Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Rain or Shine, Grounds Crew Makes Sure Fields Are in Mint Condition

Photo courtesy of Little League Baseball®
By Nick Richardson
The conditions of the fields at the Little League Baseball® World Series are enough to make even Major League ballplayers jealous. These picture-perfect conditions are due to the tireless effort of the grounds crew, who work day after day to keep the fields in immaculate condition.

Rob Guthrie has been a full-time member of the grounds crew for over a year after working with golf courses for nearly eight years. Mr. Guthrie says he has enjoyed making the switch to working on baseball fields and the unique challenges they present. He mentioned that many people don’t realize that the fields at the World Series complex see plenty of action outside of these two eventful weeks.

“Through the year my biggest challenge is managing the wear on the field,” said Mr. Guthrie. “That’s through early baseball games starting in May, on through summer camp. Summer camp is a big challenge. There’s five weeks of camp and they use all the fields we have. Getting through the hottest part of the year, while they’re seeing play every day is one of the biggest challenges. I try to get them as nice as I can for the [World] Series.”

With two weeks of nearly non-stop play, the grounds crew goes lay massive quantities of mound clay, infield conditioner, and fertilizer. On days that see two or three games played on the same field, the crew can go through as many as 20 bags of conditioner.

Sometimes, though, the conditions of the fields aren’t always in the hands of the grounds crew. Take for example this past Sunday, when the entire day’s schedule was cancelled due to rain. While Mr. Guthrie says there isn’t always a lot he and his crew can do on rainy days, they make sure that they keep the fields in as good a condition as they can manage.

Whenever they’re anticipating a rainy day, the grounds crew quickly covers the infield with a large tarp propped up by two large fans. “Even though there’s not much going on, we’re constantly checking on both fields,” said Mr. Guthrie.

It’s on these type of days when it helps to have volunteers like Ray “Mac” McGlothlin. Mr. McGlothlin is volunteering in his 20th World Series as a member of the grounds crew.

“In a tournament that’s 10 days long, rain is bound to happen,” said Mr. McGlothlin. “Years ago, we’d have to remove gallons of water, just because the tarps would be so heavy you couldn’t move them. Now we put two big fans under the tarp and it lifts it up and the water runs off.”

Working primarily on the field at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, Mr. McGlothlin and the rest of the grounds crew, are poised out of site, but just a few feet from the field during games, and make any necessary adjustments over the course of each game.

Mr. McGlothlin came to Little League after working as a facility manager at Little League’s former baseball camp facility in Hillsgrove, Pa., and jumped at the chance to be involved in the World Series. He may only spend two weeks out of his year in Williamsport, but Mr. McGlothlin considers it one of the highlights of his year.

“I love it here,” he said. “I think it’s kind of like a party atmosphere. It’s great just being around guys that I don’t see for a year. I retired from Little League last year, and I figure even when I’m on my little scooter I’ll still be coming here.”

The grounds crew tasked with manicuring both Lamade and Volunteer Stadiums are volunteers, yet to the man, they look forward to spending the two week each summer tending to ever Little Leaguer’s field of dreams.

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