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


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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