Big League field maintenance tips from “The Sod Father”

Mariners Head Groundskeeper Bob Christofferson shares his field maintenance knowledge with youth baseball/softball representatives.

Mariners Head Groundskeeper Bob Christofferson shares his field maintenance knowledge with youth baseball/softball representatives.

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.

Assistant Groundskeeper Tim Wilson, who is the mound pro, offers tips on how to build and maintain a pitcher’s mound.

Assistant Groundskeeper Tim Wilson, who is the mound pro, offers tips on how to build and maintain a pitcher’s mound.

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.”

Assistant Groundskeeper Leo Liebert explains the different equipment needed to keep a field in top condition.

Assistant Groundskeeper Leo Liebert explains the different equipment needed to keep a field in top condition.

Mariners Game Central – August 22 at Red Sox

08.22.14 Lineup

Game #127: Seattle Mariners (68-58) at Boston Red Sox (56-71) | 7:10 pm ET/4:10 pm PT | Fenway Park
Starting Pitchers: RHP Felix Hernandez (13-4, 1.99) vs. RHP Joe Kelly (0-1, 5.29)
Radio: KTTH 770 and the Mariners Radio Network…also on Mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on ROOT SPORTS
Live Stats: MLB Gameday will provide a live box score with pitch-by-pitch data
Game Information: Mariners | Red Sox | Mariners-Red Sox History

Mid-Season Report | Standings | Roster | 2014 Media Guide | Mariners Game Notes | 2014 Schedule
Social Media: From the Corner of Edgar & Dave | Instagram | @Mariners | @LosMarineros | Facebook

Felix

Here is today’s Game Information:

Mariners Podcasts

Mariners-Podcasts

We’ve linked to a few of the Mariners Podcasts on this blog before, but now the daily audio recaps have a home via Mariners.com.

The official Seattle Mariners Podcast features programs that take a daily and long-range look at Mariners baseball.

Seattle Mariners Baseball:  Game highlights, analysis, exclusive interviews and previews, hosted Gary Hill.

MLB.com Extras: Beat reporters join national correspondents to take a look ahead at the developing story lines latest news.

Listen to or download single episodes below, subscribe via iTunes or use your RSS reader so you never miss an episode.

An Off Day For Charity

Cano vs Sabathia

The Mariners will have an off day tomorrow before opening a three-game series vs. the Boston Red Sox Friday at Fenway Park, and a few players will spend it raising money for charity. A host of Mariners will be in New York City for a charity basketball game held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Robinson Cano and CC Sabathia will serve as captains of teams in the Roc Nation Summer Classic Charity Basketball game. Proceeds from the event  will benefit Cano’s and Sabathia’s charities: RC22 Foundation and PitCCh In Foundation.

Mariners expected to be at the event, but not playing basketball, will be Felix Hernandez, Kendrys Morales, Fernando Rodney, Yoervis Medina, Jesus Sucre, Roenis Elias and Endy Chavez. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and scouting director Tom McNamara are also scheduled to be at the event to help support Robinson’s charitable efforts.

Here is an article on the game provided by MLB.com’s Cut4:

Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano has faced his former Yankee teammate CC Sabathia three times this season and failed to reach first base on any of those occasions. But on Thursday, Cano has the chance to finally get a leg up on Sabathia … on the basketball court.

Those two will square off as part of the Roc Nation Summer Classic Charity Basketball game held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The two MLB All-Stars will be joined by a team of celebs and NBA and MLB players in a competition that includes a basketball game, a three-point contest and a slam dunk showcase.

Cano’s team will feature honorary team captain Kevin Durant, as well as fellow Mariners Felix Hernandez, Endy Chavez, Kendrys Morales, Fernando Rodney, Yoervis Medina, Jesus Sucre and Roenis Elias. They’ll be joined by others such as Fabolous and DJ Khaled.

Sabathia will line up alongside his team captain Carmelo Anthony and Yankees Derek Jeter and Dellin Betances. Filling out the roster are NBA players JR Smith and Rudy Gay, as well as other celebs including Ne-Yo, Tiki Barber and Vinny Guadagnino of Jersey Shore fame.

Tickets are available here, and all proceeds from the event will go to Cano’s and Sabathia’s charities: RC22 Foundation and PitCCh In Foundation.

PLAY Campaign with the Mariners

Pitcher Charlie Furbush leads kids through sprints during a PLAY Campaign event at Safeco Field.

Pitcher Charlie Furbush leads kids through sprints during a PLAY Campaign event at Safeco Field.

A group of kids from the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club got a rare treat on Tuesday – the chance to play on the grass at Safeco Field with members of the Seattle Mariners.

The kids were invited to take part in the annual PLAY campaign designed to help kids establish healthy exercise and eating habits early in life.

PLAY stands for Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth. It’s a national public awareness campaign sponsored by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), the Taylor Hooton Foundation and MLB Charities.

Mariners players Charlie Furbush, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino were joined by members of the Mariners training staff to deliver a message about the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle, as well as making good decisions about things such as performance enhancing drugs.

Mariners pitcher Charlie Furbush, who was assisting with his second PLAY event, admitted to the kids that he was a “big fan of video games” when he was their age. Growing up in Maine, he said, there wasn’t much else to do in the winter. But when the weather was nice, he and his friends would “ride our bikes, go for a walk, climb trees, play sports, just get outside as much as we could.”

The kids also got some good advice about steroids and performance enhancing drugs from Damien Martinez of the Taylor Hooton Foundation. Hooton was a high school baseball player in Texas who took steroids to get bigger and stronger. Martinez explained to the kids that one of the many side effects of the illegal drugs is depression. Hooton, he said, committed suicide at the age of 17.

Catcher Mike Zunino helps kids navigate an agility trial at a PLAY Campaign event at Safeco Field.

Catcher Mike Zunino helps kids navigate an agility trial at a PLAY Campaign event at Safeco Field.

Martinez held the kids attention as he talked about the many ways steroids are bad for their growing bodies, causing everything from acne to heart attacks. The kids giggled then grew serious as he related how the human body can convert testosterone to estrogen, causing boys to start “developing female parts,” and causing their “male parts to shrink.”

Martinez told the kids that not only is taking performance enhancing drugs cheating, it’s very dangerous, “and in Taylor Hooton’s case, it was fatal.”

After the presentations, the players were joined on field by three members of the Mariners training staff, Rick Griffin, Rob Nodine and Matt Thoth, who led the kids through a series of exercises – stretches and warmups, sprints and agility drills.

The kids got to burn off some energy, got autographs from the players and signed a pledge to stay healthy, active and drug-free. They also got a healthy lunch, courtesy of Mariners corporate partner SUBWAY.

In addition to information about healthy lifestyles, kids at the PLAY Campaign event at Safeco Field got autographs from Kyle Seager and teammates.

In addition to information about healthy lifestyles, kids at the PLAY Campaign event at Safeco Field got autographs from Kyle Seager and teammates.

Mariners Game Central – August 20 at Phillies

08.20.14 Lineup

Game #126: Seattle Mariners (68-57) at Philadelphia Phillies (55-71) | 1:05 pm ET/10:05 am PT | Citizens Bank Park
Starting Pitchers: LHP James Paxton (3-0, 2.20) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (6-6, 2.44)
Radio: ESPN 710 Seattle and the Mariners Radio Network…also on Mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on ROOT SPORTS
Live Stats: MLB Gameday will provide a live box score with pitch-by-pitch data
Starting Lineups: Starting lineups will be posted on MarinersMedia.com and Twitter when they become available
Game Information: Mariners | Phillies | Mariners-Phillies History

Mid-Season Report | Standings | Roster | 2014 Media Guide | Mariners Game Notes | 2014 Schedule
Social Media: From the Corner of Edgar & Dave | Instagram | @Mariners | @LosMarineros | Facebook

Here is today’s Game Information:

Iwakuma – 12 Wins & 12 Walks

After last night’s performance of 8.0 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts and zero walks, Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma has now recorded 12 wins while walking only 12 batters THIS season. Yes, you read that correctly. Kuma is 12-6 overall with a 2.57 ERA (6th in the American League) and has a 10.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio (120 strikeouts, 12 walks) in 21 starts this season. Dating back to 1900, that is currently the 3rd-best strikeout-to-walk ratio in MLB history, trailing only 11.00 by Bret Saberhagen with the Mets in 1994 (13 BB, 143 SO, 177.1 IP) and 10.28 by Cliff Lee with the Mariners and Rangers in 2010 (18 BB, 185 SO, 212.1 IP).

Over his last 10 starts Iwakuma is 7-2 with a 1.63 ERA (13 ER, 72.0 IP) with 4 walks and 65 strikeouts. Here are the highlights from Iwakuma’s dominating start last night vs. the Phillies.

And here is a detailed blog post via ESPN.com on Iwakuma’s season:

Mariners Game Central – August 19 at Philadelphia

Game #125: Seattle Mariners (67-57) at Philadelphia Phillies (55-70) | 7:05 pm ET/4:05 pm PT | Citizens Bank Park
Starting Pitchers: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (11-6, 2.72) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (6-13, 4.35)
Radio: ESPN 710 Seattle and the Mariners Radio Network…also on Mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on ROOT SPORTShome games feature SAP in Spanish on ROOT SPORTS & ESPN Deportes
Live Stats: MLB Gameday will provide a live box score with pitch-by-pitch data
Game Information: Mariners | Phillies | Mariners-Phillies History

Tonight's Line-up

Tonight’s Line-up

Mariners Game Central – August 18 at Philadelphia

08.18.14 Lineup

Game #124: Seattle Mariners (67-56) at Philadelphia Phillies (54-70) | 7:05 pm ET/4:05 pm PT | Citizens Bank Park
Starting Pitchers: LHP Roenis Elias (9-9, 4.14) vs. RHP Jerome Williams (0-0, 3.38)
Radio: ESPN 710 Seattle and the Mariners Radio Network…also on Mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on ROOT SPORTS
Live Stats: MLB Gameday will provide a live box score with pitch-by-pitch data
Game Information: Mariners | Phillies | Mariners-Phillies History

Mid-Season Report | Standings | Roster | 2014 Media Guide | Mariners Game Notes | 2014 Schedule
Social Media: From the Corner of Edgar & Dave | Instagram | @Mariners | @LosMarineros | Facebook

Here is today’s Game Information:

Mariners Game Central – August 17 at Detroit

Game #123: Seattle Mariners (66-56) at Detroit Tigers (66-55) | 1:10 pm ET/10:10 am PT | Comerica Park
Starting Pitchers: RHP Chris Young (11-6, 3.20) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (1-2, 5.31)
Radio: ESPN 710 Seattle and the Mariners Radio Network…also on Mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on ROOT SPORTShome games feature SAP in Spanish on ROOT SPORTS & ESPN Deportes
Live Stats: MLB Gameday will provide a live box score with pitch-by-pitch data
Game Information: Mariners | Tigers | Mariners-Tigers History

Mid-Season Report | Standings | Roster | 2014 Media Guide | Mariners Game Notes | 2014 Schedule | MarinersMedia.com
Social Media: From the Corner of Edgar & Dave | Instagram | @Mariners | @LosMarineros | Facebook

Today's Line-up

Today’s Line-up

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