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.


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.
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