Dennis Klein knows a thing or two about managing sports turf in the state of Texas.
Klein — the director of grounds at Arlington’s Globe Life Park, home of the Texas Rangers — pulled tarp for the Rangers while still in high school in the Arlington area. He then went on to Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches. His Texas tour continued on, as he eventually landed back with the Rangers for four years before joining the Round Rock Express (currently the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate) as the head groundskeeper at Dell Diamond for the team’s inaugural 2000 season. In May of 2006, Klein took over the reins at the big-league level.
Globe Life Park features Lattitude 36 bermudagrass wall-to-wall, which Klein is a big proponent of. “It’s a good-looking grass, it recovers quick and it’s harder to ding up than Tifway 419,” Klein told SportsField Management shortly after the Major League Baseball season kicked off in April. “A lot of people are going to Latitude 36 — I know they have it now at the University of Oklahoma and at Toyota Stadium (home of Major League Soccer club FC Dallas).” Klein and a crew of three replaced Globe Life’s Tifway 419 with the Latitude 36 after the 2014 season. “We did it all in-house for around $50,000,” Klein said. “We had a lot of problems with the Tifway 419. We had a lot of mutations with it.”
Globe Life Park also features a lot of find sand, according to Klein. “I really don’t like it,” he explained. “It tends to get kind of slick; it almost acts like there’s more silt in it. I recently incorporated USGA (United States Golf Association) topdressing sand, to try and get coarser send to help with stability.
“The dirt plays great here. Once we start getting into later summer we’re watering 10 times a day before a game,” he said. “On a windy, hot, Texas night, usually by the middle of game it’s drying out.”
Just like any MLB club, the Rangers players want consistency on the playing surfaces. Klein understands this — a benefit of having a decade of experience in his position at the MLB level. “You want the same conditions at home, day in and day out,” he said “The players want to know what to expect. Some days we get it perfect, exactly how they want it. Some days, it’s a little harder.”
SFM also talked to Klein about a couple of other topics:
On the weather: “The umpires are now more than ever letting us make the call on how much time we need and when we’re able to go out with the tarp,” Klein said. “Back in the day, it seemed like the umpires didn’t listen as much as they do now. If severe weather is coming, I’ll go out between innings with an iPad and show them exactly what we’re looking at.”
On equipment: “We’re all John Deere here,” Klein said. “We’re real familiar with the Deere equipment and it’s all really easy to adjust. We have good support from (John Deere dealer) Austin Turf & Tractor. We use Deere Aercore aerators in the outfield and the walk-behind Deere aerators on the infield and sidelines as often as we can. We also do a lot of verticutting here to cut into that canopy a little bit, to let that sun really get down in there.”