Dirty Work

He pulled up in his Ford truck, uncoiled himself from the front seat, and reached over to shake my hand. “Rodney? “


“How are you doing?”

“Pretty good. Glad you could take a look at these fields for us. We know they need some work, but we’re not quite sure where to start.”

And with that short exchange, a six-month project started.

Together, John and I walked all eight baseball fields. He talked--pointing out lip conditions, fence problems, dangerous dugouts (or Love Shacks, as he called them), rock problems, grading problems and so on. For my part, I listened, took notes, and tried to determine which “conditions” I agreed with and which onest might be the efforts of a good salesman trying to pad the invoice.

Two days later, I was again at the fields, this time with a different vendor and our parks director (who couldn’t make the first meeting). Once again, we walked the fields while the vendor talked and I took notes--though this time I was comparing the new vendor’s comments with the other vendor’s comments--looking for similarities and differences.

In the end, the director and I learned much from both vendors. We learned we had minor lip conditions on all the fields, and that the grading (inconsistent, in-season infield dragging) had left us with poor/non-existent drainage and a potentially unsafe playing surface. We also learned that the soil content was almost 100 percent sand and that there has to be a way to get some water to these fields. And, we learned we needed lots and lots of dirt.

But neither vendor had any idea how much dirt was actually needed. One vendor estimated 10-20 tons per field. The other said 50-75 tons per field. Neither had looked at any topographical maps, or took any measurements. They simply wrote a number on their pad and then sent that with their quote. When questioned on this method, their response was something like, “I’ve been doing this so long, I just know how much you need.”

Since the bill for this project was to be split evenly between the city’s parks department and the local baseball association, all parties wanted to know exactly how much dirt was needed and that it would actually solve the problem we were trying to correct.

So we entered Phase II of the project. The parks director hired a local engineering firm to “shoot” all eight fields, and draw up maps. Once this was completed, we met with the president of the firm and the city’s engineers to determine if adding soil and then laser-grading the fields was the best option (it was), calculating exactly how much (and exactly what kind) of dirt was needed.

In the end, a detailed RFP was created and sent out. A bid was awarded and, of course, just as work was about to begin, it started to snow. It still hasn’t stopped.

So the dirty work is yet to be completed, but the plan is in place, the funding is in place, and the vendors are chosen. Hopefully, in the end, all the work and effort will be worth it. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

In the meantime, enjoy yet another great issue of PRB. This month we cover a variety of sports turf-related topics, plus our usual collection of aquatics, parks, playgrounds, sports, fitness, and recreation stories.

As usual, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it.

Happy New Year!

Rodney J. Auth