Overcoming obstacles when trying of fix your ciities baseball fields

Jim Reiner's
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Field maintenance strategies, plus Q&A




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Overcome Obstacles When Trying to Fix Your City's Baseball Fields

example of a bad city baseball field

 

Scott in Texas writes:

I'm currently trying to get with my city to work on their baseball fields.

Almost every field that the city owns is in very terrible condition. I played 4 years minor league baseball, and going from those playing fields to these is by far no match, not even close. I'm not saying that these fields should be in that particular condition, but come on, the city workers only mow the field once a week, thats it.

No leveling, no raking, no packing, the pitcher mound has holes, the batter box has holes.  This goes for the big fields, little league fields, etc. This town is even more of a baseball town than any other sport.

I'm in the process of getting this put back together to get baseball fields the way that they need to be. Even the average player will have a big confidence boost, playing on a great field!

In your perspective, what are some ways that I could approach the city?. I have a job already, so this isn't a thing to just get a job.  I love baseball.  I have passion for baseball.

Thank you.

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Hi Scott,

You are getting to the very heart of the matter.
I will take some time with you on this.  You need to overcome obstacles.

A picture postcard perfect field is nice.
But it's way more than that.

This is an investment in the community. Something for them to take pride in. It's an investment in the youth of our future. Through sports they develop lifelong habits for success.

Not only that, no player will ever reach their potential if the playing field is substandard. We certainly don't want to be holding them back, or worse yet, cause an injury because the ball field is not really safe and playable.

Now if you are dealing with the city park and rec manager, he may first think you are trying to sell him something when you offer to help improve the ball fields. There may be other obstacles too. They may not let you use any of their equipment. They might let you do anything without a waiver of liability. They might not let you do certain things due to union rules. They will be surprised anyone wants to do something and has a plan. And they will tell you they have no money. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

Don't give up. You need them. And they need you. Both of you would like to overcome obstacles to the projects.

Most folks working for the city in the park department are there because they like the outdoors and really would like nice looking parks.  But with limited people and money, they have to cut back and often do less than they would even like to.

Make a plan. Take some pictures of the fields. Bad as well as good. Hopefully you have some good ones there or else copy pictures from my website to use. Use the checklists on my website to do a ball park audit for a field as an example. It very definitively shows anyone exactly what the issues are and why they should care.

Put together a binder. Put pictures, plans, and sample budgets in there. Use the case study projects on my website as examples. Find out some preliminary costs to start with. Get estimates for a dump truck of top soil, topdressing, sand, clay, baseball mix. This knowledge will give you an advantage. Tell them you are getting together projects to improve the local parks. They should be interested in being part of that.  Pictures and plans overcome obstacles to vague ideas.

Meet with the board or presidents of the leagues. Little league, high school, PONY leagues, etc. Use the binder as visuals to explain what you want to do for them and how this will be a better baseball experience for all of you.

Do you know of any injuries due to crummy fields? Ask the league board members what they know - bad hops in throats, split fingers, cuts and punctures from bad fencing, sprained ankles from lip build up, etc. I didn't make these up. These are real right where I am.

Use your experience in the minor leagues as an example. I would assume you played on some decent fields. The point is that your fields right there where you are can play and look just about as good with some work.

Talk about it as a face lift instead of a renovation. Government managers seem to think a facelift is simpler. Renovation seems to conjure up too much time and money in their minds. I ran into this several times. I did major rip ups, tear ups, rebuilds, and got away with it only because I called it a facelift.

You may have to work on just one field to start with so they see what is involved and how fast it can be improved. Consider one field as a test case to prove what can be done. I've successfully used this approach before. Pick a complex with 3 or 4 fields. Improve one for the 11-12 year olds. The other parents, players, and coaches will see it and want their fields upgraded too. Nothing like some peer pressure to help move it along and overcome obstacles.

About funding... you will need money for the projects, let alone getting paid for your time and expertise. You could consider yourself as the general contractor and your workforce could be the volunteers from the various leagues. See if the leagues have any funds and equipment you can work with. Many have a snack bar. This is often the number one source of revenue. See if you can tap into it. This is the right time of year as they make their plans and budgets for spring. I met with a local little league board in early January. I asked for about $1500 for equipment and supplies and gave them a detailed list. I got it. You can overcome obstacles about money too.

Don't be surprised if some people take exception to you moving forward to do this. Anytime anyone steps out to make improvements in anything, there will be critics. I did a fantastic job with some college players on their field and there was this one guy. All he did was complain about how he had wanted to fix this up for years. So along I came and fixed in two weeks. Nothing but sour grapes... until his one son got to play PONY league on it. Then his tune changed.

You mentioned that it is a baseball town. This can help. More than likely the town leaders and business owners themselves played on these fields. Their children play on the fields. They'd all sure like them to be something they are proud of. And I'm sure they would like to be part of making it happen. For some, they will donate funds or supplies. See if you can put out advertising for them - fence signs or ads in the programs.

Short story. I was doing a renovation at a community park in a small, older coastal town in CA. The guy bringing in a truck load of dirt was so excited. He drove onto the field between 1B and 2B to dump the dirt. Then he got out and immediately called his wife on his cell phone. He was so excited. He told her he was on the same field where their son caught the last out of a championship game several years ago. He was on the very spot! Smiled all the time as he finally dumped the dirt and drove away. True story. Tap into that kind of emotion.

And you have the passion. But you can't do it alone. You need to see if you can develop a small core group of 3-5 people who are behind this. Believe it or not, some of the best advocates will be the ladies. So see if you can get a mix of people. This helps overcome obstacles and generates enthusiasm.

The parents are happy when the children are happy. When the children are having fun, so are the parents. The goal at the end of every season (spring or fall ball) should be that they say, 'this was fun, let's do it again next year.' You want them to come back. Are your leagues suffering from declining sign ups? Are the leagues struggling with budgets as a result? Well, this is one way, maybe the best way, to get them coming back or showing up for the first time. Of course, the coaches and players need to be polite, respectful, and encouraging too during the season.

One more thought... there are more things I think you should consider. So here goes. Realize that in a lot of the leagues it is run be volunteers who rotate often. So each year you get a new batch of people along with some veterans. This makes a difference. They are at varying levels of commitment and involvement themselves. Keep this in mind. The government side may be different. You might have to deal with someone who has been there a long time. The point is you need to think about what kind of response you want and can get from different people.

Ah, if it could all just be about dirt and turf. But it is not.
It is about people. And that, my friend, is the very heart of the matter.

As you work through this and you want to bounce ideas around, let me know. You are a hero. They just don't realize it yet.

Here's another article I wrote about how to overcome obstacles with your proposals to improve your baseball fields.

I wish you the best.



Yours for better play more often,

J. Reiner

Jim Reiner
Publisher, Editor, & Groundskeeper
The Ultimate Baseball Field Renovation Guide

 

Jim Reiner Jim Reiner was a groundskeeper with the Texas Rangers AAA team and has been involved with baseball his entire adult life.  He devotes his efforts to training coaches, players, and parents of all levels of youth baseball and softball to use their existing field and turn it into a safe, high performance field. Jim's website has been online since 2006 helping hundreds of thousands from little league to pro baseball improve their ball fields. 
 

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