This week I was at a high school that was have issues with their infield. I asked the AD if he new what type of material he was using. He said he didn’t but he paid a contractor to add infield mix to his field a year or two ago, so we dug a hole…
Check out our updated Field Construction & Maintenance Resource Guide!
Musco Lighting, Inc. – BTF Preferred Provider
The Toro Company – BTF Preferred Provider
Laser Leveling – Laser Grading Q&A
Sports Turf Consultation – Hiring a Sports Turf Professional and Construction Company
Diamond Pro – BTF Preferred Provider
– http://diamondpro.com/ (Click on Resources)
Stabilizer Solutions – BTF Preferred Provider
Maintenance & Construction
J&D Turf – BTF Preferred Provider
Murray Cook’s Field & Ballpark Blog – http://groundskeeper.mlblogs.com/2012/02/27/tips-on-designing-a-professional-baseball-field/
Penn State Center for Turfgrass Science – http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/turf/extension/factsheets/athletic-fields
University of Missouri Division of Plant Sciences –
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Walk-ups for baseball and softball fields are often a good option to manage traffic while also allowing for grass in foul territory (softball). This is sometimes necessary to manage surface drainage/grades. Let’s look at two walk-ups. First, the softball field at Ohio Northern University. As you can see these walk-ups are the same width from…
Timing is everything, as they say. A well-planned project includes a detailed, feasible timeline. For the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF), the terms and conditions of a grant award are based on the information provided in the project timeline, so a clear, realistic timeline is a key element of a successful request.
A project timeline, especially for renovation and construction projects, must take many things into consideration:
- What is the scope-of-work and work flow (i.e. what has to happen first, next, last?)
- Is a bid process required? If so, how long will it take to complete?
- How long will the work take to be completed?
- When are the contractors, sub-contractors, volunteers available to start the work?
- Cash flow – When will funding be available from each source? How long does the payment process take? How much will be available and when? Will the vendor/contractor bill us or is payment needed up-front? Once deposited in our account, when will the funds be available? What is the process for accepting a donation or grant by the municipality/school district? How long does it take?
- What are the required construction permits? What is the community approval process? How long will it take to complete?
- What are the potential and likely causes of delays? What happens if the project is delayed? How will a delay affect the availability of funds, contractors, volunteers, materials? What will we do if the project is delayed?
- Given our schedule, when is the best time for the project to take place? How will we accommodate the program/league/games/practice when the field is under construction?
- When do we need the product (i.e. uniforms, player equipment) in hand? What is the shipping or delivery time?
- Given the climate, when is the best time for construction or renovation? What are the chances that inclement weather will delay construction?
- Are the materials, products readily available, in-stock?
- Is the timeline realistic or too ambitious? Can we adhere to this timeline? Have we allowed enough time for likely delays? What are the chances of everything being completed in our “best case scenario”?
For grant requests to BTF, the project timeline must also coincide with the review cycle for which your organization has applied.
Grant Review Process
BTF grants are awarded on a quarterly basis. This is a very tight schedule from a grant making standpoint; once a request is submitted, BTF has little time to work with an applicant to sort out undecided or incomplete information. Therefore, an applicant must provide a detailed, realistic timeline that coincides with the review cycle if the request is to be seriously considered.
Please review the following BTF Grant Process:
|Review Cycle||The last date a request may be submitted for consideration during the Review Cycle||Requests Are Approved in this month*||If approved, the grant payment process takes place in this month**|
*Subject to change. Grants will not be approved prior to this month and may be delayed. Grants will not be approved on the 1st of these months.
**This is the estimated time frame in which grant payments are disbursed. Grant funds will not be available to the recipient prior to this month.
Once a grant recipient receives notification of the grant award (by email or phone), the following process occurs:
- BTF drafts a letter of agreement which must receive internal approvals. It is then emailed as a pdf to the recipient for signature. – Up to 4 weeks
- The letter of agreement must be reviewed and signed by a person authorized to do so by the recipient. This process may take one day to six weeks, depending upon the type of organization and the approval process (i.e. city council meetings, review by counsel, etc.) The signed letter of agreement must be emailed as a pdf to BTF.
- BTF requests the grant payment internally. – Up to 3 weeks
- BTF express ships the grant payment to the recipient. – 2 days
To summarize, if a BTF grant is awarded, the grant payment process takes a minimum four weeks after notification of the grant award. If a grant is awarded, a recipient should not expect funds available immediately.
Developing an Eligible Project Timeline
BTF grants are awarded and paid in advance, before the start of a project. (Exception: The early, preparation stages such as the design, a bid process, excavation, permitting, etc. associated with a construction project may be completed; however, those costs should not be requested from BTF.) BTF grants are not reimbursement grants. Grant funds are not awarded for past orders, work or expenditures. In other words, a BTF grant is not awarded to pay back an organization for previously incurred expenses.
Please review the following examples of timelines that conflict with the BTF Review & Award Process:
Example 1: Your organization submits a request on January 1st for the January-March review cycle for the purchase of equipment and uniforms. The project timeline indicates that the purchases will take place in February, and the league begins in March. This request will not be considered for funding. Your organization needs to submit a request for for an earlier review cycle.
Example 2: Your organization plans to begin a field renovation project in September. Your organization submits a request for the July-September review cycle. Your request to BTF includes funding for site work scheduled in September as well as other budget items to be completed in December. Your request to fund the site work will not be considered by BTF.
Generally, we suggest that the proposed use of BTF grant funds be scheduled to begin a minimum of 6-8 weeks after the completion of the review cycle. We also suggest that you overestimate the amount of time needed for field-related projects.
Project Timeline Template
The Project Timeline template must be submitted as a part of the BTF request. Use this form to outline the timeline of the project: when it will begin, what work or activities included and when it will end. Do not submit a project management or project schedule calendar or any other document; BTF needs the information in the format provided by the Project Timeline template. And, finally, do not leave this form blank or with “N/A”; all requests must have a project timeline.
The timeline should include all activities related to the project, including the time when the use of equipment, uniforms, field or facility is projected to begin. Specifically indicate the time frame for the work or purchases to be completed with BTF grant funds. For each activity, indicate the month(s) and year it will occur.
A timeline that indicates that a project will begin “as soon as possible” or “when funding is available” is not sufficient.
Refer to the following examples when completing the Project Timeline template:
Example Timeline: Field Renovation
|Complete field construction design and fundraising||December 2017|
|Complete bid process||January-February 2018|
|Excavation, electrical work, water lines||March-May 2018|
|Laser grading, fencing work||June-July 2018|
|Infield construction, irrigation, sodding||August 2018|
|Grow-in period (fertilization, mowing)||September-November 2018|
|Player registration begins||January 2019|
|Field use begins||April 2019|
Example Timeline: Equipment and Uniform Purchase
|Complete fundraising||December 2016|
|Player registration, volunteer recruitment and coaches training||January-February 2017|
|Order equipment and uniforms||February 2017|
|Practice begins (& uniform distribution)||March 2017|
|Games/league play||April-June 2017|
|Tournament season||July 2017|
|Year-end banquet and parent, coaches, player surveys completed||August 2017|
Remember these key notes:
- A proper project timeline takes a lot of planning and thought before the grant-seeking (or fundraising) effort begins. Seek input from all involved and from those with experience with similar projects.
- A BTF grant is not awarded to pay back an organization for previously incurred expenses.
- Specifically indicate the time frame for the work or purchases to be completed with BTF grant funds.
- We suggest that the proposed use of BTF grant funds be scheduled to begin a minimum of 6-8 weeks after the completion of the review cycle.
- We suggest that you overestimate the amount of time needed for field-related projects.
Before submitting a request to BTF, please read the following information about tax-exempt status and legal organizations.
What is the Legal Name of the Applicant?
The legal name of the applicant is the name associated with the EIN (Employer Identification Number) for organizations based in the U.S. (Organizations based outside U.S. should use the name registered with the government.)
Acronyms, nicknames or fundraising campaign names (examples: “XYZLL,” “Field of Dreams Project”) are most likely not legal organization names.
A public school or team should check with its school district to determine the legal name of the applicant. For example: the “X.H.S. Baseball Team” is probably not a legal entity eligible to apply for or accept a grant; the school or school district is most likely the appropriate legal entity eligible to apply for a grant.
Non-profit and Tax-exempt Organizations
An organization applying for a Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) grant must fall into one of the three categories:
- an U.S.-based organization that is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a 501(c)(3)*
- an organization that is tax-exempt such as a municipal government agency, public school or Indian tribe
- an organization based outside the U.S. that is a registered, non-governmental organization (NGO)
*Other 501(c), tax-exempt categories are explained at IRS.gov.
U.S. organizations that do not have 501(c)(3) status and are not a tax-exempt municipality, public school or tribe will not be considered for funding by BTF.
IMPORTANT: An organization that has non-profit certification only from its state will not be considered for funding by BTF.
What is the difference between non-profit and tax-exempt status? Read this information published on the IRS.gov:
Nonprofit status is a state law concept. Nonprofit status may make an organization eligible for certain benefits, such as state sales, property and income tax exemptions. Although most federal tax-exempt organizations are nonprofit organizations, organizing as a nonprofit organization at the state level does not automatically grant the organization exemption from federal income tax. To qualify as exempt from federal income tax, an organization must meet requirements set forth in the Internal Revenue Code. See Types of Tax-Exempt Organizations or Publication 557 for more information.
A 501(c)(3) organization should have in its records a letter of determination from the IRS. The letter of determination looks like this:
Do not mistake this letter with the EIN (Employer Identification Number) assignment letter, which looks like this:
The EIN assignment letter does not confirm 501(c)(3) status! If you are unclear about EINs, learn more from IRS.gov.
IMPORTANT: When submitting a request to BTF, a 501(c)(3) organization must submit a copy of the IRS letter of determination. If your organization does not have this letter, do not submit a request!
If your organization has misplaced its letter of determination, you may request a copy from the IRS.
If your organization has not applied to the IRS for 501(c)(3) designation, it may apply to the IRS.
Tax-exempt organizations, as noted above, do not have 501(c)(3) letters of determination and, therefore, will not submit a letter of determination with the request. BTF does not require a governmental information letter from an applicant in this category. Read more about governmental information letters on IRS.gov.
IMPORTANT FOR ORGANIZATIONS CHARTERED WITH LITTLE LEAGUE, INC.: Organizations chartered with Little League, Inc. cannot use Little League, Inc.’s EIN to create a profile in the BTF Online Application system. Your league must have its own EIN, assigned by the IRS.
However, If your organization has not been recognized on its own by the IRS as a 501(c)(3), has its own EIN assigned, and maintains its charter with Little League, Inc., it has 501(c)(3) status under Little League, Inc.’s group exemption status. If your organization has not been recognized on its own by the IRS as a 501(c)(3), your organization must submit to BTF a letter on letterhead from Little League, Inc. confirming the current status of your league’s charter.
If your organization has been recognized on its own by the IRS as a 501(c)(3), your organization must submit its own letter of determination.
Organizations Based Outside the U.S.
An organization based outside the U.S. must be a registered, non-governmental organization (NGO.) Documentation confirming this status must be provided to BTF upon submission of a request.
IMPORTANT: All documentation must be translated into English before submission to BTF.
Which Organization Should Serve as the Applicant?
Some projects, and related fundraising efforts, are collaborations of multiple organizations. Multiple organizations cannot apply jointly for a BTF grant. We suggest that the non-profit or tax-exempt organization that has the capacity to plan the project, write a grant, oversee the project and use of grant funds serve as the applicant.
Once an organization is selected to serve as the applicant, please note that all responses and documentation required in the request must be related to and provided from that applicant’s point-of-view. For example, if a municipality is the applicant on behalf of the local youth league, the request must provide the municipality’s experience in youth baseball, the municipality’s annual operating budget and annual budget for youth baseball/softball, the municipality’s Board of Directors (or leadership), the municipality’s partnerships related to youth baseball (i.e. relationship to the local league), the municipality’s goals related to youth baseball, fields, etc.
If the applicant organization plans to serve as a pass-through agency (i.e. a 501(c)(3) organization that is applying for and/or accepting grant funds for another beneficiary organization that is not a registered 501(c)(3) for some reason), this relationship must be explained in detail. In addition, the request must contain information and documentation for both organizations.
Remember these important notes:
- The legal name of the applicant is the name associated with the EIN (Employer Identification Number) for organizations based in the U.S.
- When submitting a request to BTF, a 501(c)(3) organization must submit a copy of the IRS letter of determination.
- Municipalities, public schools and Indian tribes are tax-exempt but do not submit a 501(c)(3) letter of determination.
- An organization that has non-profit certification only from its state will not be considered for funding by BTF.
Service organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis likely have a presence in your community or a nearby community. These service organizations sponsor community events, raise money for local causes, and provide volunteers. Don’t overlook these organizations for grant opportunities as well. Many of these types of organizations can provide local grant opportunities that could help…
Grant requests need strong supporting documentation to demonstrate thorough planning and to ensure that the project budget and request is based on current, realistic information.
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) requires written cost estimates for all budget items listed in each request.
A written cost estimate is not a document that your organization prepares. It is a document provided to you by the company that will provide goods or services. Any reputable company will provide a properly prepared, formal cost estimate. In business, an estimate might also be referred to as a quotation, quote or bid. Be sure to understand the difference between a cost estimate and a quote.
For a BTF grant request, written cost estimates must include:
- the date of the estimate and how long the estimate remains valid (if applicable)
- the company name and contact information for the vendor, contractor, engineer, etc.
- detailed specifications, quantities, descriptions, etc. for products and services
For field or facility related projects, the estimate should include:
- the location or name of the proposed field or facility
- a detailed scope-of-work
- the manufacturer name, specifications, quantities of product or materials
- what is or is not included in the estimate (i.e. installation, site preparation, delivery, etc.)
- accurate field or facility dimensions and drawings if applicable
For requests including playing equipment, uniforms, training equipment, field or maintenance equipment, the estimate should include:
- itemized list of items
- quantity and cost per item
- brand names
- model numbers
- shipping/handling costs
- sales tax (if applicable)
In the BTF Online Application system, attach the cost estimates in the Attachment section where instructed.
Cost estimates are also useful to determine the value of in-kind funding and resources that will be used to complete a project (i.e. funding that is not cash — in other words, donated or discounted labor, products or materials.) A cost estimate will provide the retail cost of a product or service (i.e. how much you would pay in cash if you were not receiving a donation.)
In closing, whether for a grant application or not, it is a good business practice to ask for written cost estimates for all major purchases or services so that your organization knows exactly what it is purchasing, what service will be rendered, a good idea of how much it will cost, as well as the terms and conditions.
With summer now upon us, many high school playing surfaces are winding down from spring play, now crabgrass, goosegrass, and other unwanted growth will appear. How do you control this issue? See below: A simple mixture of Glyphosate in a 2% solution and SureGuard at 3 teaspoons per 1000 sq ft. So, in a 3…
Expert Advice From
A BTF Preferred Provider
At some point, you may have asked for or provided a letter of recommendation. These letters are often needed when applying for a job, to get into college or a club, to apply for a mortgage or when hiring a contractor or other company to provide a service. Organizations applying for grants may also need letters of recommendation or support.
Letters of support are helpful in the grant evaluation process. These letters are intended to provide insights into the applicant’s ability and capacity and the need and worthiness of a project from organizations that have worked with the applicant. An applicant’s ability to provide letters of support also demonstrate that it has strong partnerships which are important in the sustainability of any project or program.
Letters of support should give an independent, unbiased perspective. The letter should not be written by the applicant or anyone directly associated with the applicant, such as a Board member, administrator, executive, volunteer or staff person. For example, if your organization is a school district, do not submit a letter of support written by the superintendent. If you are a municipal agency, do not submit a letter of support written by the mayor.
Letters of support should be genuine and customized. Do not write the same, exact letter on behalf of your supporters and have them sign a copy. Ask each supporter to write his or her own letter providing relevant information and unique insight.
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund requires that each applicant provide two letters of support: 1) one letter written by a sponsor or donor, and 2) one letter written by an organizational partner.
Sponsors or donors are organizations or individuals that:
- Have provided funding to your organization recently or in the past, especially a major grant or donation for a specific project.
- Have provided annual or regular financial contributions or donations to your organization.
- Have sponsored (i.e. give financial consideration or services/products in-kind for) your program or facility.
Examples include a foundation that awarded a grant for a previous project or a local business that has been a long-time sponsor to your league.
A partner is an organization or individual that works with your organization, such as:
- An organization that benefits from your program or facility.
- An organization that collaborates with your organization.
Examples include a youth service agency that uses your facilities or the municipality that maintains your field.
Need advice about what should be included in a letter of support? Here are a few good resource articles we found online:
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund would like to share some “green” techniques that will help you keep your fields beautiful and safe, while being kind to the environment.
From the BTF Archives…a Q&A with Larry DiVito, Head Groundskeeper for the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
“Green” Field Maintenance
What is more environmentally friendly – natural grass or artificial turf?
That certainly is a tough question. Natural grass releases oxygen into the environment and absorbs carbon dioxide. In any urban or densely settled area, natural turfgrass can be considered, much like trees, as a positive element. However, well maintained grass does require irrigation. Likewise, grass also needs to be fed and mowed. Lawnmowers account for approximately 5% of air pollution produced by the United States. In addition, grass clippings in landfills release methane, a greenhouse gas. However, by maintaining your turfgrass with a sensible and balanced fertility program, you can help to control the rate of growth on your field, hence eliminating the need to throw away excess clippings. Mow on a consistent basis, without removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade for each cut. In doing this, you may let the clippings fall back to the turf, which returns nutrients to the plant. In addition to being better for the environment, this method will save you the time and hassle of collecting and dumping your clippings.
Artificial turf has evolved a great deal in the past decade and has established itself with a strong presence in the athletic landscape of America; however, many types of synthetic turf available today do have some drawbacks. While synthetic turf seemingly saves water, the surface can get extremely hot. This has led to a trend of field managers having to water their synthetic fields in an attempt to cool them off. This is the environmental equivalent of letting your garden hose run straight into the gutter. The solution, of course, is not to practice or play at times when the surface is too hot, rather than waste water. Another drawback of synthetic fields that has come into light in recent years is their inability to neutralize bacterial contamination in the natural way that grass does. Recently, athletic field managers have begun using bacterial disinfectants as often as twice a month on synthetic turf.
In the end, which is better for the environment? That is up to decision makers and parents to decide. Each has its drawbacks and benefits. One must also consider the expected longevity of each. Synthetic fields that are heavily used do not have an infinite lifespan. Natural grass with a proper maintenance program can be overseeded for many, many years; giving the turf potential for a long life.
What types of products are available to those who
want to maintain natural grass fields in an environmentally friendly way? What are the pros and cons of these products?
There are more and more products coming into the turf maintenance marketplace every year that are friendly to the environment. More turf maintenance equipment is now available in an electric version, which reduces emissions. There are also dozens of organic fertilizers available. Another product is Turface, a heat treated clay that can absorb and hold moisture in your infield dirt, which will help you conserve water when maintaining your infield.
As with many consumer products, it can cost a little more to be “green;” however, using higher end products may cost more on the front end, but over time the results will pay off. For example, by using products with more slow release nitrogen, you can sustain healthy color longer and reduce your time on the mower.
Just one piece of advice: before you buy a product that markets itself as environmentally friendly, try and find out why and how it makes that claim.
In addition to product selection, what are some other ways to lessen the impact on the environment while performing field maintenance?
First of all, the responsible use of fertilizers is critical. Keep granular and liquid fertilizers from reaching hard surfaces where they will be washed into storm drains. When cleaning your equipment, wash it somewhere away from drains where chemicals as well as gasoline can be washed into a river or bay. Also, avoid applying granular fertilizer before any extremely heavy rain that could wash it into drains or catch basins.
The use of water in a thoughtful manner is also a critical part of running an environmentally friendly ballpark. To have quality infield dirt, you are going to need to soak it deeply from time to time. The best time to do that is late in the day or into the evening under the lights. The water you apply in later hours will not evaporate as quickly and you will use less water to achieve your desired result.
Another more important way to conserve water doesn’t cost you anything but your time. Setting your irrigation controller to water automatically for a fixed cycle 3 or 4 times a week may seem like a logical approach to field management. My approach is completely different. I make an educated decision each time I irrigate to apply a certain amount of water to specific zones on the field based upon many factors: weather, rate of evaporation, field use schedule and condition of the turf. All of these factors change daily. By manually programming my irrigation, I not only conserve water, I also give the field what it needs. It takes a bit more of your time to irrigate in this manner, but you will save a great deal of water every year and feel better about your field.
If a groundskeeper has a limited budget and wants to be environmentally conscious, what will make the greatest impact?
Two things that will give you a great field won’t cost you a dime. The first is a good work ethic. Field maintenance is something many of us in baseball enjoy, but there will always be times you are not motivated to work on your field. That is when you need to push yourself. If you get behind on things, you may never catch up. The goal is to stay ahead so that when factors you cannot control, such as weather, come into play, you are able to recover from those bumps in the road and move forward.
The second thing is the ability to work with your eyes open and understand the implications of everything you do. Each day on your fields, you make decisions both large and small that impact appearance, playability and the environment. Controlling the nutrients you apply to your field is directly related to your mowing schedule and water usage. Applying nitrogen high in salts increases your chance of tip burn and will increase your need for water throughout the soil profile. Too much quick release nitrogen means more time on the mower and potentially cutting too much turf at once.
What are the environmentally friendly methods of pest control?
By practicing integrated pest management (IPM), you can decide to be friendly to the environment. This means eliminating or minimizing the use of pesticides. Only extreme cases of disease or insect invasion would warrant the use of pesticides under an IPM program. The goal is to think ahead, proactively, and manage your turf responsibly to have natural resistance to pests and weeds. In doing so, you may have to accept that your turf will not appear as pristine as Seattle’s Safeco Field or Dodger Stadium. Television has raised the bar for turf appearance and it is not realistic to expect a heavily used community diamond to always appear perfect.
What environmentally friendly field maintenance practices have gained momentum recently?
One product mentioned earlier, Turface, will improve your infield dirt in a big way. In addition to helping you save water, it will help you play through more rain and increase player safety. When worked 2 or 3 inches into your dirt profile, Turface will occupy pore space, reducing compaction in the dirt. While doing so, Turface will hold onto moisture and reduce the amount of water you need to apply to your dirt to keep it safe.
A recent advancement in the area of fertilizer is stabilized urea nitrogen. This fertilizer contains Urease inhibitors that stabilize nitrogen in two ways. First, the urea does not escape into the atmosphere through volatilization. Second, another inhibitor minimizes leaching of the urea into the soil. This allows you to apply just the right amount of fertilizer and have it work for your turf and not be wasted by escaping to the environment.
If you could dispel one myth about field maintenance and the environment, what would it be?
One of the biggest misconceptions about field maintenance at the professional level is the idea that we are constantly throwing chemicals and pesticides onto our fields. By my third season in the minor leagues, I was comfortable enough in my ability to grow turf that I stopped using weed control altogether. Proper mowing, watering, feeding and overseeding will allow your turf to compete with weeds and keep them from developing on your field. (If, however, you do see some weeds, just grab a large screwdriver and pop them out of the ground rather than using a chemical product.) Being familiar with your field allows you to minimize pesticide use. For instance, rather than applying insecticide for grub control, know the history of your field and evaluate whether grubs are a big problem. Sample your soil in random areas. The occasional grub will not destroy your field and perhaps you can eliminate a pesticide application.
Do you have any final thoughts for those who care for youth baseball and softball fields?
One thing I can’t stress enough is the human element to all of this. Walking your field and constantly evaluating it will give you a daily image in your mind of what state your field is in. This can be accomplished when mowing as well. Instead of focusing on the music you are listening to while mowing, look closely at your turf and make productive use of your time.
By simply using common sense and caring about the small environment you maintain, you can in turn be a positive influence on the earth and the environment we all must share.
About Larry DiVito:
Larry DiVito began in professional baseball in 1995 as Head Groundskeeper of the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox. After seven seasons there, he moved on to become Grounds Crew Supervisor for the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he worked for four seasons. In 2006 Larry became Head Groundskeeper for the Washington Nationals and Major League Soccer’s DC United at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. Since 2009, Larry has served as the Head Groundskeeper of the Twins’ Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.