Everybody likes to be told they’re doing a good job. But aside from being a compliment, this conveyance can also be a useful tool in making sure you continue to do well at your job.
This is especially true in the groundskeeping profession. Just ask Kelly Rensel, head groundskeeper at Pioneer Park, home of the Greeneville (Tennessee) Astros, the rookie-level affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros.
“I often will ask the manager or coaches to see how the field is (bullpens, infield, warning track, mound and batters boxes all included),” Rensel says of the importance of soliciting feedback. “Just to see their comfort level and if any areas need improved upon.”
Both coaches and players — visiting and home — can provide valuable feedback to the condition and comfort factor of your infield and pitcher’s mound. In most instances, every groundskeeper and crew has their own system for tailoring the infield to their individual players or big-league clubs.
“Every once in a while I’ll ask a player, ‘How is the infield, how is it today?’” says Mike Kerns, head groundskeeper at Arm & Hammer Park, home of the Trenton (New Jersey) Thunder, the Class AA affiliate of the New York Yankees. “I get responses from some guys who like their areas in front of them [on the infield] to be a little bit wetter. Most of the time, I don’t go to them until somebody has an issue with it. It’s their field … they will let me know, they might say, ‘Hey, the dirt is a little bit wet today,’ and I’ll tell them why it is. If we had the tarp on for a while that day and didn’t get a chance to mow, I might say something to the coaches.”
Sometimes feedback from players depends on the level of play in a specific situation — rookie ball, Class A, AA or AAA.
“I do solicit feedback,” says Keith Winter, head groundskeeper at Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne (Indiana) TinCaps, the Class A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. “But … most of the guys here are 19 to 22 years old. They’re just trying to figure out how to play. They haven’t figured out that field is like their office and that it’s important for them to know what’s going on out there.”
Winter, who has won the Sports Turf Managers Association Class-A Sports Turf Manager of Year award two consecutive years, says he gets more feedback from visiting players and coaches who may not be used to playing on an award-winning facility like Parkview Field.
“We do things a certain way, I don’t get a lot of feedback from the home team,” Winter says. “My goal is to have that field in great shape for Game 1 and to have it in just as great of shape for Game 70. The feedback I get is from the visiting team; they might not be used to seeing the bullpens, infield, mound, turf, whatever it is, in as good as shape as ours.
“We do hear a ‘wow’ factor at times. We work hard to keep it that way. This isn’t something we take for granted.”