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Conversation with the Turf Manager of the Year
May 27, 2007  --  Issue 10
Better Fields for Better Play
Jim Reiner

September 11, 2002 -- WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Pacific Coast League today named Sacramento River Cats Head Groundskeeper Matt LaRose its “Sports Turf Manager of the Year” for the 2002 season.

Raley Field baseball park sign

I wanted some hints for renovating a high school basebal field so I arranged a tour of Raley Field back on June 10, 2003.  Raley Field is home of the Oakland A's AAA team - the Sacramento RiverCats.  I wanted to find out what the Turf Manager of the Year was doing with his field.

My tour guide for the afternoon was Tony Asaro, the Director of Community Relations.  I met with Pat - the facility coordinator, Roy - one of the groundskeepers, and Matt - the head groundskeeper.

What I found out was dynamite for improving field quality and play.  I want you to listen in as we talked about this exceptional ballfield and facility.

Jim: Roy, can you tell me what you are doing today?

Mowing the baseball field

Roy: Sure.  The River Cats are out of town for the week. So we are aerating the grass with a core aerator today.  Then we mow over the cores to chop them up and we rake out any chunks left near the edges of the grass. Don't want any lip buildup.  Core aerating is done only when the team is on the road to allow time for chopping up the cores, then applying top dressing, and letting it settle in. As you can see, we use riding mowers when we mow the outfield.

Jim: This is really a great looking facility and the field looks fantastic. 

Roy: I don't know if you know this, but the field is on sand, not hardpan like much of Sacramento. The sand goes down 17 feet. So we can water a lot! 
The entire field has many underground French drains with one leading out to center field for drainage. 

We only use flat Morwear paint for foul lines. We don't use an chalk anywhere.  The lines are put down using a stencil and a sprayer.

We condition our infield skin with Turface products  - Quikdry, MVP, and ProLeague.

baseball field view from the stands

Pat: We use a 2-pump booster system to increase their water pressure. You know there are over 100 sprinkler outlets across the entire field.  And with the cement walls all around the park, we have no gopher problems. Very few squirrels. But there are occasional cats that we chase out.

We have their own sewage pump and a 145,000 gallon collection system. The Sacramento sewer system can’t handle 10,000+ people all flushing within a couple hours. So, we pump and hold it and then slowly send it out to the city sewer system.  Good to know, huh?  Not!

Jim: OK.  Well, I want to pick up some hints about your dirt mix and how you take care of it. 

Roy: The dirt mix on the infield is 60% clay and 40% tichert #2 sand.  Matt suggests you contact Hasty’s Sand & Gravel on Jackson Rd for good baseball mix clay.  The warning track is made of crushed brick. We get it from C&L Trucking in Woodland. It is 1/8 crushed lava brick. 

The batter boxes and the mound has unfired clay bricks about 3” under ground. We get these the Muddux brickyard on Bradshaw.  I do suggest you choose a dirt that does not stain white uniforms too much. Our original mix was horrible on uniforms.

Jim: Good to know.  Now, how about your grass?

Roy: OK.  The field grass is a mix of Bermuda and chaparral perennial rye. Rye is used for over-seeding during the season and heavily used before winter.

Fertilizing is done with both liquid and granular materials. We use 19-25-5. And periodically we use extra ironite and sulfur.

baseball field supply area

We always use baskets to catch the grass when we mow. We don’t want to deal with thatch buildup.  The
infield grass is ¾ inch high and the outfield grass is 7/8 inch high. When the team is home, we mow every day.

-- end of part 1 --

I'm sure you are finding this conversation fascinating.  In part two we'll find out what they do for ongoing maintenance as well as some professional suggestions for anyone wanting a premier ballfield.

Yours for better play more often,

J. Reiner

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

Jump directly to part 2 of the conversation with the Field Manager of the Year here.

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