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Better Fields for Better Play, Issue #002 -- tips and hints
May 08, 2007
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Dear Baseball Fan,

After a rousing start to a new baseball season, Kevin found himself stalled... and tempted to quit.  Jim's here to make sure that doesn't happen to you.


Your One Stop Place to Increase
Field Safety and Playability

FEATURES:
  • TURF CARE : how one small change can make a huge difference for your ball field

  • FUNDRAISING: helpful hints for funding your baseball field maintenance projects

  • PLANNING: on conquering your greatest time killer

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

  • Feedback: the debate rages on... and on

  • It's Good to Know... Laying out your bullpens

  • Add "thatcher" to your arsenal of field equipment


The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Sports Turf

Core Aerify

Aerification is the most important turf maintenance practice. It helps loosen compacted soils so air and water can get to your root zone.

The holes left by a core aerator can be filled in with the topdressing, seed, and fertilizer in other turf maintenance steps.  Aerification alone is still a big plus for your turf.

Tips and hints for the job

  1. It is best to run an aerator in an X pattern across your turf.

  2. I prefer the walk-behind machines that mechanically drive the tines into the ground. This approach provides a more even distribution of aeration and allows the depth of the tines to remain constant.

  3. Don't remove the core plugs.  They'll get ground up when mowing and slowly dissolve back into the subsurface as a type of topdressing.

  4. When to aerate?  I do this preseason (early February) mid season (late April or early May) and late in the fall (October or November).

Learn the details here.


A 2-Step Program to Bust Through Funding Barriers

When Kevin called to ask for advice, I had a good idea what the subject of our discussion would be:  Did I think he should keep trying to raise money for his field maintenance projects?

"Maybe trying to build a field of dreams just isn't possible," Kevin told me.  He admitted that asking for donations was hard enough as it is, but it was especially frustrating when he came back empty handed after the awkwardness of asking.  

From my experience as a past president of a baseball booster club and completing four major field reconstruction projects, I told Kevin there are two things you need to do to bust through fund raising barriers. 

1. You will have a better long term success funding your baseball field projects if you start with your 'reason for being'
. 

Think this through.  You'll use this to market your program.  A fund raising message without a reason for being is just too vague to get many folks to commit money to your program.

Here's how you come up with a clear statement for your program's reason for being

Complete the sentence below: (this helps you develop your fund raising message)

"My program helps (whom?) do (what?) better than any other program in the world by (how?)."

Here's how I used this for a youth baseball team I worked with:

"This program helps young men develop life long habits for success by combining athletics, character building, and personal responsibility.
The program is run by experts who don't just teach baseball, but have demonstrated success with 6 straight years of championships and 7 players with college scholarships." 

You need to think about your own program and complete the sentence.  Develop your own fund raising message.

I worked with this and settled on two short phrases:

  • Developing lifelong habits for success
  • Helping young men develop lifelong habits for success

2. The next most important point in your fund raising message is to be very specific about what you are going to use the money for. 

Tell people exactly how much you need and how you are going to use it.  Don't just say, "I need money for my baseball program."  Instead say, "I need $300 to replace fence parts, $510 for dirt to make the field safer and more playable, and $210 for field maintenance equipment."  You'll get a better response.  Guaranteed.

Here's a real world example.  A team needed to raise money to cover travel, food, and lodging expenses during their spring season.   A generic letter was created for the players to use.  Players had a goal to raise $300. 

Those players using the generic "please donate to support our program" raised about $300.

One player customized the support letter and included specifics about money needed: locations of travel (city and opponent team), how they'd travel (passenger vans), need for lunch/dinner (simple fast food), and type of lodging (bunching up in a hotel or staying with host families). He even included personal info about the position he played and some of his own needs (sunflower seeds, gum, gatorade, new glove).

The customized letter with specifics raised over $3,000.

Being specific along with a good 'reason for being' taps into the emotion of benevolence and really motivates people.  People want to make a contribution that counts.  Not just for another box of baseballs, but to be part of something bigger with a lasting accomplishment. 

[Note: If you need a bigger dose of motivation to help you achieve your funding goals for your ball field maintenance projects -- check out

the hidden secrets of fund raising success for your ball field projects.
]


Start Making Better Plans Today

I used to get so anxious to work on a ball field that sometimes I didn't take time to plan.  After all, I'd worked on so many baseball fields and softball fields that knew what to do.  Or so I thought.

What I'm talking about here is your pre-season effort or the work you do before hosting tournaments. 

Unfortunately, I've learned the hard way that itís better to do 15 minutes of planning before you start these major projects.   That way you'll incorporate the right materials, the right equipment, and the right labor to get the job done.

Here's how to start making better plans today.

Use a ballpark audit checklist.
  Go through the checklist and determine the overall condition of your ballpark. 

When you are done, you'll know exactly what your ball field condition is and exactly what you need to do to fix problem areas or prevent something from becoming a problem.


Here's what your audit checklist should cover:

  • Playing Surface – Infield Dirt Area
  • Playing Surface – Grass
  • Playing Surface – General Areas
  • Bases & Anchoring
  • Fencing
  • Spectator Areas
  • General Safety of the Ball Park
  • Dugouts
  • Lighting
  • Other hazards

I've found that a checklist is the way to go.  It also shows me where the priority areas area: safety.  I'm sure you could make up your own checklist, or just go out and walk your entire field and take notes.

If you want a starter checklist that I've used, try this: 
Preseason or Pre-Tournament BallPark Checklist


Feedback: The Debate Over What Makes Good Footing

I continue to hear interesting comments from coaches and parents about what makes good footing for players.

Some don't even think about this as a concern.  But, ask a player and you'll hear a different story.  Players, age 10 and up, are starting to play more competitive baseball. By the time they are high school and college, good footing is a necessity.  And I mean good footing as a fielder, a base runner, a pitcher, and as a batter.


Good footing is the result of two things: moist and firm dirt. 

By this time of year the shortcuts on the infield dirt are starting to show:  Lack of deep watering.  Just push the dry, powdering dirt back into the batter box holes.  Push the dry dirt back into the pitching mound holes.  Ignore dragging the infield before/after games and practice.

It takes time and effort to water, pack, firm it up, and water again.  It takes coordination on a multi use field.  It can be done.  
But this is the debate - is all this work worth it?  Does it really matter?  What do you think?


It's Good to Know: Laying Out Your Bullpens

If you want your pitchers to really warm up ready for game conditions, then layout the bullpen in the same direction as the infield mound.  That way the pitcher is throwing in the same general direction both warming up and in the game.  This is critical if there is any kind of wind blowing across our field.  If want to give your pitchers the opportunity to perform at their highest level, this will help.


Add "thatcher" To Your Arsenal of Field Equipment

The most common use for a thatcher is to remove thatch from the turf in the fall.

These walk-behind machines are self-propelled and spin a series of metal cutters at varying depths to remove thatch - dead grass that accumulates after mowing.

There are at least three more ways you can use a thatcher on your baseball field.

  1. lower the setting and you can lightly till the turf subsurface before overseeding
  2. run the thatcher over your infield skin to get rid of smaller weeds growing up
  3. use the thatcher as an edger if you have minor grass growing past the edge and don't have a lip problem

Learn more here...


Have a Question for Jim Reiner?  Have an Idea to Share with Readers?


Speak out.  Use the Better Fields for Better Play contact form.



All contents of this ezine are copyright 2007 by The Ultimate Baseball Field Renovation Guide. 

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