A Day in The Life with Chris May at Russ Chandler Stadium

When thinking of Georgia Tech, a few things that come to mind may be: Atlanta, Yellow Jackets or perhaps even the color gold.  Gold would be a great representation of the operation they run, especially on the athletic grounds side of things.  As that is our world, we stopped by Atlanta, to check in on our first Division 1 college customer, Georgia Tech.  Chris May, now the Director of Athletic Grounds, was on the staff when Georgia Tech first went to DuraEdge for their infield skin.  As the story goes, his predecessor, Jon DeWitt and their Athletic Director gave Grant (McKnight) ten minutes to convince them why they needed to switch to the more expensive infield mix.  He flew down immediately and in the allotted ten minutes, both Jon and the Athletic Director were sold and gave him their seal of approval.  They began with a field amendment, before ultimately installing full DuraEdge infields on both their baseball and softball fields.  Since then, Chris and his crews have won multiple Field of the Year awards (2014, 2019) at Russ Chandler Stadium, home of Georgia Tech baseball.

We contacted Chris to gauge his interest in doing our first, A Day in The Life piece, chronicling a behind the scenes look at a day working on the Georgia Tech Athletic Fields crew, specifically, at Russ Chandler Stadium.  Chris accepted and we orchestrated a schedule around the volatile north Georgia February weather.  After arriving and meeting Chris and the rest of his crew, we began filming their usual routine.  On this day, they were preparing Russ Chandler Stadium for practice that afternoon and beginning overall preparations for their rival, the Georgia Bulldogs to come to town.  First on the docket was edging the grass between the outfield arc and warning track.  The team pulled strings to ensure perfectly straight lines, then raked and blew out the grass clippings from the warning track.  Shortly afterwards, they began mowing the outfield with the large riding mower, while push mowing the infield areas.  Simultaneously, they mat dragged the warning track to ensure a clean look and consistency.  They utilize a mix of aggregates, primarily DuraEdge lava rock that comes from Utah.  It makes for optimal drainage and a rich contrast in color, providing a clean aesthetic.

Chris spent time touching up the paint on the Tech logo behind home plate.  They have a synthetic halo and the white on it needs to be repainted from time to time, but it definitely makes it pop after freshening it up.  Then they began working on the infield and mound.  Raking the calcined clay (DuraEdge Platinum conditioner) around the edges then brooming off the Platinum in the landing area of the mound in order to compact and add proper moisture to the Blackstick mound clay.  After achieving ideal compaction and moisture on the mound, more Platinum conditioner was added to the landing area and raked out evenly.  The mound was very important as the first part of practice including live batting practice.  They tarped the mound in case of rain and went to lunch.  

Lunch was cut short due to a bit of rain coming down, so we all packed in and drove back to the field quickly in case it needed tarped.  Thankfully, the rain was short lived, so no tarping was necessary as they began dragging the infield.  First, they hand dragged in the tighter areas and edges, like around home and on the basepaths before using the small John Deere to drag the rest of the infield.  Shortly after, the sun was peeking out and had the field ready for some water.  They utilize a DuraEdge Professional infield mix, which will ultimately play the best, but needs the most care.  Regularly watering and even flooding it during very dry times is key to unlocking the perfect moisture balance.  That is why it is primarily used with Professional teams and big Division 1 colleges like Georgia Tech that have the staff and resources to maintain this specific mix.

After getting a good soak on the infield, practice began.  First up was some live throwing and hitting.  Once they finished up, the guys went to work lightly touching up the area around home and the mound, really just needing to rake the Platinum conditioner a bit before the next practice session.  Next up, they did some fielding work and finished up with some more batting practice.  That was it for practice, but preparations began for the next one and upcoming days events.

It was a great experience to tag along with Chris and company and get the behind the scenes look at what all goes into making their field look and play so great.  They do a tremendous job taking care of Russ Chandler Stadium and the attention to detail is really evident.  If you’d like to see the video, we’ve embedded it below for your viewing pleasure.

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