Football season is here and it seems everybody has worked extremely hard to have their fields in excellent condition. I have also seen many excellent baseball fields this year. What a vast improvement we all have made with our new varieties of grass and excellent infield soil mixtures. Being the Nitty, Gritty Dirt Man, I’ve heard a lot of raves on the improvement of our skinned infields, and there are some excellent companies out there supplying good infield dirt.
In June, I headed to Colorado for the Mark Razum Field Day at Coors Field, put on by Mark and his outstanding grounds crew, along with Bigfoot Turf Farm and Golf and Sports Solutions, plus some great vendors. I was thrilled to be on the program with many outstanding people, including Grant Trenbeath of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Grant does a terrific job and has many major league players as his cheerleaders.
As always, the night before the field day, Greg Johnson, owner of Bigfoot Turf Farm, hosted a steak dinner at a great venue: his sod farm. Greg maintains an outstanding baseball field on the farm and lets teams from the Denver area play there free of charge.
Coors Field looked great, thanks to the terrific maintenance by Mark and his crew. Mark, along with Eric Pollock of Golf and Sports Solutions, have come up with an outstanding infield mix using a clay soil they found in the Denver area. Mark has it on his infield this year, and Golf and Sports Solutions now markets it as the Mark Razum infield mix. Two new stadiums will have Mark’s infield mix on the skinned areas, the one in downtown Omaha that will host the NCAA College World Series and the one near Omaha, in Sarpy County, which will be the new home of the Kansas City Royals’ AAA farm club.
Hats off and many congratulations to Jesse Cuevas of Rosenblatt Stadium for all his great years in maintaining the playing field of the Omaha Royals Class AAA team and Championship NCAA baseball. The Omaha team of the United Football League will play their home games at Rosenblatt Stadium this year, then it will be torn down to make way for a new parking lot for the Omaha Zoo, but home plate will be preserved in The Infield at the Zoo.
While in the Denver area, I spent some time with Jay Hinrichs and my godson Jared. Jay is the athletic director of the University of Northern Colorado and has done a terrific job with their old and new athletic fields and field houses.
I was very deeply saddened by the death of one of my best friends, Walter Komatsubara of Honolulu, Hawaii. I had known Walter for 30 years. What a terrific, hard-working man. I first met Walter when he was a captain in the Honolulu Fire Department. He seemed like a one-man groundskeeper trying to improve the bad playing fields in Hawaii. He helped maintain fields, and he taught coaches and players how to maintain them. He dedicated this hard work to many Little League, high school, parks and recreation fields and some college fields throughout Hawaii. He did an outstanding job—and all for free. Thanks Walter.
Andre Bruce and his terrific crew are busy at Arrowhead Stadium and with the practice fields at Missouri Western College in St. Joseph, Mo., where the Kansas City Chiefs moved their summer practice camps from River Falls, Wis. It was great to see Grove Teates, owner of Alpine Services of Gaithersburg, Md., who is doing the renovation of the Chiefs’ practice field. Here, Andre switched from Tifway 419 to Patriot.
In June, I had seven visitors from Japan on a trip spearheaded by Show Ikeda. He brought the groundskeeper, president of soccer and architects to check out some great stadiums for the new soccer stadium they are building. They toured the renovated Royals’ and Chiefs’ stadiums, along with CommunityAmerica Ballpark, where the K.C. T-Bones baseball team and the Kansas City Wizards soccer team play. Then they went to San Diego where Luke Yoder of the Padres and his assistant, Matt Balough, showed them various stadiums.
When I first met Show Ikeda he was working at the Big Egg (the Tokyo Dome) in Japan. When the NFL had a preseason game there, we had six weeks to build them a grass practice field. Show and I used pregerminated bermuda and had that field ready. That’s how Show became interested in athletic fields. Today, he builds and maintains them and has his own sod farm. What a success story for Show, from artificial turf to natural grass. He has worked 12 Super Bowls, Pro Bowls and the London NFL games. For insect control, Show doesn’t use insecticides. He sprays his fields with vinegar twice a month.
I can remember what a job Mark Razum did at Coors Field after it was turned over to him. Mark did not have a say in the field, but what did he do? He made that field, and I believe his name should be on it. Yes, so many times, we groundskeepers make the architect and contractor look good.
Being 81 years old—68 years in the game—I would sincerely like to see everyone get involved when it comes to our playing fields—the front office, the groundskeeper, the architect, the contractor—all working together.
I remember Charlie O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics and the Oakland Athletics. In stadium meetings, Charlie would come to the meeting with a box of brass tacks. He would dump them on the table and say, “Now let us get down to brass tacks and achieve what we are here for.” So, when it comes to our playing fields, let everyone involved get down to brass tacks and get the job done right, deliver what was paid for and then some.
George Toma is an NFL Hall of Fame inductee, one of the founders of the Sports Turf Managers Association and mentor to hundreds of sports field managers over his 68 years in the profession.