Representatives from youth baseball and softball organizations from around the greater Seattle area got some “inside baseball” tips on how to keep their fields in Major League condition from one of the best grounds crews in MLB.
Mariners head groundskeeper Bob Christofferson and his crew led participants in a field maintenance clinic put on by Baseball Tomorrow Fund, an organization that provides grants to support youth baseball and softball programs.
Some 60 youth baseball/softball organization representatives started their afternoon at Safeco Field with a slide show, narrated by Christofferson, that gave insight into what it takes to keep a ballpark Major League-ready, followed by break-out groups to focus on such things as fertilizing, equipment and the pitcher’s mound.
Major League Baseball inspects to every field every-other-year, but Christofferson says he and his crew start every spring with a high-tech survey of Safeco Field. They laser-level home plate, measure the mound to make sure it’s regulation height and check to make sure the pitcher’s slab is 60-feet-six-inches from home, and that all the bases are the requisite 90-feet apart.
The mound, which is made of packed “Gator Gumbo” clay from the Mississippi River, is the purview of assistant groundskeeper Tim Wilson. Each spring, Wilson sets a new slab in the mound, burying it six-inches deep, and “packs the clay like asphalt” on the front slope of the mound. All season, Wilson works with the pitchers to make sure the mound is to his liking for every start.
To keep the field looking and playing its best, the crew will aerate twice a season (putting down some 15 tons of sand after each treatment), fertilize regularly, water and mow. In the middle of the season, when the team is home, the infield grass will be watered four times a day, and mowed twice on game days.
When the team is on the road, they “give the grass a break.” Crews will do what they call a “neutral mow” once a day without regard for the pattern in the grass. A few days before the start of a homestand, they’ll cut those precise patterns in the grass.
As for how the pattern appears, it’s all in the direction of the mower’s blades. Mowing in one direction will push the blades of grass down so they look lighter, and turning in the other direction makes it look darker.
Safeco Field’s infield grass was replaced a few years ago, but Christofferson notes that 80-percent of the sod is original from 1999, making it the oldest field in MLB. That’s testament to the expertise of Christofferson and his crew. A couple of years ago, they got a big assist with the arrival of some grow-lights from The Netherlands. From mid-February until April the lights are deployed daily, getting the grass in mid-season form by Opening Day. “We’re playing on June 1 grass on April 1,” says Christofferson.
One look at the lush, impossibly green grass of Safeco Field is evidence that Christofferson has earned his nickname, “The Sod Father.”
With the Toronto Blue Jays coming to town next week for one of the biggest 3-game series of the year, we wanted to update you on a new promotion that has just been added. On Monday night with Felix on the mound, the first 30,000 fans at the game will receive a yellow rally towel or as we’re calling it a “K cloth”.
In addition, we’re expecting a multi-tiered King’s Court on the Main, Terrace & View Levels. Tickets are on sale now in the Main & Terrace.
You can visit Mariners.com/kingscourt for ticket offers for the game.
Some 1,300 runners and walkers turned out at Safeco Field over the weekend for the Third Annual Refuse to Abuse 5K. The event raised $107,000 to benefit the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
This unique event is the only 5K that uses Safeco Field as its course. Participants wound their way around every level of the ballpark with a final lap around the warning track on the field.
The 5K builds on the 18-year partnership between the Mariners and the Coalition that resulted in the groundbreaking Refuse To Abuse® violence prevention campaign which helps raise awareness and gives community members a way to get involved in preventing domestic violence.
Here is a link to a feature that FOX Sports produced on food at three ballparks, Safeco Field, AT&T Park and Target Field. It features Ethan Stowell and MasterChef’s Graham Elliott. The piece has aired a few times on FOX Sports Live and a shorter version ran before the All-Star Game. Great to see Safeco Field’s great food featured on the national level. Enjoy!
The Mariners open a 8-game, 3-team homestand tonight with the first of three games vs. the New York Yankees. The Rangers (3 games, Friday-Sunday) and Interleague rival San Diego Padres (2 games, Monday-Tuesday) also visit Seattle during this homestand. Here are some fun events and promotions featured during this 8-game set:
For 14 years, Greg Holbron has pitched a tent on the sidewalk next to Safeco Field and spent a couple of nights in the cold to make sure he’s among the first fans to buy tickets for the upcoming Mariners season.
Mind you, he’s not after the best, closest seat to home plate. Holbron makes the trek from Tri-Cities and sleeps on concrete for bleacher seats.
“I’m happy with the centerfield bleachers. It’s a good seat and it’s cost effective for a family, and a good view,” he said.
Holbron is joined in this exercise of “Super-Fandom” by Tom Nostrant, a retired middle school math teacher from Aberdeen, who has been camping out for Mariners tickets for 12 years.
Both Holbron and Nostrant realize that they can buy tickets online or at Ticketmaster Ticket Centers closer to home, but they like saving the service charges by buying in person, and Holbron thinks he gets better seats.
“When I’m at the window, I can get the seat I want. When I’m on Ticketmaster, I can only tell them the section, and it thinks for a little bit, “What about these seats?” I know they’re not the best available and I say “No.” And it thinks for another minute or so. Meantime, other people are buying tickets,” explains Holbron.
Nostrant agrees that saving the service charge, along with the high-touch customer service at the Safeco Field ticket office are important. Plus, “It’s fun. Besides Greg and some of his friends, you see the same people every year. It’s kind of a little community,” Nostrant says.
By Thursday morning, two days before single game tickets go on sale for the 2014 season, both Holbron and Nostrant had pitched their small tents on the sidewalk next to the ballpark along 1st Avenue, set up folding chairs, stowed their coffee carafes and cooler of snacks, and fired up a portable heater.
Nostrant says he and Holbron have learned a thing or two over the years about how to survive their urban campout.
“Bring warm things, and when we came across propane heating, that was a bonus. Just be prepared for wet, windy and cold,” said Nostrant.
While their accommodations aren’t ideal (road noise, lights, and sleeping bags on concrete), they came prepared (earplugs, eye masks, air mattresses and pillows), and both Holbron, who takes vacation from his job at the Columbia Generating Station near Richland, and Nostrant, who’s retired, have plenty to do while they wait.
Nostrant has some travel books to help plan an upcoming trip to Amsterdam, and Holbron has downloaded “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” (four full-length novels and 56 short stories) to his Nook ereader.
Both say they look forward to the experience every year, and they get bragging rights that they will be #1 and #2 at the Safeco Field box office when 2014 single game tickets go on sale at 10 am Saturday, March 8.
It’s the annual Select-A-Seat Weekend, and here’s how it works. All seats that are available for season tickets are color-coded (red for full season, blue for weekend, yellow for half-season and white for business plans). Once you find a spot you like, stop by the Select-A-Seat headquarters at Edgar’s Home Run Porch (Main Concourse) or near Sec. 128 (Main Concourse) to speak to a Mariners season ticket representative.
Seats available for 16 Game Plans have tags and information about the plan options that are available at each location. Just take the tag with you to the Select-A-Seat HQ.
Speaking of tickets, there will be a special FanFest presale of Opening Night tickets this weekend. From 10am Saturday until 11:59 pm Monday, you can buy tickets to the Mariners home opener against the Los Angeles Angels on April 8th. Tickets will be available online at mariners.com/tickets, at the Safeco Field Box Office and at Mariners Team Stores (downtown Seattle, Bellevue Square, Southecenter and Alderwood Mall). After the presale, Opening Night tickets will once again be available on March 8 when all single game tickets go on sale to the public.
For everything you need to know about Select-A-Seat, click here.
We are ready at Safeco Field for a big weekend of football as our neighbors host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game at Centurylink Field.