Thursday, May 24, 2012

May rain continues...

As of 3:30 pm this afternoon, our rain for the month of May had reached 7.28" total. Last night we received 2.97" of precipitation. In addition to this rain event, we have been battling significant winds from last Thursday through yesterday. All of the wind has been from the south, which means it funnels in from the right field corner, where there is a gap in the building at the flagpoles. These southerly winds come straight into right field and then proceed to whip around the ballpark towards the left field corner, where they follow the seating bowl and gust towards 3rd base. So when we have wind from the south, the worst gusts on the field blow from a northeast direction. Fortunately on Monday it was calm and we were able to get a spray application in. With the winds and then rain forecast for the rest of the week, we loaded up the sprayer with UMAXX, some micronutrients, a fungicide and our PGR, Primo Maxx. My assistant Jarad stayed late Monday and got the application down before dark. Yesterday we did a few extra things, such as painting the TC behind home plate, in anticipation of today being a washout; with a busy Friday morning on the horizon as we start a series with Detroit on that night.

One of the ways we deal with rain and dumping the tarp is with our Toro Pro Force blower. During field construction, the project manager Steve Peeler and I were discussing tarp methods, and he mentioned using his SubAir system at other ballparks to inflate the tarp. Between the two of us, we came up with the idea of a "blowhole" that comes up behind the pitcher's mound. The lead contractor, Mortenson, gave us the OK and we installed a 10" solid ADS pipe that runs from the warning track on the 3rd base side, out to a valve box behind the pitcher's mound. We hook up the Toro blower and get air under the tarp. We have been using a lightweight tarp from CoverMaster this season and it is holding up quite well. By doing this, we are able to give the infield turf some air circulation when the tarp is on, and we can remove excess water from the tarp prior to putting it away. Our tarp holds a lot of water because our infield turf is flat and the dirt has a fall of only .33% towards the outfield. Thanks to the great contractors who built our field and the ballpark, we have created a new way to go about dealing with rain and tarp handling.  Below are some photos of the tarp being blown up. - Larry
Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grounds Crew Guest

Today we were joined by the TV play by play voice of the Twins, Dick Bremer. As part of tonight's game telecast on FSN, Mr. Bremer will be working with our crew throughout the game, and following the game we will do an on-field instructional, which is a quick segment that tonight will focus on one aspect of playing field maintenance. Mr. Bremer reported to the ballpark to work with me at 9am this morning and will pull the full-day shift just as I do...meaning he will be with us until 11pm tonight. In addition to helping us paint the TC behind home plate, Mr. Bremer also learned to operate a hose and set up big league batting practice. This was a fun idea that was thought up by Mr. Bremer and the producers at FSN. Like many of us on the crew here, Mr. Bremer went to the ballpark as a youngster and imagined how enjoyable it would be to work on the grounds crew in the big leagues. When I was growing up and we attended SF Giants games at Candlestick Park, I had a great time watching the grounds crew drag and water the field after batting practice. At that point in the late 1970's in California, the state was in an extended period of drought and water restrictions were the norm. It was pretty amusing for me at a Giants game, watching those guys put a large dose of water on the infield and warning track each afternoon and evening, as they attempted to mitigate the drying effects of swirling winds at Candlestick. Perhaps that is why my favorite part of my job is watering dirt. See below for Mr. Bremer in action. -Larry
Monday, April 30, 2012

Field Heating System

Tomorrow is May 1st and as we progress in season #3 here at Target Field, it seems as though the first week of May is about the time to dial down our playing field heating system and leave it alone until next winter. With milder weather arriving Tuesday and continuing through the week, we will shut it down tomorrow morning. Here is an image of the field heat pipes during installation. They are 1/2" diameter Pex tubing pipes and are spaced every 6" throughout the field (except for the warning track).
What you see in the photo is the start of Zone 5, which is in right field. There are 5 total zones for the heating system. The large, black pipes are supply and return lines, which house the blend of 70% water, 30% glycol. The white Pex tubing is looped so every foot a supply line goes out and every foot a return line comes in. It is an enclosed system, meaning the water and glycol always stay on site here.

. The photo to the right shows supply and return heading out towards home plate to heat Zone 4 in foul territory. On top of the heat tubes are the 10" of our rootzone mix, which is a 93% sand, 7% peat mixture. Once we reach around the 1st of March, we dial the heat up from its winter mode of 34* F to a setpoint of 40*F. We then wait about 5 days and take it to 46*; then to 52* by March 10th. By the middle of March we reach a setpoint range of 58-60*. In three years here, the highest range we have ever set it to is 60-62*. Once we are consistently above 58* in the spring, we begin to get growth and move the bluegrass out of dormancy. I am always very anxious to get to the point where I can turn the system off and move on to our next phase of the season. May is usually a pretty good month here in Minneapolis for growing turf. Odds of any frost here in the middle of the city are pretty low at this point. One other question I receive a lot in the spring is: can you melt the snow? We have found that having surface soil temps in the high 50's certainly does diminish any chance of snow building up on the turf. One instance was last year on April 20, 2011. The Twins were on the road, so we just put tarps on the infield dirt only and let the snow hit the turf. As you can see below in the distance, the snow stuck to the seats and infield dirt tarps, but the total of 1.5" of snow that morning never really stuck to the turf. At some point in the future we will be challenged by more April snow than that I am sure. It is nice to have options when the weather is bad here at Target Field.           -Larry

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dodger Stadium

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Dodgers as they celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the opening of Dodger Stadium this afternoon. I had the great fortune to work for the Dodgers for four seasons, from 2002-2005 as the Assistant Groundskeeper. My former boss, Eric Hansen, remains the Turf Manager/ Grounds Director. Eric has been with the Dodgers since the mid-1990's. Once Eric got his program in place, the field at Dodger Stadium has continually been as good a playing surface as any in professional baseball year after year.
In 1984, my parents and I made our first visit to Dodger Stadium to see Olympic Baseball. We sat on the lower level down the left field line by the foul pole. Little did I know at the time...that some 17 plus years later I would have a small office adjacent to the Dodger bullpen, just below those seats we had in 1984.
In terms of consistency and playability, I continue to strive every day to get my field here in Minnesota to play like the field at Dodger Stadium. The feedback Eric has always received on his field tells me that Dodger Stadium is the role model for what a big league playing surface should be. Of course, climate will impact a field greatly, but I think it is important to have a standard in my head for how things should be at this level. Thanks to Eric and all of the guys who worked with us in LA, I have something to aim for.
These are a couple of pictures I took late in the 2005 season. If you ever have a chance, get out there for a game and see an American monument to the game of baseball.

- Larry

Opening Day After

My favorite day of the season always seems to be the day after Opening Day. Now we can return to our routine of field maintenance and normal game day work, without all of the miscellaneous peripheral activity that accompanies an opening day in the big leagues. That being said, the opening ceremonies went quite well and the first game of the season was off and running. Below is a closeup image of one of the special bases used for the opener.
The weather for the opener was cool and blustery. By 4pm it was not very comfortable in the deep shade of the stadium. This past weekend, we turned our field heating system back on. We seem to need soil temps in the upper 2" of the turf to be about in the range of 58* F to get the Kentucky bluegrass to really grow. With 6 games in 7 days this week, it is important to have actively growing turf to withstand the foot traffic and activity of batting practice and games each day. Fortunately, today was an off day. High temps struggled to reach 45* here in Minneapolis. Things should improve tomorrow and Thursday. Last night and through this morning, and again tonight, we put our turf blanket (below) back on the infield to hold warmth.
- Larry

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Opening Day Prep

It looks to be cool and breezy for our home opener at Target Field tomorrow vs. the LA Angels. We should have clear and crisp weather for the Angels series through Thursday afternoon. Forecasts for the series against Texas next weekend are calling for some damp weather at this point. We will wait and see. This past week was as busy as you would expect as the organization prepared the ballpark for the opener. Wall pads were finished and put in place and landscape work was ongoing.We brought in about 800 flowers from Bergen's Greenhouses in Columbus, MN. Mainly pansies for April...we spent all day Thursday placing them above the outfield wall and planting in Target Plaza.
Much of the week was spent setting mowing patterns and working the infield dirt, particularly the edges. The transition from grass to dirt needs to be smooth, flush and level, so that ball roll and bounce is consistent throughout the field. This is a great time of year at the ballpark, as by the 1st of April the sun is finally high enough for the entire field to get sufficient light for the turf. Below is a shot from the morning this week, with the shadows from our signs and scoreboard in center and right field.
Today Ryan and Nick from our crew painted the Opening Day logos as well as the 'TC' behind home plate. Thanks to the cool and dry weather forecast, we were able to wait and paint everything today, which is ideal to do the day before the first game. This will give us a sharp look tomorrow with the logos.
The last coat of white in the logo really makes the red and blue stand out. This is my 10th opening day in MLB and the logos are pretty similar year to year, but they always look great for a couple of days after being freshly applied.
- Larry
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Mowing

We are now mowing every other day as we begin to condition the turfgrass for our opening homestand that starts April 9th. Ryan from our crew set the first mowing of the outfield pattern on Monday, and he will mow it again on Friday. It is basically what you see at the top header of this page. The stripes are set up so that they line up directly from home plate to the general area where each outfielder plays. This creates grain which provides predictable ball roll for each outfielder. Once this pattern is set and visible to fans in the park and for TV, we mow it every 2nd or 3rd day during a homestand. We like to alternate it with a 'neutral double cut' in which we mow one direction and then stand it back up. This method, as well as the turf being influenced by our plant growth regulator, helps us towards our goal of a quick outfield with consistent ball roll. In the photos below from this morning, Nick is mowing a neutral double cut aboard our Toro Reelmaster 5210. It is an impressive machine to watch and crew members really enjoy getting the chance to drive it.
Another activity this week has been the nail dragging of our infield dirt, which we do on a regular basis. The past couple of days we have been using a lightweight model we made in the shop. The key to an effective nail drag event is the amount of moisture in your dirt. If it is too wet, you will make a mess and skid wet dirt all over the place. Too dry and you are wasting your time. In a case like today, we are not trying to get more than 1/4" deep with the nails. To start we walked the nail drag around (see below), then finished the process with our Sand Pro. The techniques of nail dragging and dirt management will be an ongoing topic within the blog. -Larry
Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ballpark Weather

The driving force behind what we do here daily is the weather. We are constantly checking current daily conditions as well as trying to project 12, 24 and 36 hours ahead to plan our turf maintenance activities. Even more important to us is the management of the infield dirt, pitcher's mounds and home plate area. Not just with rain, but sky cover, wind and dew points all have a big impact on how to prepare the dirt areas of the field daily. Below is a shot from 9 AM this morning at Target Field.

As you can see, we are off to a foggy start. The buildings nearby, particularly the IDS Tower, are fun to have around when we are looking at rain or fog. The IDS Tower gives us a benchmark of about 900' above field level. Side note: the playing field at the ballpark is 825' above sea level. Another source we use to look at sky cover is the aviation update {every 6 hours} within the forecast discussion the local NWS provides.

This weekend we are going to return to working on the infield dirt and begin adding our Turface Heritage Red Infield Conditioner. Infield dirt work is an ongoing process leading up to Opening Day. We also plan to spray the turf this afternoon. Today, we will put our first app down of Primo Maxx, the plant growth regulator we use here. With the great weather the past 2 weeks, our turf is up and running, so we are excited to start up with the Primo Maxx. The field heating system is currently off, and may stay off for awhile as long as overnight lows stay above 35*. One unique aspect of managing turf in our ballpark is that we are smack in the middle of the 'urban heat island'. While that is a negative during a hot summer, it is a great help to us in early spring and in the fall, as we don't cool off at night as much as the suburbs do.

Below are some free weather websites that I look at daily. None of these have advertising or popups. The last of the five is from the College of DuPage in Illinois, which is a great source for looking at forecast models such as the NAM or the RUC.
- Larry                                                                                                                               
Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Startup

March 5, 2012 @ Target Field.
Now is a good time to update on the past couple of weeks here at the ballpark. Strange weather indeed as we continue to break record highs this week in Minneapolis. Back on March 5th, we were still clearing snow off the warning track and the shady 20% of the turf here that takes very long to melt each March. We prefer not to dial up the field heat above 38* until the winter turf blankets are removed. No sense in us promoting pink snow mold on March 1st. This past winter, we were able to put two layers of our DuPont Xavan 5201 covers down in anticipation of minimal snow cover. The Xavan is very light (2 oz. sq. yd.) and permeable. Having only one layer down and no snow cover is not much protection. We put one down by Thanksgiving and once we saw the forecast trends from NWS, we put the other layer down in early December. This worked out quite well. It was still pretty cold March 8th, so we waited until the 9th to pull them off. It is hard to see texture in the photo below, but the blankets are very light and allow the turf to breathe.

By the 13th of March, our irrigation contractor, Mickman Brothers, was in to help us with the spring startup. This is always one of the great days in March...the return of water to the field makes me and all of the crew quite happy. That afternoon we finished our first mowing of the spring.

Sprinklers at Target Field 3/13/12.

On Wednesday March 14, the temps got into the low 70's here. That day I applied a granular fertilizer. This spring, we went with Grigg Brothers 8-4-16 Endurance, greens grade. Following that, we spent most of our time on the 15th and 16th working on the infield dirt. This consisted of a variety of nail dragging, raking and rolling with the walk roller. The work with the dirt and warning track continues over the next couple of weeks.
Going into this weekend, we sprayed the entire field with Civitas, a plant defense activator that contains a subtle green pigment to it. The effect of Civitas is that for about a week the turf will be a hair darker than it would normally be in March. This will help the turf improve its efficiency of photosynthesis and get the ballpark progressing to Opening Day the way we would like. Today we are mowing the field again in anticipation of some potential rain Monday and Tuesday. Below is a shot from this morning of the Toro Greensmaster 1600 mowing 1st base foul territory. Larry.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Offseason

What to make of the offseason in baseball? What do we do? Of course, a turfgrass manager in Minnesota will have a different winter than a colleague in California. Many professional baseball facilities have various activities from November into February. This past winter saw college football bowl games in San Francisco and New York, while Oakland continues to have the tough task of pro football sharing the field with big league baseball. Both Philadelphia and Boston had hockey rinks across their diamonds this winter. And in California, Anaheim and Los Angeles both hosted huge dirt motocross events. Other ballclubs have either corporate or revenue generating events in the offseason if their climate allows it.

In Minneapolis, we have been fortunate to have a light winter of snowfall thus far, although it looks like that will change by this Wednesday. This winter my crew has rewrapped all of the wall pads at the ballpark with fresh vinyl. After 86" of snow last winter, we have enjoyed the chance to catch up on projects, as our snow removal duties in and around the facility have been light. March tends to be a very difficult month in many parts of the country with the weather, but rest assured the grounds crew at your favorite ballparks are up to the challenge. One of the things major league groundskeepers do every January is meet as a group.  Here is an article about our: annual big league groundskeeping activities. This year was our 14th annual meeting. All teams are invited and nearly all show up. In addition to meeting, we renovate a field along with the tremendous support and contributions from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. Our founding sponsor companies for the meeting are The Toro Company, Turface Athletics, and Covermaster, Inc. They have contributed greatly to the ongoing success of our meetings and field renovations.  
                                                          - Larry
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Building the Field

   This being the first blog entry, I thought I would share with you some information on how the ballfield here at Target Field is constructed. I started working for the Twins around the first of March in 2009. While many field materials were selected by then, some were still open for discussion, such as the infield dirt and the warning track. In an upcoming post, I will discuss our infield dirt and the process of developing that mix to big league specifications. Today, we will look at the foundation for the turfgrass and how it is built.

   The architect for playing field portion of the project was Brian Smith, from Populous. Mortenson Construction was the general contractor and builder of the entire facility here at Target Field. The sub for the field work was Fields, Inc. Target Field was essentially an asphalt parking lot prior to being a ballpark. When field construction began, the field area of a little less than 3 acres was excavated to 32" below what would be finish grade. The subgrade was compacted and verified by engineers. From there, approximately 12,500 tons of a 'select granular fill sand' was imported to the site. This sand ends up being 18" in depth and provides a stable base for the field to be built on, while still allowing for natural drainage. Once this phase was complete, the next 14" of the field base and rootzone was ready to be built. The field section illustration below is a helpful reference for the rest of the discussion.

illustration courtesy of: Populous.
   To install our drainage lines, Fields, Inc. and their project manager, Steve Peeler, were able to trench directly into the fill sand. This was a smooth process and meant we were not exporting any more waste material prior to the pea gravel layer. All of the lateral drain lines are 6" slotted ADS pipe and they are 10' apart. The lateral lines feed into an 18" collector pipe that runs from the 1st base foul territory area out to left center field. Lateral drain lines are all backfilled with washed pea gravel.

   The next phase was the importing of a 4" layer of washed pea gravel. This gravel, as well as the fill sand and the finish rootzone mix, all came from Elk River, Minnesota. Our suppliers there are Plaisted Companies and Peat, Inc. In all, 170 dump truck loads of pea gravel were brought in and spread across the entire field. Then the pea gravel was laser graded to closely match the finish grade of the field. The pea gravel passed stringent 'bridging' tests, to ensure that the rootzone mix would not migrate into it and potentially clog the drain tile. By building this way, we create a perched water table, which helps retain moisture and nutrients within the rootzone.

   Our contractor for the field heating was Tweet Garot, Inc. from Wisconsin. The heating materials used are the same as used in Green Bay by the Packers. There is approximately 40 miles of 1/2" diameter PEX tubing below the rootzone. As you can see in the illustration above, the tubing rests on top of the pea gravel layer. The field is divided into five heating zones: three in the outfield, the infield, and all of foul territory. The warning track is not heated, but all of the infield dirt, baselines and home plate are supplied with heat. Because of the amount of silt and clay in the 'dirt' areas of the field, our heating system is crucial in helping us have the field playable each year by April 1st. The heat pipes are supplied with a mix of 70% water and 30% glycol in a closed system, which means that the water/glycol mix recirculates and is always on site here.
By the last week of March, we have our soil temperature range set to 58-60* F, which is enough to get the turfgrass up and running. The heat is a great resource for us, but we still need sunlight for the grass to really get going in the spring each year.

   Next, just over 5,000 tons of an engineered rootzone mix was trucked down from Elk River to our ballpark. This was done after the irrigation system was installed by a local contractor, Mickman Brothers. One note on the photo above; it does not show the irrigation lines, which basically run through the pea gravel layer. One key to having a rootzone that meets USGA specs is having it tested, developed, processed and tested again with a large degree of quality control. We settled on a mix that is 93% sand and 7% peat. Both the sand and the peat are from Minnesota. The peat is a processed reed sedge peat moss, which helps us with nutrient and moisture retention within the turfgrass plant. As the rootzone mix is brought in and carefully spread across the field (so it does not disturb the heat pipes), an effort was made to keep it properly moist. Dry sand is difficult to grade and compact, so it is a challenge to keep it moist during a summer project. Fortunately, as Fields was close to doing final grading of the sand, we had a significant rain event that properly settled and saturated the rootzone. The field was laser graded with a tolerance of 1/4" over 25'. This essentially means that the grade survey checks the field every 25' and any difference in grade must be 1'4" or less. At that point, the field is ready for finishing the infield dirt work and sod install.

   That is a quick overview of how our ballfield is built here in downtown Minneapolis. Many people were a part of this great project. The Site Superintendent for Mortenson, Dave Mansell, was the key person in getting the entire facility at Target Field built. We also had great support on the playing field project from Brendan Moore of Mortenson, who was the field project engineer and Dr. Trey Rogers of Michigan State, who acted as a turf consultant for Mortenson. More to come in later blogs.


About Me

Welcome to my blog. I am Larry DiVito, Head Groundskeeper for the Minnesota Twins. DISCLAIMER: content within this blog does NOT represent views or policies of the Minnesota Twins or Major League Baseball.This turfgrass management blog will provide insight into the work of a big league groundskeeper and his crew. I grew up in California playing and coaching baseball, while also working on fields along the way. In 1995 I was fortunate to be hired as Head Groundskeeper for the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox, where I spent seven seasons. In 2002 I became the Assistant Groundskeeper at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. I worked for four seasons in LA from 2002-05. In 2006 I became the Head Groundskeeper for the Washington Nationals in Washington, DC. After three seasons there, I moved to Minnesota in the spring of 2009 as Head of Grounds for the Twins during the building and completion of Target Field.
Powered by Blogger.