Big League Tips on Field Maintenance
Crews from Seattle Parks & Recreation, City of Lakewood and Metro Parks Tacoma got tips on how to keep a playing field in top shape from one of the best grounds crews in Major League Baseball.
Seattle Mariners head groundskeeper Bob Christofferson and his team put on a field maintenance clinic at Safeco Field in conjunction with Baseball Tomorrow Fund, which provides grants for youth baseball and softball field renovation and construction.
Christofferson took some of the mystery out of what they do (stripes on the field are the result of the direction of the mower blades on the grass) and good naturedly dodged a few questions about how he helps ensure a “home field advantage” for the Mariners.
As beautiful as the field is to look at, Christofferson told the group “my number one job is the take care of the ballplayers’ needs. They don’t care about how green the grass is. They only care about how it plays.”
For example, he told them that groundskeepers work with the position players to make sure the conditions of the grass and the dirt are to their liking. One staff member, Tim Wilson, is the designated mound expert. “He talks to the pitchers before their starts, but mostly after, to make sure the mound conditions are just right,” said Christofferson. A good grounds crew will tailor the mound so that it matches up with each starter’s preferences and motion. Some guys like a soft landing. Some want it hard as a rock. The young pitchers, he says, don’t always know what they want, but with a veteran like Felix Hernandez, Christofferson says Wilson knows exactly how Felix wants it.
In addition to the finer points of the pitcher’s mound, the group got hands-on instruction on chalking, infield prep and fertilizer.
After the clinic, representatives from Baseball Tomorrow Fund presented a $10,000 check to Kennewick American Youth Baseball to help with the renovation of one of their fields at Canyon View Elementary school into a mini replica of Safeco Field. The project is in honor of Cooper Larson, who was a bat boy for a KAYB team. Cooper was just shy of his 5th birthday when he died of a non-operable form of brain cancer in 2008. Before he died, Cooper came to Safeco Field with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and met Raul Ibañez and other members of the Mariners team. He proudly wore his Kennewick Youth Baseball uniform that day.
Tim Doyle, Vice President of KAYB, says the grant will be a big help with the project, but they still have a ways to go to get to their fundraising goal. Plans for the project have been drawn up, the permits have been issued and they hope to start work soon so that the field can be ready for the new youth baseball season next spring.