If you want a quality and safe complex or field, it needs to be looked after daily. A little daily care will give a positive, lasting impression of the community’s capital investment and your department’s reputation.
Winter takes its toll on the playing field. Damage from frost and water, litter, etc., can leave a field in rough shape for spring. Early in the preseason, assign man power to clean and repair the field in time for the first game of spring. For many facilities located in the central through northern tiers of the country, aggressive field preparation in late September and early October will result in an easily repaired field come spring.
Spring Cleanup Checklist
• Check backstop, benches, signs and bleachers for damage and make necessary repairs.
• Paint and repair as needed, paying attention to dangerous burrs and splinters.
• Fill and float infield and add clay where necessary.
• Rake and dethatch turf and remove winterkill.
• Mow turf only after full green-up.
• Aerate after frost is gone.
• Fertilize according to turf growing cycle.
• Reset home plate and pitcher’s mound.
• Edge between turf and dirt infield and along warning tracks.
Walk the field
This is the single most important step in a daily maintenance routine when it comes to the safety of athletes. It is essential that the field manager be aware of hazards and minimize the risk of injury to players.
Slowly walk the field before every practice or game. While doing so, look for the following hazardous conditions:
• Large stones in skinned areas, particularly the sliding paths
• Sprinkler heads that have not retracted
• Burrows or other holes in the turf caused by rodents and pests
• Damaged fencing
• Loose or exposed base anchors
• Glass or metal objects in turf or clay
Another hazard that is becoming more prevalent is vandalism. It cannot be ignored that some hazards are intentionally created to cause harm. Such hazards are usually the most difficult to locate.
Once a field is ready for play, several ongoing tasks can ensure that it remains usable throughout the season. These tasks are usually performed on a weekly basis, but heavy use or tournament play demands that they be performed daily.
Here are some key steps you can take to minimize turf damage:
• Use fields as little as possible when wet.
• Rotate play areas whenever possible.
• Allow turf to green-up in early spring before starting practice and/or tournaments.
Properly closing down the playing field can save on spring start-up repairs. Your maintenance crew or volunteers can carry out the entire fall maintenance program on a softball field in one or two days following the last game of the season. The month of October is prime time to clean for many areas in the upper half of the country, as fields are generally frozen or covered with snow during winter months. Time your seasonal man power requirements to conduct thorough year-end maintenance.
Fall Cleanup List
• Aerate turf as needed, preferably before the final fertilizing and topdressing.
• Topdress, fertilize, seed as required.
• Remove debris and broken or unused equipment.
• Check for damage to backstop, benches and other structures.
• Mow and rake as needed.
• Edge the entire field.
• Water as required.
• Blow out irrigation system if needed.
• Clean lips of debris.
• Remove and store equipment. Schedule engine overhauls and sharpen blades.
• Provide fencing to control winter traffic.
• Set up form boards to prevent lip buildup from wind.
• Plan to purchase next year’s supplies.
• Lock gates if possible.
Daily maintenance practices
The following steps outline a daily maintenance routine that, if followed, will provide the safest, most playable sports field for athletes. This short daily routine will keep your field manageable and will eliminate the major struggles of field maintenance.
Weekly Maintenance Checklist
• Remove broken glass or other dangerous objects from the field.
• Repair holes in backstops and fences.
• Repair holes and humps in the infield and outfield.
• Check benches for damage.
• Check home plate and pitcher’s rubber for safety.
• Prior to dragging, remove dirt buildup around bases.
• Check signs and replace as needed.
• Mow as required.
• Trim grass around backstops, fences and benches.
• Rake and level infield, especially around sliding pits.
Conduct this checklist daily during tournaments and special events. Have a between-game plan, especially during bad weather patterns.
Every day, take time to repair and replace divots and damaged turf. Lightly topdress damaged areas with a mixture of topsoil, seed and Turface, and then lightly level the area with the back of a garden or landscape rake. It’s very simple, and if done regularly, will ensure a consistent and safe playing surface.
Floyd Perry travels throughout the United States and abroad conducting Groundskeepers Management Workshops. He is the author of four books. For more information, visit www.gmsforsportsfields.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org