Though baseball and softball-only fields are ideal, many youth baseball and softball leagues are forced to share fields with other sports due to a lack of facilities and funding. In these cases, proper field maintenance is even more critical. In particular, the fall season, when football often overlaps with fall ball, presents a unique set of field maintenance challenges. To get some insight on the subject, BTF interviewed two groundskeepers that have quite a bit of experience with multi-use fields: Alan Sigwardt, Senior Director of Grounds for Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins and University of Miami Hurricanes ; and Clay Wood, Head Groundskeeper for the Oakland A’s, who share the O.co Coliseum with the Oakland Raiders.
You are both professionals and have access to specialized equipment and products, not to mention a large amount of man-power and man-hours. What advice would you give to a youth league volunteer that has to maintain a multi-use field? Alan Sigwardt: Proper water amounts. Make sure sprinklers are functioning properly and aimed correctly. Keep dirt level. Fill all holes and low spots so that water puddles are kept to a minimum. Rinse or broom dirt from grass edges on a regular basis to keep from getting large lips on grass edges. Keep dirt areas damp as much as possible so it does not get dusty and blow away with the wind. Clay Wood: Focus the time, money and materials that you do have on the areas that incur the most damage from the other sports. Always keep your infield dirt, mounds and home plates safe and playable and try to keep your dirt to grass edges clean and level.
How does maintaining a multi-use field differ from maintaining a baseball/softball-only facility? AS: You will experience much more turf damage when using the field for football or soccer. CW: You will have an inordinate amount of stress and damage on your turf. An aggressive aerating and topdressing program may help minimize turf damage. I would suggest aerating and topdressing at least twice per year on multi-sport fields or as much as possible.
What specific challenges are posed by multi-use fields? AS: When you experience heavy rains that flood or cause your baseball field to become muddy, a football game can cause significant damage to the field. Baseball turf gets torn up by football players. Baseball dirt is not conducive to the playing of football. Both sports suffer. CW: The main challenge is keeping the field safe for all sports played. Everyone involved must work together for anything to happen. Scheduling use for practices and games must be coordinated, along with a maintenance/preparation schedule.
Which playing surface is the hardest to maintain on a multi-sport field, the turf or infield? AS: The infield dirt is much more difficult and time consuming to maintain than the turf. CW: Both present challenges. The grass is a living, breathing plant and undergoes tremendous stress during football and soccer and needs recovery time. The infield dirt can get very sloppy and chewed up but it can be dragged and rolled over and over to regain its shape and playability.
How do artificial and natural turf fields differ in terms of multi-use maintenance? AS: Artificial turf is almost maintenance free, but poses many other problems, injuries, excessive heat, drainage, etc. CW: Artificial turf does require some maintenance, but it does not require the extreme recovery time and maintenance of natural turf.
Most youth leagues aren’t able to install artificial turf. What advice do you have for leagues caring for multi-use fields with natural turf? CW: Try to keep your field safe and level by filling divots and holes with sand or topsoil. Again, the importance of aerating and topdressing cannot be understated for good footing and a safe, level playing surface.
Which is more important, proper preparation or recovery and why? AS: Proper preparation is always more important. Proper preparation will prevent many problems from appearing during a game. CW: Preparation! Proper preparation will hopefully help minimize damage and recovery time.
When different sports use the same field, there is often very little time in between games and practices. How much time, ideally, do you recommend between field uses? AS: There is no ideal time. But there should be a minimum of one full day (for preparation) between different sports. CW: Maintenance time is use specific and varies for all sports. I recommend every entity involved with the multi-use fields get together once a year and develop a master schedule for use and maintenance. Everyone needs to decide what prep and maintenance is required and make sure that schedule allows for it, maintenance is absolutely critical.
Are there any products or techniques that will reduce the wear and tear on an outfield that is used by sports like football and soccer? AS: There are no products or techniques to reduce wear on turf. The most important thing to reduce wear on a grass field is proper drainage. The stronger and healthier your turf is, the less wear you will experience. Remember the three most important aspects of any sports field are drainage, drainage and drainage. CW: Aerating and topdressing will help. You may also try topdressing high use/wear areas (hash marks/goal mouths) with crumb rubber (ground up tires). This product, when used correctly, can help protect the crown of the plant from cleat damage and therefore speed recovery time. This product must be worked down into the turf, it is black in color and will raise soil temperatures where applied.
Are there any tricks to help prevent field damage caused by other sports? AS: There are no tricks to prevent damage other than do not play on muddy or flooded field ever. This causes more damage than anything else. Damage must be repaired. One of the most helpful things you can do for your park is to find a good source of quality sod to repair your wear areas. CW: My advice would be to control the moisture in your turf when playing football and soccer. It is always easier to add water versus remove water. When playing other sports on infield dirt surfaces try to keep the dirt moist but not too wet and always drag the dirt right after a football or soccer game.
The ability to have a consistent water supply is critical to field maintenance. All turf will need water, or irrigation, for establishment, growth and repair. If nature does not provide rain in sufficient amounts, water must be provided. Installing an automatic irrigation system should be one of the highest priorities in any field renovation or construction.
How to Select the Irrigation System That’s Right for your Field
Q&A with Jim Laiche from The Toro Company, a global leader in turf maintenance equipment and precision irrigation systems
Q: Please briefly explain the common types of irrigation systems used on youth baseball and softball fields.
Jim: Irrigation systems range from manual watering using water reels to quick-couplers to complete underground automated systems controlled by computers and sensors.
|Type||Description||Cost of materials (range)|
|Water Wheel||Water wheel units have either turbine driven or gas power engines that power the flow of water and drive mechanism to pull in the hose. These units generally dispense large amounts of water and are time consuming, requiring significant labor to set up hoses.||$5,000 – $15,000 (Estimate)|
|Quick Coupler||Quick couplers are “live” direct hook ups to a direct water source. These can be placed in various locations to supplement an irrigation system or as main source of water. A hose is connected to a key and is manually inserted to start the flow of water through a hose or hoses with a sprinkler attached. This type of system requires a pump to supply water.||Depends on size and scope of project. $5,000 – $20,000|
|Automatic System||An underground system that provides water through heads controlled through a central controller.||Depends on size and scope of project. $10,000 – $50,000|
Q: What should an organization consider when deciding which type of irrigation system to install?
Jim: It is important to understand the size of the complex and the type of surface that will be watered. If you have diamonds, do you want to have a zone that waters the infield as well as the grass areas? If you have infield skin areas being watered, they need to be controlled differently than the grass areas. The watering areas of the field need to be defined. Look at the micro-zones within your field areas. There may be a need to regulate water usage in these micro-zones. If so, you will need to design the system so that you can control the irrigation heads more precisely. This will require an understanding of the type of grass, the soil structure and the climate in which you are working.
Some fields are designed and installed using wall-to-wall irrigation. This means that all edges are covered with part-circle heads, and there is a very precise application of water to the playing fields. Another option is to design and install the system using primarily full-circle heads in the outfields and edges. This reduces the total number of sprinkler heads but causes some overthrow of irrigation water beyond the playing surface.
Manual systems will require time and labor to maneuver irrigation devices in strategic areas to provide water to the surface. Automated systems will cost more but will allow for more precise watering, preserving the resources used.
Maintenance on irrigation system is a must! Heads will need to be cleaned to make sure proper watering patterns are maintained to provide uniformity. Valves and filters will need to be checked for debris. Depending on water sources and equipment, maintenance may be required more frequently.
Q: What is the important information that an organization needs to know about the water source available at the field location before installing, replacing or repairing an irrigation system?
Jim: You must be concerned with a few things regarding the water source. What is the water source? Is it a well pulling from a retention pond, are you pulling from a potable water source or are you using reclaimed or “dirty” water? Each of these sources will bring different aspects to how a systems needs to de designed as well as regulations that may need to be followed. Water sources are becoming more of a commodity in some areas of the U.S. due to drought conditions. Those areas restrict water usage and require strict system controls to monitor the amount of usage.
Once a water source is determined, then you must also consider the water supply needed. This will be determined by the necessary watering windows. To simplify this, if you have three heads on a zone that require 10 gallons then you will need thirty gallons of water for that zone. If you have 10 zones that need to run in a cycle, then 300 gallons of water will be needed for each run.
Proper water pressure is also essential to the operation of the irrigation system. On a potable source, the static water pressure will be from the city water main. On a well or a pond using a pump, the pump horsepower creates the water pressure into the system. Athletic field sprinkler heads usually operate best at around 60 to 80 pounds per square inch at the sprinkler head.
Q: What type of maintenance is required for each type of irrigation system? What should be done in the spring and in the winter to properly maintain the irrigation system?
Jim: All underground irrigation systems need to be inspected periodically through-out the season to check for breaks, leaks or other damage to the system. During a spring start-up, all of the valves should be cycled through with a close inspection of all sprinkler heads. The sprinkler heads should all pop-up and down completely and rotate to the appropriate arc settings. Malfunctioning heads should be replaced and sprinklers out of adjustment should be reset to the desired pattern. In colder climates, the irrigation systems should be winterized using low to medium pressure air injection. Each irrigation valve is turned on and air is blown into the system until all the water ejects from the last sprinkler head on that irrigation zone. This is done through-out the system. In some climates, it is also necessary to remove the backflow device and store it over the winter. Irrigation controllers can be left on over the winter.
Q: How do you know when an irrigation system must be replaced rather than repaired?
Jim: If the repairs are needed to the infrastructure to the system, e.g. pipe, fittings, wires, valves, you should consider replacing the system. Sprinkler heads and certain valve parts are commonly repaired based on the level of use.
Q: What signs should you look for that there is a problem with the irrigation system?
Jim: Most irrigation systems will give managers a visual sign of troubles. If a head stops rotating you may have lush green grass in a certain area and brown in another. If you have a poorly designed system or low pressure problems where you do not get proper head to head coverage, you may be able to see circle patterns throughout your fields. Keep your eyes open!
Irrigation Tips to Remember:
Watering thoroughly to allow the water to soak deeply is required. Deep watering encourages deep root growth. Frequent shallow watering encourages shallow surface roots, compactions, crabgrass and other weeds.
It is possible to over water a field. Grassy weeds such as nut sedge may appear. Over watering also limits the oxygen supply to the turf and may cause yellowing which can create turf that is susceptible to disease.
A soil probe should be used to check the depth of moisture saturation. A soil probe can be purchased from local lawn and garden stores. It is a very valuable tool used to pull small cores of soil from your field to check root depth and moisture.
An irrigation system is an engineered system. It is made up of a variety of components that can be selected and engineered to work together with the environment for the best outcome for the field, it’s users and owners. Though systems can be purchased as “design build,” professional engineering should be considered to optimize return on investment.
Baseball season is back in action, and many of us begin to consider field renovation and construction projects. As you begin to plan a project, it is important to know the kind of questions that should be asked when selecting a sports turf professional and construction company.
How long have you been in business?
Look for a company that has an established reputation and can provide references. This will help you determine the reliability and qualifications of the company.
What services do you provide?
A company should be able to explain the services it provides. The discussion can lead to a clear description of the proposed project.
What past projects have you completed? What is your experience constructing and renovating youth baseball and softball fields?
The best way to ensure the quality of work is to review past field projects. A knowledgeable and experienced sports turf professional can provide you with a variety of field projects. Visit the fields and contact those who use and manage the fields. The discussion can include the budget, the scope-of-work completed, the proven benefits and downsides of materials used and on-going maintenance requirements. Learning what has proven successful in past projects will benefit your decision-making process.
Who will work on the project?
A consistent and trustworthy presence should be in place to handle the site supervision. It is important to understand and trust the people that will be working on the proposed project. Some companies have their own work crew; some companies work with sub-contractors, especially for specialized work.
How much work and time is required?
It is important to know how long it will take to complete the project because the amount of time, equipment and work required can have a significant effect on the budget. A professional will provide you a detailed schedule for the project.
What is your availability?
The availability of the company will also determine the amount of time needed to complete the project. Will it be available throughout the proposed schedule up to the completion of the project? If it is working on multiple projects during the same period, how much time does the company propose to spend on your project each week? If the project is delayed, does it have the flexibility to accommodate the change in schedule?
Do you provide a warranty or guarantee on work completed, equipment, materials?
Understand what is included in the company’s warranty or guarantee. What is included, excluded, how can the warranty be voided?
What is the budget I should prepare for?
Ask for cost estimates for all aspects of the project. How can the project be value-engineered? What are lower-cost options? How does developing the project into phases affect the budget? How much of a contingency should I plan?
How is the billing handled?
Payment schedule and type of payments can vary. The down payment for the services, the payment schedule and the type of payment accepted (cash, checks, credit cards, etc.) are all important factors during the discussion of billing on the project.
How should I maintain the field after the project is completed?
Even when the best materials and personnel are used, proper maintenance and protection is crucial to keeping the condition of the turf on the field in top shape. It is important to know the planned field use, amount and frequency of use and the related maintenance costs. This can become more complicated as the age of the field and time needed to maintain the field gradually increases. A knowledgeable sports turf professional will help you develop plans to properly maintain the field, and extend playability.
Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced sports turf professional and construction company can save you time and work, and help you develop a cost efficient plan that is tailored to the needs of your organization. Ask around your colleagues or organizations around the community that have fields similar to the ones you desire and ask for recommendations. Getting recommendations is a great way to start your planning process.
It might be cold and snowy where you are today, but it’s the perfect time to start planning your upcoming field maintenance work for the start of the season. Here’s a checklist to help get you started…
Field Maintenance Checklist
- Review field maintenance plan and budget
- Review upcoming field use schedule
- Clean, repair or replace field maintenance equipment
- Plan future renovations or reconstruction projects to be completed next fall
- Perform soil and tissue tests
- Aerate the field
- Top dress the field
- Fertilize the field
- Apply pre-emergent herbicides
- Clean, paint or repair dugouts, fencing, bleacher areas and field signs
- Reattach or replace lose or curled chain link fabric
Download Field Maintenance: A Basic Guide for Baseball & Softball Fields of All Levels here.
Grant writing may be a new and challenging endeavor for many youth baseball and softball organizations. Some may employ a professional grant writer, but others may have a Board member or volunteer with the ability to take on the challenge.
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund provides several grant writing aids to help. The newest is the Online Application Grant Writing Worksheet available here. This worksheet provides a framework and guide to develop a complete and relevant response to each question and section of the BTF Online Application.
Additional grant writing aids can be found on our website.
The Internet also has a multitude of free grant writing advice. Google “grant writing help.”
Our advice before beginning to write a grant request:
- Carefully read each grant maker’s evaluation criteria to determine if your request fits.
- Do the planning leg work for the project before requesting a grant. Gather the necessary information about your organization, programs, project and beneficiaries.
- Don’t wait until the request deadline to start writing.
- Follow the application instructions and submit all information that is requested.
- Remember that foundation and corporate grants are not the primary source of annual funding for non-profits. Individual donations will comprise the majority of your annual funding. Be realistic in your expectations.
If you submit a request to BTF for a field-related project, the submission of photos with the request is required to show the condition of the existing field, field maintenance capabilities and/or existing site for a new facility. Photos of the playing surface are critical whether the request is for a field renovation, dugout construction, field lighting, etc.
Please refer to examples of photos required with all field and facility-related requests.
If the request is for an indoor facility or batting cage only (and does not include field renovations, construction, lighting, etc.), please attach 1-2 photos of the current facility or proposed site in the “Written Cost Estimate” section of the request.
To make this process easier for you to submit an effective request, please review this important information:
- One document (i.e. a pdf or Word document) with the photos may be attached to the request as opposed to multiple photo files. In any case, remember to compress the photos and/or reduce each file size before attaching to the request.
- Do not attach multiple copies of the same photo.
- Do not submit aerial photos.
- Do not submit photos of group, player or coach photos.
- If the request includes more than one field, label the photos accordingly.
- Do not take photos of fields through chain link fencing. Your camera will focus on the fencing and not the field.
- Do not submit photos of snow-covered fields. Plan ahead and take photos before it snows.
- Color photos are required.
Good advice regarding the operation of concession stands for fundraising…
It’s the off-season…a great time to send notes of thanks to your sponsors and donors and remind them of your organization’s on-going need for their help for next year. Here’s a template to get things started, but customize, be specific and sincere!
[Name of Organization]
[City, State, Zip]
[Name of Donor]
[City, State, Zip]
Each year [name of organization] continues to provide quality youth baseball and softball to the children of this community. Through our programs [name of programs] we have seen many lives changed for the better.
Let me share with you the story of [story of someone helped by your organization]
[Name of organization] continues to work to help make a difference in the lives of children like [name of person listed above].
However, continued outreach is essential to help the over [number] of children in our community in need of youth recreational programs.
Today, you can make an immediate difference in the life of a child. Each [$ amount] you send provides [specific goods/services] to [number of people].
I hope we can count on you to help. Please send the most generous gift you can, as soon as possible.
With grateful appreciation,
P.S. So that as many children can be helped this season, please send your gift in the envelope provided by [date] so that it can have maximum impact. Thank you in advance for you kind support!
|Umpire supervisor Rich Garcia looks on as Rich Rieker demonstrates the strike zone with Los Angeles RBI Seniors players. (Christie Cowles/MLB.com)|
One of the hardest jobs in baseball and softball is that of the umpire. This is especially true in youth leagues, where umpires, often volunteers, may not have access to specialized training. For this reason, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, with the help of MLB.com, spoke with one of our experts, Rich Rieker, to learn how he got his start in umpiring and get some tricks of the trade. Rieker became MLB’s Umpire Supervisor in 2002 after spending nine years umpiring in the Major Leagues. His many accomplishments include developing the MLB Umpire Camps in 2006. How did you get your start in the umpiring profession? I started working Little League games when I was 11 years old in St. Louis, MO. That’s how I met my wife actually. She was also a Little League umpire there. Did you ever think then that umpiring would turn into a career someday? No, but I really enjoyed it. I was still playing at the time, and it was a good way to make money. It helped put me through college. When I started to advance to the other levels, several of the senior umpires suggested that I go to umpire school. I did that when I was 21. Where did you go to umpire school? Harry Wendelstedt umpire school. I taught there for 16 years afterward, and eventually made it to the Major Leagues. Which youth baseball/softball league did you officiate in? Khoury League, I don’t know if it exists anymore, but it was the big deal in St. Louis back in the ’60s and ’70s. Umpiring has a unique set of challenges such as unruly fans, and confrontational players and managers. What is the best way to deal with the poor sportsmanship that is sometimes exhibited by participants? Well, the first rule of thumb is treat people the way you want to be treated, and know that you are the law out there. You’re out there to keep the peace and if you don’t, and let one team or set of fans get an advantage by intimidating players or umpires, then you’re not being fair. So you have to try to quell [poor sportsmanship], as much as you possibly can, especially in the Little League setting where they have the code of conduct rules. People have to remember that these games are for the kids. People too many times try to live vicariously through their kids. When they can imagine themselves out there, making that play or getting called out on strikes, they take it personally. The umpires really don’t do anything personally. They’re out there trying to call the best game they can. I think what fans should know too, and umpires come from fans really, is to know that the umpire, he or she is trying to do the best job and don’t take the decision personally. On the other side of that coin, the umpire shouldn’t take any of the criticism personally. You could put a saint out there in the umpire uniform and that saint is still going to get yelled at because [they have] that uniform on and because they’ve made decisions that are unpopular with that crowd. Fans see the play with their hearts; the umpires see the play with their eyes.
Describe good pre-game preparation. What can youth league umpires do to make sure that they are physically and mentally prepared? First thing, make sure you know the rules. Don’t even think about showing up until you’ve studied the rules thoroughly. Especially local rules, the curfews, Little League rules, pitch counts, stuff like that you might have to be involved in later. Secondly, make sure you’re prepared to work a fair game. Make sure you’re focused on the game. Put your cell phone, your work, everything behind you. It’s a great escape actually to umpire and concentrate on doing a fair job because it is just a game. It’s not life or death. We talk about umpires being policemen out there — policemen have, unfortunately, life or death situations to deal with in a split second every day, umpires are just officiating a game. The best thing you can do is study the rules, be prepared to do a good job, and of course have a pre-game conference with your partner. If you’re working a two-or three-umpire system, make sure you’ve talked about your coverages, the system you’re going to work — hopefully it’s a consistent system taught by the Little League or whatever league you’re working for, and make sure that you’re preparing that crew to cover all the play situations that may arise. Good communication can make up for a lot of mistakes out there in coverage. What are the core characteristics of a good umpire? Impartiality, sound judgment, good eyesight is a given, and a feel for the game. If you have those four things, you’re going to do a successful job. Those four things have to come together well. If you take somebody that wants to be impartial but doesn’t really have a flow for the game and know what’s right and what’s wrong, then it’s not going to be a well-officiated game. But when you’re impartial, you hustle, and you know the rules, you come across as a fair person. One team is going to win and one team is going to lose. We like to think the umpires win every game, every night by doing a good, fair job for the participants.
|Basic Umpiring Tips By Rich Rieker, MLB Umpire Supervisor
The successful construction and maintenance of a quality baseball field requires careful planning and research. It is important to receive input from all parties that will be involved with the field construction. Construction plans for the playing field should be reviewed and discussed with all of the parties that will use the field.
Before a construction plan is finalized, the following field development issues must be considered. These issues will help to define the goals of the field development that best suit the budget and needs of the community or organization.
Use of the Field
- For what age group or classification will the field be used?
- How often will the field be used and during what time of year?
- How many new fields are needed accommodate the projected use?
- Type or scale of construction needed – Will the field be used for competitive or recreational use?
- Will the field be used for high level, competitive or tournament play?
- Will the field by used for night games? What are the permitting and community approval issues related to field lighting?
- Will the field be used for other sports or non-baseball events and activities?
Budget and Funding
- What funding is available for the construction of the field?
- What funding is available for the on-going maintenance of the field?
- What sources of funding will be identified and solicited?
- Who (or what organization) will be responsible for fundraising?
Location of the Field
- Location of the field – urban, rural, downtown, residential, near schools?
- Land ownership issues
- What are the permitting and community approval issues?
- Field Orientation- How will the sun and shadows affect the safety of the field?
- What is topography of the existing land?
- How much grading and fill will be required?
- What is the condition of the existing soil (the foundation subsoil and surface topsoil)?
- What is the condition of the existing turf?
- What is the availability of utilities (electricity, sewage, water)?
- What is the natural drainage of the area?
- What are the stormwater issues and flood plain concerns?
- How accessible is the location in terms of:
o convenience for players and public;
o transportation – traffic issues, proximity to public transportation, availability of parking;
o deliveries; and
o hotels – proximity and availability for tournaments.
- Does the location of the field have opportunity for future construction?
Type and Scope of Construction
- Who will design the field? Will an engineer or architect be hired?
- Apply value engineering during the field design process. Value engineering is the method of identifying and selecting the lowest cost options in design, materials and processes to achieve the desired level of quality, safety and maintainability of the field over the long-term. Value engineering will help eliminate unnecessary costs during the construction process and on-going maintenance of the field.
- Safety and comfort measures for players and guests – dugouts, dugout roofs, player benches, fencing, fence cap, batter’s eye, restrooms, concessions, bleachers, etc.
- Construction timeline – When will the field be available for play?
- What organization will be responsible for the maintenance of the field?
- What experience, expertise, equipment is available to maintain the field?
- What is the annual field maintenance budget?
- Should the field have synthetic or natural turf?
- Will the field be used for other sports or events?
In summary, the construction planning process includes:
- Determine the expected field usage including type, size and number of events;
- Design the field to accommodate the usage;
- Develop a construction plan that will facilitate on-going maintenance to allow consistent and safe playing conditions;
- Develop a construction budget and confirm funding for construction costs.