in Japan and the World Baseball Classic Qualifier.
Gave a fun presentation at the IBAF Congress meeting in Dallas this month. We are working on a draft of the plan we hope to roll out the first of the year after we get approvals from IBAF and MLB.
Hoping everyone has a blessed Christmas. Also Glad to hear most of our troops are heading home from Iraq although there are quite a few still over in Afghanistan. Thoughts and prayers with them and their families.