Winter is here, along with many turfgrass conferences. I believe everyone that gets a chance to attend a conference should, as many things can be learned at these conferences, especially at the trade shows. The trade show is a must for me. One also can get a lot of knowledge from networking, talking shop in the hotel lobby and, yes, also at the bar. Do not leave it in the conference classroom.

As I tell some agronomists and consultants, you do an excellent job teaching our students the proper way to build our fields and maintain them, so don’t leave that in the classroom when you’re out consulting on a field. I recently was called on a professional baseball field because the field did not drain, and water would stand on it for an hour or more after a rain. The consultant said the reason was because the bermudagrass had too much thatch and had not been aerified in April. How in the world could thatch delay the drainage when the field had been sprigged and was only nine months old? What needed to be looked into was the soil profile. The rootzone was a 90-10 mix, and the 4-inch drainage layer was limestone. Was the limestone the correct size? Was it washed limestone? The culprit here was unwashed limestone. As Dr. James R. Watson would always tell us, if we have to use limestone, be sure it is clean and washed.

I would like to congratulate Joey Fitzgerald, head groundskeeper at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan., and his crew. Their field was voted Best Playing Surface in 2009 by the Northern League. In May 2008, they converted the field from bluegrass to Patriot bermudagrass. The entire field is grass with just the pitching mound, home plate and sliding areas for the three bases cut out. The field is used by the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League, plus college and high school baseball, and the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer, plus college and high school soccer. The dirt sliding areas are sodded for each soccer game. This field is amazing. It is hard to find a divot. I had the great opportunity to work with Joey, along with my 3-year-old grandson Joey, on the Kansas City Athletics Reunion night. What a terrific field!

If you watched the Oklahoma-University of Miami game played at Dolphin Stadium, you saw what a beautiful field Alan Sigwardt and his crew had. The Thursday after the last baseball game, the field was completely resodded with sod grown on plastic by Mark Paluch of Bent Oak Farm in Foley, Ala. That college game was played two days later, followed by the Dolphins game the next day. Overall, they had four games in 10 days. Again, as always, Alan did a great job. The turf was flawless, and the painted logo excellent.

Congratulations also go out to Ed Attalla, head groundskeeper for the Jacksonville Suns, on being named Groundskeeper of the Year by the Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs. At one time Ed had worked for Don Follet of the Washington Redskins. And, hats off to Ed for all the time he donates in helping the high school with both their football and baseball playing fields.

Also in the Jacksonville area, I was so happy for Mark Clay and Nick Fedewa of the Jacksonville Jaguars that the playing field of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium (formerly Alltel Stadium) was completely resodded wall to wall for the first time in many years. The field was sodded with TifSport bermuda from Pike Creek Turf, Inc. of Georgia. Ron Butler of Laserturf Southeast, Inc. handled the field grading work. Mark’s practice fields are TifSport, too.

Ronnie Griffin, instructor for Bartram Trail High School, teaches the turfgrass program and works with his students on maintaining the school’s athletic fields. For Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, the National Football League built two practice fields at the high school. The fields were designed by Ed Mangan of the Atlanta Braves and built by Roy Briggs and Mark Paluch. One of these fields is the high school’s game field. It is used for junior varsity and varsity football, boys’ and girls’ soccer and boys’ and girls’ lacrosse. This field is still looking great, playing great and has excellent drainage. Hats off to Ronnie and his students for the great job they do maintaining it.

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 67 years in the profession.