You have a limited amount of time to complete the multiple tasks that put your fields in safe, playable condition—and keep them looking good at the same time. Along the way, you must contend with changing weather conditions, seemingly never-ending field use and budget limitations. Little changes here and there make a big difference.
Plan ahead. Have the equipment and supplies on hand to deal with rainy conditions. Keep some form of calcined clay stored in a dry area near the field or transport it to the field for practices and games for quick use when needed.
Here are some additional ideas to use when puddles are extreme:
• Place an absorbent mat over concentrated wet areas to draw the water up off of the surface like a sponge. Use a lightweight roller on top of the mat to force it to soak up more of the water without disrupting the surface of the area.
• Use a hand-held blower to move puddles of water. Work from the edge of the puddle with the end of the blower pointing to where you want the water to move to. Keep the end of the blower low to the ground and at a horizontal angle, either placing it directly into the puddle or slightly below the water surface level at the outside edge of the puddle. You want to move the water across the surface, not down into it. Using this method, you can either spread deep areas of water over a wider area so it will soak in more quickly, or move it off the skinned area.
• For deeper puddles and large areas of standing water, use a water pump. Attach tubing of the desired length and extend the tubing to an area off the playing surface. The capacity of the pump will determine how far from the puddle you can channel the water and how much water you can move per minute.
• Keep tarps in place to quickly cover the field and prevent puddles from forming. Devise methods that make the tarps easy to use and store. Yellow straps attached to the tarp spikes make it easier to spot them and faster to remove them when it’s time to remove the tarp. Cut sections of 3-inch PVC piping to use for rolling and storing each section of tarp. Cut the pipe to allow approximately 12 inches to extend beyond the tarp on each side. Rolling the tarp onto the piping makes it easy for two people to carry it off the field and keeps the tarp ready to pull out for the next use.
• Attach simple curved metal hangers to a wall or to posts to hang the tarps rolled on PVC pipe. One out-of-sight, yet quickly accessible location for these hangers, is the support posts underneath the bleachers.
Tackle tasks with tools
Keeping basic tools readily available allows crew members to tackle tasks more quickly. Well-placed quick couplers attached to a reliable water source allow water to be applied with a hand-held hose to wash skinned area material from the turf edge, preventing lip buildup.
Crew members can also use long-handled rakes or brooms to remove the skinned material from surrounding turf. When there are many fields that need attention, lip removal can be accomplished more quickly by using a small hand-held power broom, or a powered walk-behind or ride-on machine with a rotary brush attachment.
Make the job easier
Consider changes in field design that fit the needs of your program, yet reduce crew time. You may decide on wider skinned areas or all-skinned softball infields so that crews can handle the bulk of the dirt work with a ride-on field rake or with dragging attachments pulled behind a utility vehicle. You may opt for a grassed baseline with a circular turning zone, which takes less daily grooming time than a skinned base path.
Determine which methods work best for repeated tasks, such as painting the lines. Once the string line is in place, line painting is a quick process using a walk-behind paint machine equipped with a nozzle to spray the proper width of the line. To get similar results on a tighter budget, use a hand-held paint applicator with a paint roller the exact width of the line attached to a long handle.
Consider purchasing a form for marking the lines, or making one with the proper line width left open between two attached parallel boards. The paint can be applied by using a power spray nozzle or hand-held aerosol. You’ll create sharp lines, and any overspray will fall on the boards.
Little changes can make base painting and placement easier and faster. Build, or buy, a simple rack of wood or metal to hold the bases so that the surface is exposed for painting. Allow enough space so they don’t touch, and so you can get complete coverage. Leave the bases on this rack to dry.
Build or buy a base carrier to load the bases on together to take them onto the field for placement. It can be as simple as a wooden post with a wooden base and parallel boards on which to hang the bases attached to two wheels.
When the budget is stretched to the max, use your ingenuity to make equipment or adapt existing equipment to fit your needs. Creating patterns on the field is a relatively simple process that earns the appreciation of players and spectators. If you don’t have reel mowers to create those patterns, you can get a good effect by attaching a roller to the back of a walk-behind rotary mower. Attach metal brackets near the bottom of the mower handle connecting to a metal rod that runs through the middle of the roller. Make sure the roller is able to turn freely so it is rolling across the grass surface, rather than being dragged across it.
If you don’t want to create the patterns as you mow, make a simple walk-behind roller with long handles to push across the grass. You could make these rollers in different widths for the patterns you plan to create frequently. That might include a narrow roller to create a checkerboard pattern on a baseball field and a wider roller for an alternating pattern between the lines of a football field.
Use all resources available
Tap into all the information you can by taking classes at facilities or online, reading magazines, attending conferences, workshops and sports field academies, and sharing ideas with your peers.
Floyd Perry travels throughout the United States and abroad conducting Grounds-keepers Management Workshops. He is the author of four books.