IAmA Baseball Groundskeeper, Spring Training is coming up soon, so AMA
I posted a couple pictures about a year ago and got a huge response, then followed it up with an AMA shortly afterwards, and with spring training coming up quickly and my schedule about to get packed, today I figured I would do another AMA, heres a link to my original post http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/nv2cz/hey_reddit_i_work_on_baseball_fields_have_mowed/
Bad hops more often come from a divot in the infield dirt from a cleat, the reason groundscrews do a 3rd and 6th inning drag is to remove as many of these footprints as possible, and we work the whole skin the same, however the first base area gets rolled more often to keep its compaction as that area gets the most wear in our infields due to more players reaching first than third
On Opening Day last year at U.S. Cellular Field the grounds crew put the batters box 6-8" too close to the mound. Is this type of error/incompetence common?? It seemed pretty ridiculous that an MLB grounds crew was unable to get the batters-box right..
My guess is they knew what they were doing when they placed it to close to try to give them an advantage, however the person doing the box may have been new and just had it backwards which would cause the box to sit about that much closer to the mound, however at the MLB level this person should have known better and just did it anyways, if i remember correctly this was against the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera said something about it...?
Speaking of this incident, who do you believe is the best head groundskeeper in the MLB?
Many believe it's Rodger Bossard, the head groundskeeper for the White Sox. He designed the irrigation and drainage systems for most of the current MLB parks, including SinisterMidgets oh so beloved Comerica Park.
My personal favorite is Dave Mellor Red Sox head groundskeeper, Bossard did great things, Mellor is the guy that started mowing the crazy patterns
How would it give them an advantage? Wouldn't the opposing team's pitchers have the same advantage once they switched?
Sure, but if you are doing little things that alter the play and only your teams player knows about it, the slight change could effect his play
I want this job. How do I get it?
Well if you live in Arizona or Florida spring training is right around the corner, and most places are hiring part time workers for the season, look around, drop the head groundskeeper of your home team an email asking if he has gameday staff positions available, you might get stuck with the grunt work at first, but if you are interested and show that you enjoy the work most of them will start to expand your knowledge, if you are super serious go to college and get a Sports Turf degree, this is a science and knowing the science helps a ton
How much do you dread rainy April game days? It looks miserable having to put that tarp down in the middle of a summer deluge, but having to do that in a cold April rain must suck ten-fold!
When I worked at Great Lakes in the minors we pulled the tarp everyday for the first month of the season, needless to say that thing is heavy as shit, and when its full of water its even heavier, it.sucks.bad.
I'm sure this has been asked millions of times...
How do you get the grass to have two, or three, different shades? Are rollers used? Is the grass cut at different heights? From different directions?
Rollers are used, we have them behind the reels on our mowers, all grass is cut at the same height to ensure an even playing surface, light colored lines are mowed going away from the viewer, dark lines are mowed going towards the viewer, patterns are made by crossing the mow lines at different points
Dunno if you're still answering, but I see all these patterns and I understand that they mow the lines in different directions, but how do they do the arch in the outfield at Busch stadium? It's a uniform color but not a linear shape. Is it just freehand or is there some sort of precise measuring device they use to mow it? It boggles my mind
probably just freehand mowed, some more intricate stuff is done with hoses and stencils for example when the Mets had the all-star game they did the city scape in the outfield, they most likely mowed the whole outfield one direction then put the stencil down and used a hose to lay the rest of the grass down a different direction
What do you do in the offseason? How old are you? Went to college?
We have no offseason at the spring training complex we have a team there all year, im 27 and went to college for something entirely different
Are you happy with the decision you made to pursue this even though you didn't study it in college? Any regrets?
Love it, couldnt ask for a better job, I love the game, played the game and continue to be involved with the game
How significantly does team strategy come into play for groundskeeping? (i.e. keeping infield grass long, using lots of chalk on third base line, etc.) What are some other tricks groundskeepers use to help their team get an edge?
Infield grass length varies from place to place, it is up to the owner or GM as to the length of the cut, adding more chalk to one line is pretty tough as you dont really change the amount of chalk you put down from one line to another, plus a lot of team are switching to paint on the lines instead of chalk, other things we can do is water the front of a plate very heavy if you have a groundball pitcher pitching to deaden ground balls and other little tricks.
Wouldn't it actually be better to keep using chalk? It seems like chalk is often a great indicator to the umpires whether a ball was fair or foul as chalk will fly up and a mark will be left when it hits the line. Wouldn't it be better to stick to chalk until baseball starts using instant replay for this sort of thing?
I prefer chalk to paint, but some use paint because they think it pops better on TV, but with replay on fair or foul now who the hell needs chalk, i kid i kid
Wait we have replay for fair and foul now? When did that happen? Or is that one of the new ones for 2014?
pretty sure thats one of the new ones
Do you know about the bossard family? How often do grounds keepers alter the field for their team?
Happens all the time, the trick is not letting the fans know about it, but softening the ground in front of homeplate is commonplace these days, we call it the pit, its wet as hell and balls die in it, plus i think it looks badass
we call it the pit, its wet as hell and balls die in it
Reminds me of my ex.
I like it, will be sure to use that sometime in the near future
How long is your typical day? How long is a rainy day?
In the minor leagues my day started at 7am and I worked til 11pm for gamedays, a rainy day is the same, unless the game gets cancelled then we go to the bar... cause what else is there to do when it rains
Do you have be baddest lawn on the block? Or is it like the saying, "The Cobbler's son has no shoes."?
I have no grass at my house, I take care of enough of it at work as it is, rock lawn in Arizona for the win!
How much do you make?
Currently I make 32,000 a year, but Im not a head of a major league team, I work for the Cincinnati Reds @ their spring training facility
Went down to Goodyear for a week last year and am doing it again here in March. Thanks for doing your part in contributing to a great ballpark experience down there. Hopefully this is the year the Redlegs get back to the tippy top.
woo go Reds :)
we need a world series!
I sometimes hear that the bullpen mounds are a different height or slope than the mound on the playing field. Is this some kind of strategy? Or is it just difficult to make them the same?
That on a major league level is a myth, all mounds are 10inches above homeplate, and slope 1 inch down per foot from the rubber, these are major league standards and are inspected by the major leagues throughout the year
What's the best way to get a field back to "playable" after a heavy rain?
Hopefully you had it tarped :D, if you didnt, what I do is open up the infield dirt by scoring it, we use a nail drag or rakes, the more you work the material and get some air in there the quicker it dries, if that doesnt work we add some infield conditioner which is basically like kitty litter without the smell to absorb moisture
To what extent do you add the turface vs turning over the dirt more?
I sometimes got the feeling that I was playing on a turface field rather than a dirt one.
Turface is always on the infield skin, ALWAYS, the entire surface area of the skin should be turface, this maintains the moisture and allows some give on the skin so the ball isnt bouncing directly on the infield dirt which can cause hard hops, so yes the clay infield is covered entirely with turface so wherever you were playing, they were doing it right
Awesome, thanks for the info!
What's the makeup of the infield mix you use, as in what are the percentages of sand, silt, and clay?
At our Little League field the infield mix gets rock hard in the sun and it takes a lot of maintenance to keep it playable. Would adding sand to our mix help it stay looser? Anything else we could do to keep it softer?
the stuff we use now is 70/15/15, to keep it softer make sure you are putting enough water into the skin, and nail drag it to remove some compaction, adding sand is not something i would do
I guess I was hoping for some magic bullet because we have trouble getting enough volunteers to water and drag the field before every game. Thanks for answering my question!
its tough, but its the only way, by adding sand you will screw up the chemistry of the infield mix, straight sand will turn the skin into a loose dusty mess
Have you met any Giants players?
A lot of their minor league guys but not a lot of major league guys
How did you come to working this job? As a former player and huge fan of baseball , I can imagine this job is one of those you can truly say you love to do. I envy you
The minor league team by my college needed interns, I applied, got the groundscrew internship and the rest is history
Do the managers ever let you and the boys play ball with them? That would be a great experience.
We get to hit BP every once in a while
What do you think about them Blue Jays?
I think the moves they made are gonna put them right in the mix in the AL East, that division is stacked and they were right in the mix already, the Yankees have been shaky, the Red Sox seem lost, the Rays are always solid but did nothing really in the offseason and the Orioles are the Orioles maybe they will repeat what they did last year or maybe they will fall off the face of the earth
Do you have any opinion on the controversy surrounding Fedex Field during the Redskins playoff game? I know its a different sport, but it was a pretty big story in groundskeeping circles, I would imagine.
Well its a tough spot, you want the field as safe as possible, however that weather is just tough, grass doesnt grow when its 10 degrees outside, should they have resodded the field, probably, however that would cost them some serious cash, and where is the sod going to come from, you need it now and that would have to be shipped from a location in warm weather, a groundskeepers main job is to maintain a safe playing surface, so I feel bad for them getting the blame for it, however they brought it upon themselves by not resodding the field or taking other steps to ensure the playing surface was safe.
Are you familiar with what they do in Green Bay? Do you think this should be standard for cold weather climates?
yes, either add heating or go artificial, the new Twins stadium is where its at, they have a heating system buried beneath the field its state of the art badass shit that groundskeepers only dreamed of before
- I'm guessing that this is a very seasonal job (especially at the minor league level.) What do you groundskeepers do in the off season?
- Do you guys (and gals) get paid extra if a game goes into extra innings and you have to stay?
- What do you consider to be the MLB ballpark with the nicest playing field?
- If you could work at any ballpark, what would it be?
- What gets more attention, dirt or grass?
You find another job in the offseason, but as i stated before we dont have an offseason so I work year round
If you are paid hourly I guess you can say you get paid more
Nicest playing field I think is Petco or Angel Stadium
I would love to work @ Yankee Stadium
Dirt and Grass get the same amount of love
Thanks! I just realized the earlier question where you talk about salary, so I guess that negates the extra innings question.
If I may follow up: Why Yankee stadium? Do you like the Yankees, the prestige/history associated with the team, or something specific about that stadium?
Thanks for doing this!
That new stadium just looks awesome, and those guys on the groundscrew do some great things, getting a field ready for a packed Yankee crowd would be amazing
Is there a groundskeepers union, and do they lobby against domes?
Certain teams have unions, the Mets are union for example, and I wouldnt lobby against domes, i would lobby against artificial turf :D
Is A-Rod the most hated player in MLB?
I wouldnt know
How cool, from your perspective, was the move the Phillies pulled when they helped the Colorado grounds crew hold down the tarp a few years ago?
Ill take all the help i can get with that tarp when its windy and raining, cool move by them for sure
What is the point of the dirt strip from home to the mound in some parks?
And seriously, wtf is up with the hill in center field at the Astros park?
Mostly curious about the point of the dirt track or whatever between home and the mound in some parks.
the area between the mound and the plate is a huge wear area, I assume some teams just like the look, but it also reduces some maintenance around this area as well
Ryan Braun is known for leaving a huge teardrop-shaped patch of wear in the outfield because of the way he paces around. It gets bigger as the season goes on.
Would that annoy you? Are Milwaukee's groundskeepers letting it stay that way, or is his pacing causing damage that can only be fixed in the off-season? It disappears at the end of every season.
Does it annoy me yes, can we do anything about it, not really, that wear area happens pretty much everywhere, some in more places than others, you can always resod it during a road trip but that rarely happens unless it gets extremely bad, resodding an infield is one thing as that directly effects groundballs and what not, but a wear area in an outfield is more likely to be left for a while, and replaced when only absolutely needed, another way to look at it, if there were no wear areas i wouldnt have a job, job security bro i need people to trash it so i get paid to fix it
I have season tickets right behind the rightfielder @ Coors field. I've noticed through the years the same kind of wear patterns, and they NEVER get fixed during the season.
How does the grounds crew deal with the mounds of seeds and gum that these sloppy ass OF's spit all over the place? Please tell me that some poor intern doesn't get stuck picking that up by hand...
Some places have a shred n vac which is basically a backpack blower that sucks instead of blows, but yea the intern is gonna be doing that, and if they dont have a shred n vac you best believe they are picking that up by hand, or raking and shoveling it, however i would probably make em do it by hand the first time to initiate them :p
What do they do with the spring trainign fields during the rest of the year? I go to Arizona every year and I'm so curious if they just sit there. Do high school/college teams use them? I heard a rumor that tehs Alt RIver field can be used as a drive-in theatre. Thanks for your hardwork that I'm sure goes unappreciated.
We have highschool tourneys on them, the teams have their rookie ball teams playing at the facility most of the year, as well as extended spring training, short season ball, and rehabbing players all use the facility, the Reds have a team here from Spring Training til late October
How big is the learning curve when it comes to mowing the patterns? There's no way it's easy to perfectly align everything.
It takes a lot of practice to get the spacing down, and to keep the lines straight, I was say it took me about a month of mowing everyday to get to the point where i felt comfortable mowing the more complex patterns
How do you typically go about putting designs onto the infield and outfield grass? Is it all a matter of the way its cut or is some kind of paint or dye involved?
its about the way it is cut, the answer is somewhere above
Outside of Groundskeeping, are you a baseball fan?
Who do you think will make a surprise this season? AL Champion? NL Champion? Who is your World Series pick?
Thanks! Enjoy the season!
Baseball is my life, love the sport, AL Champ Angels, NL Champ better be the REDS! Surprise this season Blue Jays
Are the Jays going to be that much of a surprised based on what they've done to the roster?
i supposed, but they are still the Blue Jays
you might have answered this already but what organization do you work for?
Yea i remember him when he played in the AZL
What did you go to college for?
Waht fields have you worked on?
Great Lakes Loon Dayton Dragons Goodyear Ballpark
oh a minor league team i assume?
yes the first 2 are
Oh i though that was teh full name what teams play at each field?
The Loons are the Dodgers affiliate, Dayton is the Reds Affiliate, Goodyear Ballpark is the home of the Reds development complex we have all the reds teams there at one point or another from Low A to Major Leaguers
Tons of questions!
What's the biggest field disaster that you've seen?
How big is your standard crew?
Do you have like a rotating part time crew?
If you absolutely had to how long would it take to re-sod a field?
Does the grass type vary by field?
How many hours of maintenance does your standard field need per day?
How is the field serviced during long road trips?
edit: for formatting
Biggest Disaster, San Fran during that game when it rained last year in the playoffs, they trashed that field, they had to remove almost an inch of dirt and replace it afterwards because it was so wet and they had to play on it again 2 days later, the umps should have delayed that game but didnt
Standard crew for a Major League team is 4 to 5 full time staff and some part time help, if they have a tarp crew that could consist of 20+ part time staff
To resod an entire field it would take around a week depending on the amount of help, if you have a lot of help it could take a couple days
Grass type does vary field to field, cooler climates its probably kentucky bluegrass and rye mixed, warm season areas its most like Bermuda in the summer and rye in the winter
Hours of maintenance varies daily, depending on need and use, Id say 5 hours on average
We play catch up, edge the infield, re level mounds and plates, mow a new pattern if you wanna switch it, re sod areas, the list is huge
How long does it take to create those logos/designs on the fields
Maybe an hour or 2 depending on the complexity, i usually draw them out on paper first
What's the hardest one you had to design/create?
We did a Star on the infield for a minor league all star game, took me 3 hours to mow it the first time, and sucked, but in the end it looked badass, i dont have any pictures of it unfortunately
Do you use stencils for them?
I do not, all mine are freehanded
Wow. I always thought it was just some huge stencil type thing or a stamp. Would this work on any type of grass? Would I be able to put the family crest on my front lawn?
if you bought a stencil and had a hose with enough pressure, sure
I think they did a great job, thats the day your field is on display for the world to see, and they showed everyone what was up
Do you work in the East Valley or West Valley (AZ)? Thank you for keeping the grounds beautiful. I love baseball with a passion and I cannot wait for spring training. Who's your fav baseball team? I'm a huge fan of the Red Sox.
West Valley, and I dont really have a favorite team, my team is my fantasy baseball team, I get MLB.TV and watch every game i can
A few questions:
1: I worked on a golf course for a summer, and mowing straight lines is NOT easy, how do you get such straight lines?
2: Do you have a college degree for this, like turf management or something?
3: What advice would you give to someone possibly looking into this line of work?
I pick a point in the distance, stare it the whole time and dont look away, try to drive or walk right at it.
No but I plan to go back and get one in Turf
Try to get your foot in the door, work part-time get to know the job that way, then work your ass off improving every day and always ask questions if you dont understand why a task is being done a certain way, there is a method to our madness
You said you liked both angel stadium and petco parks grass....my 2 preferred parks because I live near angel stadium and I go to SD for a few games a year. Its funny you mentioned your arizona rock lawn, there was an interview in the local paper with the angels grounds keeper and he has artificial turf with a putting green because he mows grass all day!
What is the surface under the grass like? typical dirt or something special? With events like monster trucks and supercross or even concerts, what is the process like to put down new grass?
We are sand based, so under the grass is sand for 4 inches, then under that is p-gravel for an inch, then you hit the native soil, when you put new sod down its as simple as cut the old grass out, backfill the hole with any lost sand so it stays level, and put the sod piece back in the hole, put some sand in the seams and roll it to ensure its flat and level
what do you do to prevent weeds or anything else from coming up through the sand from the native soil? from bare sand how long until you are at a playable field?
we spray a pre-emergent down for weeds, its rare you go from straight sand to a field, its usually sod for a first install, however, it could also be sprigs which is kinda like a hydro seed you spray, with sprigs its about 2-3 months depending on weather conditions
I just have to comment, Thanks for doing this. I have worked grounds crew at a Diamondbacks minor league and stadium maintenance for the Billings Mustangs (reds minor league). Go Reds, Go Mustangs and most of all Go Grounds Crew! Would love to keep doing it.
The manager for billings Pat Kelly is a real cool dude, one of the nicest managers in the organization
what is the most difficult part about getting a baseball diamond ready for game time?
getting the right amount of moisture in the infield, it cant be too wet and it cant be dry, it has to be perfect and maintain that moisture as long as possible throughout the game
When you swap the bases between innings, how do you clean the dirty ones? Do players appreciate your work? (They should, I play baseball and hate shitty fields) Are dugouts in your responsibility too?
We use a product called Bleach White on the bases to clean them off, scrub brushes and hot water, and the players do give us props, its nice to hear when you get to hear it for sure
How do you spray team logos etc on the field? Do you use stencils for that?
Yea Stencils and paint for that, its kinda like a connect the dots after the stencil then fill in the lines
Does a "bad hop" come more often from uneven groundwork?
Is there any difference in how you work on first base and third base?
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