Navigating the COVID Pandemic as a Sports Turf Manger

The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented in our country and industry.  Around the country there are various levels of restrictions as to who is able to work.  For many of us it has meant less time looking over our ballfields.  There are still plenty of things we can be doing if we are working or quarantined at home to be ready when baseball and softball are ready to begin again.

 

Cultivation Practices

This is the perfect time to think about major cultivation practices. This is also a great time to ensure the cutting blades on your mowers are ready to go, sharpening or replacing as needed.  It is also a time to remember the ⅓ rule.  There will be some that aren’t able to get to fields for some time.  If that is the case, this ⅓ rule is even more important.  What the rule entails, is cutting only ⅓ of the blade length per mow.  Then slowly bringing down the mowing height to the length of the original height of the cut; this process could take several weeks depending on growth rates.

If you are a sports field manager working from home, you can still find productivity by building a maintenance program plan; this could include learning new agronomy or cultivation practices or updating/planning this year’s schedules which could include forecasting of budgets.

This is also a great opportunity to make sure you have all your SDS/MSDS sheets and update pesticide records.

This could be a good time to start thinking about capital improvement projects and creating proposals to present to upper management on any forecasted improvements.

 

Potential COVID-19 Effects

As a sport turf manager one of the biggest challenges we’ll face immediately after we battle through our hardship, will be bringing these fields back into consistency.  This time of year, the northern climates are coming out of winter and are experiencing a freeze and thaw effect on their skinned areas, which include mounds and home plate areas.  When moisture fills void spaces and crystallizes due to temperatures below freezing, soil structures expand and contract.  It’s important to roll and recompact these areas, high clay content areas like infield skins are built for surface drainage or to withstand high traffic, like batters boxes or mounds. It’s important not to rush this process of recompacting.

In southern states and in the western parts of the country, they’ll be thinking about transition from cool season to warm season grasses. Most will also battle winter annual weeds due to missed application of pre-emergence.  The transition process can be done chemically or manually.  The manual transitioning process can be done by adjusting mowing heights and topdressing. Non-areas of freeze and thaw will be battling rehydration of high clay content areas, which usually takes 48-72 hours. These areas that have arid conditions battle keeping proper hydration all year, new technology is now being used to help solve those problems.

This outbreak could cause some to feel overwhelmed early in the process, please step back and understand this is an unprecedented situation and it’ll take time and patience. Getting fields ready for the season usually takes 1-2 months of preparation; this potentially could be crammed into a 1-2 week period after everyone receives the green light for seasons to resume, especially if you’ve had to stay away from your fields at this point.

Some of these key practices will include:

  • Rehydrating soil profiles
  • Finishing last minute maintenance; like edging, bring down heights of cut, soil hydrations and bring nutrient level back to normal
  • Reshaping mounds and bullpens
  • Catching up on nutrients
  • Depending on location, battling potential turf disease and weeds
  • Managing new/veteran staff members

Some other things to consider will be the demand on distributors and manufacturers for product needs.  People need to be prepared for potentially not being able to get material in normal time frames after restrictions are lifted.  Right now would be a good time to reach out to distributors over the phone or email to get your name on the list in order to not fall too far on their back logs.

 

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy

This has put a huge burden on our families, our economy, and society as a whole.  However, this has also given us a chance to step back and truly think about our daily tasks, bettering our industry and what is truly important in our lives. I look forward to hearing everyone’s stories, please stay safe and healthy! 

 

Dan worked as a groundskeeper in MiLB and MLB for seven years.  Over that time, he worked with the Great Lake Loons (LA Dodgers affiliate), Texas Rangers as an assistant to Dennis Kline and as a Head Groundskeeper for three of those years with the Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds affiliate).  Over that period of time, he had the opportunity to look over two brand new fields during the renovation processes.  He also has six years of national sales experience in the sports turf industry.  During which, he has continued to consult on multiple levels of playing surfaces. 

 

 

About DuraEdge Products

Based in Grove City, PA, DuraEdge Products specializes in the production of top-quality products and services for the baseball and softball industry to provide long-term soil solutions, and to cover all the bases for safe and playable infields for the Sports Turf Industry across the United States and abroad.

 

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