Results tagged ‘ Montreal Expos ’
Built in 1962 for the Atlanta braves and eventually home for the Montreal expos…twice, this complex became the training grounds for a lot of growth in our baseball industry and it is still yielding some interesting facts from the 90’s. Many may not know but this (now demolished) complex was actually the first dual use spring training venue to be used by two MLB organizations. The Braves had use of the main stadium and 4 fields and the Expos had use of 2 fields and 2 half fields. Both MLB teams changed in the stadium so everyday the Expos would have to walk by the Braves as they practiced on the main field and head back to the “backfields”. We also had FSL West Palm Beach Expos, 4 instructional leagues, fantasy camps, high school sports, concerts, etc.. It was fun managing the complex between 1988-1996. Many past employees that were with these clubs during the 90’s call it the glory years for the braves & expos organizations. I guess if you look at the past couple years of HOF editions : Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux, Martinez, Randy Johnson and Bobby Cox it makes sense.
What I find amazing today is not only did this spring training site start a trend for numerous other dual team spring training sites in AZ but it was also a GM maker. I’m talking about between 1989 and 1996 when the braves and expos were both considered the hottest teams in the national league. The molding of past and current GM’s and asst GM’s during this era is somewhat mind-boggling. Just a sampling of current and recent GM’s from both organizations that came out of West Palm Beach during that short 7 year time-frame included good friends like- Dave Dombrowski, Bill Stoneman, Dan Duquette, Neal Huntington, Bill Gievett, Frank Wren. John Schuerholz, Dayton Moore, Kevin Malone, Omar Minaya, Jim Beattie, Chuck Lamar, Dean Taylor. I’m sure I probably left out a few others and there were numerous Assistant GM’s that came out of WPB too. …And we can’t forget about the All-star scouting directors/farm directors like Gary Hughes, Paul Snyder, Ed Creech, Kent Qualls, etc…
i recall The competition between these two teams during ST was fierce during those years. They saw each other everyday and played each other more times than they wanted to but in the end…based on the careers of some the GM’s , players and the success of the clubs they were better for it.
The new natural grass sport complex being developed in Amsterdam is really taking shape. Congrats to the City of Haarlemmermeer / Hoofddorp and the Pioneers Club team. The construction of the mound and home plates are almost complete and the sand based root zone is being installed. Chad Olsen is also proofing the finish grade this week before seeding the bluegrass blend. Looking back on the planning process of this project provided some interesting thoughts. I’ve been asked a few times by some of my peers as to why they didn’t go with synthetic grass. After all, here is a country that sees a lot of rain and cloud cover as well as low temps and they have a short outdoor sports season. However, its a question I could see coming from folks. The Grass /turf selection was discussed extensively and through a few testimonials from dutch horticulturists and local sportsturf managers, we stayed the course with natural grass. It was the right choice for many reasons, but the municipality needed to collect accurate information to justify the decision.
The Dutch grow some of the most beautiful plant material in the world. The ground and soils are designed for agriculture and the culture embraces nature and a natural lifestyle. The land of bicycles , the windmills for energy are abundant, garden after beautiful garden criss-cross the countryside and recreational athletic fields are managed at a very high level. I could go on and on about this forward thinking country. The streets are clean of trash, all the common ground areas are free of weeds/high grass and the landscaping is well-kept. Bottom line, the deciding factor to go with natural grass was due to the country having a huge appreciation for maintaining things as well as the drive to develop a state of the art playing surface for their baseball and softball community.
Over the years I have had the chance to work at a few great places. Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando was one of them. The complex was programmed and designed to be open 365 days a year. Ive heard the question a couple times as to why we didn’t consider going with synthetic turf. One of the reasons… Reggie Williams , the VP of Sport for Disney was a former NFL Bengals football player and had spent many years playing on synthetic turf which he was not a big fan of at the time. We all followed his lead and designed the fields and event management system with the ability to host multiple events. For example we were able to host 1500 baseball games in a 6 week slot during the heat of summer. We proved that natural grass could sustain extremely high use if the fields were designed and maintained properly. The fact that Disney has a culture of maintaining things at a high level also helped with planning the maintenance operations.
When you are building that new ballpark or field, do your homework before selecting a playing surface whether it be synthetic or natural. Both have pros and cons, Many of you have played on both good and bad surfaces. It may appear to be an easy financial choice but in the long run when you weigh all the facts, there really isn’t a major cost savings when you compare both surfaces. For many years I have managed the baseball field at Hiram bithorn stadium in Puerto Rico for multiple MLB games. It’s a synthetic surface and the staff, equipment and products we use are equal to managing a professional natural grass baseball field. The turf was replaced in 2004 for a new in-fill turf product and since this was the Montreal Expos home ground they wanted to keep it similar to what they had at Olympic stadium. The City of San Juan has struggled with budgets like many around the world making it tough to justify field maintenance over police protection. After 8 years of moderate use, the turf is ready to be replaced/renovated and either option is an expensive process.
Some countries take the “synthetic turf needs less maintenance” pitch to the extreme which is unfortunate. I’ve seen neglected turf fields that need to be replaced after just a few of years of use because they were not groomed properly. Maintenance is key to any surface selected. The playing surface selection process should also be based on how the community views cultural practices and if they have the capacity, resources or ability to maintain either surface at a safe level. If you are thinking about changing out your field do your homework about all the different options. Reach out to your local natural grass professionals or contact the STMA (www.stma.org) for up to date info on some of the new varieties of turfgrass. At the end of the day I’m hoping you can “keep it real” !
Over 80% of the game of baseball is played on the infield, which is why the infield clay is one of the most important components of the field.
Recently, I have received a couple of emails asking the question, What is the infield clay really made of? In layman terms, it is composed of three materials. Sand, clay and silt. The tougher question is what are the percentages of the content of each material, and the particle size of the sand. The composition is the true science of the infield clay even though the daily maintenance performed on these fields at a higher level is sometimes considered more of an “art”. Most companies that provide ball diamond mix state they have a something like a 60%-70% sand ….20%to 30% clay and 10% to 20% silt. Most infield clays and baseline clays are about 5 inches deep. Bellow that there is a level of sand and pea gravel on the big league fields.
As a general rule of thumb this distribution makes sense, but the key factor is the sand particle size which comes in numerous variations from “gravel” to “very very fine”, Angular and round and so on. Separate tests are performed on the infield clay mixture to determine the sizes and distributions of materials as well as the percolation rates which give you an idea on how it may drain or dry out. Normally infield clays do not drain very well and are not really supposed to depending on the level of field you have. You can obtain pretty much any type of blend you want from numerous clay companies. The geographic location and your budget will drive your selection to the material you can obtain.
When I worked for the City of West Palm Beach managing the spring training facility for the Atlanta Braves and the Montreal Expos we used a higher sand base 75% sand 15% clay 10% silt with a medium course level sand that allowed the rain to pass through the infield clay a little easier. These days I use a more stable clay with a analysis of 40% clay 50% sand and 10-20 silt. This is a real heavy mix but can take a ton of abuse. Where you live and how much the field is used also drives the decision on the type of infield clay you may have.
Everyone that has been to a professional game notices the time the crew takes on dragging and watering the infield clay before the game. The key to a good infield and making it a great one is how you manage the moisture level in the clay. Kind of like the Goldilocks & the three bears nursery rhyme ” not to hot, not to cold, etc…your infield clay needs to hold the right amount of moisture to not be to soft, to dry, to hard or to moist. Companies now manufacture a material which is known in the industry as a soil conditioner. It is applied to the top of the infield to help control moisture. These materials are sometimes called, “Diamond Pro” , “Turface”, “Terra green” , “Pros Choice” etc…they are basically a calcined clay heated to a very high temperature and sized and colored to your liking.
Maintaining the infield’s moisture level requires consistent monitoring and maintenance. Coaches and players are continually giving you feedback on the condition of the infield helping you determine where you need to be with the moisture and maintenance methods used. Based on the weather, climate, time of year and even the team that is on the field, your maintenance of the clay could change a little on any given day. Its one of the most unknown interactions in professional sports. That’s why they sometimes call the groundskeeper the 10th man on the team!