Cincinnati field makeover complete

The University of Cincinnati Clermont College Cougars will begin their 2013 baseball season with a new home field thanks to the efforts of Cincinnati Reds all-star right fielder Jay Bruce, the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund, the UC Clermont College administration and the Batavia Township board of trustees. Field construction was completed in November 2012, and the new diamond is expected to be ready for play by April 2013, according to Rex Parsons, administrator of Batavia Township, a community just east of Cincinnati, Ohio.


Blending in the Field Saver 50.
PHOTOS BY STEVE BERG.

J&D Turf, Inc. (http://janddturf.blogspot.com/), a construction and renovations company headquartered in Fishers, Ind., installed the new grass field and made some necessary improvements to the existing facility.

“We were certainly very happy to continue our relationship with the Reds Community Fund [RCF],” said Jamie Mehringer, president of J&D. “The RCF works within the Cincinnati Reds’ community to help develop and improve playing fields in the area. In fact, just last August we unveiled improvements made at the P&G baseball field in Cheviot, Ohio, co-sponsored by P&G and the Community Fund.”

J&D is in the unique position to offer full service construction and maintenance for sports fields, and the company is also a Master Distributor for Dura Edge. Mehringer said, “We have portable mixers and so have the capability of mixing soil and can offer our clients a total package, everything from bullpen clay to outfield warning track soils.”

The work at UC Clermont began by taking soil samples, including testing the infield mix via hydrometer readings, analyzed by Hummel & Company, to determine the composition of the soil and rootzone of the infield grass. According to Mehringer, “Soil texture of the rootzone is critical to ensure successful turf establishment. A poorly drained rootzone leads to poor durability because of shallow rooting, compaction and wear. After the topographical survey was finished, noting the influences of the parking lot draining in right field and a swale in left field, it was decided to bring in an earth mover and grade the outfield to fall toward the outfield fence and the right field corner using a dual-slope laser. The outfield was then seeded.”


The completed field.

The soil on the dirt infield was suitable for growing grass, so the crew just had to lower the soil from the existing 1 percent grade to a .5 percent grade using a conical laser. After laser grading and applying a preplant fertilizer, the sod was installed.

Mehringer said, “Due to the presence of stone in the infield mix, the decision was made to remove the material. After removing 4 inches of existing soil, a hybrid infield was installed. Ideally, all new collegiate baseball field construction would have a 4-inch column of DuraEdge Collegiate, but there are times when the project budget will not allow this route. Simply stated, the hybrid is made by using a local mix and amending it with Field Saver 50 from National Sand Company. The goal is to create a column of infield mix that has a similar sand/silt/clay mix as with the DuraEdge Collegiate. In other words, using a local mix and amending it before play takes place.”

After blending in the Field Saver 50, calcined clay was used as the topdressing.

Parsons said, “We moved the fences out in left and right field to 310 feet, center field is 400. And we’re hoping to get stadium seating in the near future from the old Riverfront Stadium, which was raised when the club built the Great American Ballpark. The new baseball facilities should put a lot more fans in the stands and will help the school with recruiting, I’m sure.”

Funding for the project was managed by the Reds Community Fund, UC Clermont, Batavia Township and others. The RCF was established in 2001 as an outreach to at-risk kids in the area. To date, the RCF has helped to renovate more than 300 baseball and softball parks in the area, and underwrites expenses for more than 325 youth baseball and softball teams throughout Reds Country.

“The best part of the story is how the Reds’ Jay Bruce is giving back to this school and, of course, to the baseball scout who discovered him,” said Parsons.


The infield, prior to construction.

The new field has been christened Brian Wilson Field, after the Cincinnati Reds’ scout-player-coach who discovered Bruce when he played baseball in Texas for West Brook High School. Wilson died of a heart attack at the age of 31.

The Reds’ outfielder is responsible for a large part of the funding and offered these sentiments at the press conference announcing the new field. “Brian always said, ‘Dance with the one who brung ya.’ Well, this is my way of giving back, it’s the least I can do for these kids who play baseball at UC Clermont. Baseball gives me the resources, a vehicle, for me to give back. Brian never got to see me play, never got to see the fruits of his labor pay off. He always said, ‘Be yourself,’and this is part of who I am.”


Brian Wilson field, preconstruction.

Before construction of the new facilities, the Cougars baseball team traveled about 30 miles to play a “home” game at Crosley Field in Blue Ash, Ohio. The new field is just off the UC Clermont campus at the Batavia Township Center, where three additional diamonds will serve the community, as well as the Reds’ Rookie Success League, a free, coed program, sponsored by RCF, for 6-to-12-year-old kids in Clermont and other counties in southwest Ohio.

J&D Turf began operations in 2008 and specializes in athletic field construction, consultation and maintenance. Mehringer was head groundskeeper and then director of operations at Victory Field with the Indianapolis Indians for 10 years. The company has come a long way in a short time. Working with city parks and recreation departments and city school districts throughout the Midwest, the company has provided services to major universities in the area including Butler University, Indiana State University, Indiana University, DePauw and Notre Dame. J&D offers a variety of field services including baseball and softball infield installation and renovation, mound and plate construction and renovation, laser grading, seeding, aerification, topdressing, finish grading and irrigation installation.

Mike Ingles is a freelancer writer living in Columbus, Ohio, who writes articles about business and the green industry.

Steve Berg, J&D Turf field manager, assisted with writing.