While the eastern half of the US has been under the grips of old man winter this month, the western half of the US has been basking in warmth for the most part. But the true sign of Spring is the return of major league ballplayers to their respective training camps.
It won’t be long before baseball and softball season officially takes off across the country. There is always a lot to do in preparation for the opening of the season. Groundskeepers stuck in the cold can get a head start by spending this time doing the pre-season work that can be brought indoors.
Inspecting Nets and Screens
I have always used this time to get all of my screens and nets ready to go so that once my weather turned favorable I could solely concentrate on the field(s). If my screens were outside I brought them in somewhere where I could work on them where weather didn’t affect me, be it from cold, rain or snow. Each screen is inspected for:
- Holes in the net
- Net material fatigue
- Condition of string that is anchoring net to frame if not using sock nets
- Condition of the frame and transport wheels (where applicable)
- Condition of any protective padding on screens
Repairs are made when reasonable to do so. Your first priority is to ensure safety isn’t compromised for the coaches and players who will rely on these screens and nets for protection. Pitching screens (L-Screens) tend to get the worst abuse and usually require the most work. Don’t forget about the big on-field portable backstop. If it is collapsible, open it up and inspect all locations where the net and the backstop pad are anchored to the frame, especially along the bottom of the backstop frame where it typically comes in contact with the ground. Abrasion can speed the wear causing the net and pad to become loose or unattached on the bottom of that frame.
Remember the Batting Cage Nets!
Don’t forget to check the health of the batting cage nets. For indoor batting cages, check to make sure all connections are tight and that the net is not sagging. If these are for outdoor batting cages, stretch the net out somewhere to check for holes in them. Mice and rabbits love to chew through the string near the base of the nets for nesting materials. They can be easily repaired on the ground BEFORE you hoist these nets back up into position for the season. Do a full inspection of all hardware and cable on outdoor batting tunnel net systems as rust and oxidation can work to seize things up if stainless steel or galvanized hardware was not used.
And Finally, Remember to Look at your Barrier Safety Netting Systems!
At least once a year – and definitely after every storm – you should make sure your barrier netting and backstop netting is still securely protecting your fans. We have a free online safety netting systems guide that can help you in your barrier safety netting selection. If you’re still not sure what you need to withstand the weather in your area, give our Project Services Team a call at 800-747-5985. There is no charge for this service.
Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Nets that can’t be repaired need to be replaced. Do not wait until the last minute to order your nets and screen replacements. You don’t want to start the season putting your players and coaches at risk if your particular size or shape is out of stock. It’s best to start your net assessment and reordering process early on after the start of the New Year. If your budget allows, slowly build a backup supply of nets for each of your screens. This is the best way to prepare for unexpected damage such as vandalism.
By taking these steps early on, you will be prepared when the weather turns more towards Spring and the crack of the bat begins to echo through your facility.
P.S. There’s still 1 month left on our Groundskeeper University full free access. Take advantage to experience this training for yourself so you can see if it’s a fit for your grounds crew (paid or volunteer) to use this summer.