The unprecedented measures being implemented across the country are no doubt presenting some difficult challenges for all of us. We reached out to industry professionals and the ballfields community at all levels — colleagues, coaches, groundskeepers, athletic directors, volunteers. Our recent Peer Survey brought some great feedback and ideas as we all continue to adapt to the COVID-19 public health situation.
Please drop us a note if you would like to share an idea of your own, we’d love to hear it. Sharing information is a great way to bring the ballfield community together, without having to literally come together during this period of social distancing. The ideas, thoughts and suggestions from the hundreds of responses we received from around the country are summarized below. We’ll continue to add to these as we collect them.
► BALLFIELD & LEAGUE MANAGEMENT:
- Don’t forget those who support you — your sponsors. During these challenging times we’re encouraging our league members to remember to support our great sponsors who support us. We’ve sent out a league-wide email listing our league sponsors.
- Keep everyone engaged and informed. They don’t expect answers right now, but let them know you’re planning to have a season of some sort — even shortened — and share with them what you are doing in order to be ready when programs can begin.
- Reinvest in your facility. It is a very rare time that these facilities are vacant. Even simpler things like aerating and topdressing will make a big difference.
- Anything that needs time to settle or grow, now is the time. It’s like a second chance at things you didn’t have time for last Fall. Rebuild the mound, plant new grass, pour concrete, redo your dugouts, etc.
- Some schools we work with have temporarily changed their shipping addresses to a home address to receive shipment of their field products and tools so they can still keep things moving forward at their ballfield.
- If your team budget is a “use it or lose it” situation, consider what had been allocated for paying umpires, travel costs, etc., and instead repurpose that money to purchase equipment and make updates to your fields.
- If your season or league is ultimately canceled, ask your members to donate their league dues. Many families are not asking for a refund. The money could then be reassigned to address fall projects to keep the field / facility updated and upgraded.
- We’re finding bids are very competitive for our facility upgrades and we encourage other fields to consider upgrades or repairs to your infrastructure.
- We had been planning on a fall renovation of our concession area. But now, we have so “donations” from families who do not wish to have any sort of refund of their league fees, that we have allocated that money to update and improve our concessions now — something that will directly benefit those generous families when they come back to the fields.
► ON-FIELD MAINTENANCE:
- Up in the Northeast, our focus has been on our grass. We’re taking advantage of the cool temps and vacant fields to aerate and seed the fields prior to any pre-emergent application. This is a great time to get your grass healthy while there is no use. Once the fields are open for business, there will be a ton of use and a healthy turfgrass is a greatest defense against turf wear.
- If you have access to your fields, that’s great! You can find ways to work independently or by pairing up family members, etc., to stay smart with social distancing. If you don’t have access to the field, use this time to become organized. Compile notes about what needs to be done so when you are back on the field, everyone has a clear list of things to accomplish and you’ll quickly become a well-oiled machine!
- Don’t assume you won’t have games anytime soon. Stay motivated and continue prepping your fields. You will be amazed at how well your fields will look and perform with the additional time this unfortunate situation has brought. Players & coaches will appreciate coming back to well-prepared fields.
- Coaches: with the time that would have been spent at practice, use that time instead to take care of your fields, and yourself. I’ve noticed that spending roughly 10 hours a week, by myself, out on the fields has been great for the fields and therapeutic for me.
- I’ve use the time to repair the batter’s boxes and sliding pits. Feels great to do it the right way without being rushed by practices and games.
- As a high school coach, we’re not sure if we’ll be able to come back or not. But we are keeping our fields ready, and we’re not as stressed out about all the wet weather we’ve had. Staying in our field prep routine has our fields in great shape, I highly encourage you to use this time to your advantage, as a silver lining.
- We utilize a Sports Field Maintenance Tracker Book. Each field has a chart page tracking fertilization, aeration, topdressing, seeding, weed control, irrigation and more. We also have 21 Fact Sheets (U of Nebraska-Lincoln and STMA) for safer and healthier fields, and a seeding tab of the book has 20 Fact Sheets about seeding/overseeding from Cornell, Iowa State, Nebraska, Penn State and Ohio State and our recipes for pre-germinating perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass for overseeding.
- With teams idle, we’re teaching the kids field maintenance skills, then assigning them to them as regular duties. The kids will take pride and ownership over the condition of their fields. Some of the techniques we show them are online at Groundskeeper U.
- Even simple stuff like having parents volunteer to come pull weeds is really helping get our field ready. Many parents are working from home or are on reduced hours and they love the break in the day to spend a couple hours being productive in the community. Things we “never have time” to stay on top of are getting done.
- Look for creative ways to practice social distancing at the ballpark, but still get essential work done in preparation for the return of games. While one person is mowing the outfield, another can be working on the mound, while still another can be installing on base anchors. Just keep your distance from each other and practice common sense sanitizing of all tools and equipment.
- We are often so focused on getting our fields ready, we usually only have time for “good enough” when it comes to our infield lips. We’re doing a great job on those now and we’re sure we’ll see a benefit when it comes to drainage and playability.
- We always talked about it doing this, but we are now asking our grounds crew volunteers and coaches to take a little time to go through the field maintenance courses at Groundskeeper University. So much great information there, and now everyone has the time to go through these lessons. Very valuable, highly encourage!
Did you miss the Peer Survey?
We’d love to hear from you. Send us your thoughts and ideas, and let us know how you’re doing.