The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

And in the Beginning, Baseball Created Spring Training !

Feb 23, 2018 ·

The annual rite of spring — Spring Training — is upon us. The exhibition baseball season opened up this past weekend in Florida and Arizona. Like the game of baseball itself, spring training has a very rich and colorful history full of great stories.

Very quickly after organized professional baseball began in the 1870s, teams recognized that preparing for its season in late winter or early spring was especially challenging given that most teams were in the north at that time. In 1886, A.G. Spalding — owner of the Chicago White Stockings (who would later become the Chicago Cubs) — and his player-manager, Adrian “Cap” Anson, acted upon an idea to take their team down to Hot Springs, Arkansas to prepare for the upcoming baseball season (the photo below shows members of the 1912 Boston Red Sox team taking a “Spring Training Hike” in Hot Springs, Arkansas). They thought the hot springs had the right recuperative effect to help their players prepare for the long, grueling season ahead. When the White Stockings won the championship that year, other teams quickly became interested in the same preseason preparation and soon other Major League teams, as well as some Minor League and even Negro League teams, joined the party both on the fields and in the nightlife that the city offered. Voila! Spring training was born. The early camps were specifically made to get players in shape as players typically had other jobs during the off season back then. It wasn’t until about 1910 when teams began marketing the spring ritual to their fans.

In the years that followed, many things changed and evolved about spring training, here is just a few of the interesting tidbits about it…

  • While spring training had its start in Arkansas, it eventually settled into Florida in 1913 and the southwest United States because of better weather and space for facilities. But early training cities included such places as Tulsa, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Diego, West Palm Beach, Honolulu, and Jacksonville.
  • In 1918, a 23-year-old Babe Ruth hit one of the longest home runs in baseball history in Hot Springs at Whittington Park. The ball soared out of the park and into a pond of alligators at the Arkansas Alligator Farm across the street. The alligator farm is still in operation to this date! In 2011 it was measured that the ball had traveled 573 feet.
  • Some of the more unusual cities teams trained over the years include the Brooklyn Dodgers training in Havana, Cuba in 1947 and ’49, and the Dominican Republic in 1948. The Yankees also used those locations in ’50s. The Cubs trained on Catalina Island in the 1920s, ’30s and 40s. Puerto Rico and several northern Mexican cities were also visited by Major League teams in the 1950s and ’60s.
  • The “Grapefruit League” got its name from an event that occurred on March 15, 1915. The Brooklyn Dodgers hired a local aviator to fly over the stadium in a pregame stunt where a baseball would be dropped from 500 feet in the air to be caught by the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame manager Wilbert Robinson. The aviator forgot to take a ball up in the plane with them so when it came time to make the drop, all they found in the plane was a grapefruit… you see where this is going. The grapefruit hit Rogers in the chest sending him to the ground with red grapefruit juice and pulp all over him. Legend has it that one of his players, Casey Stengel, said after the event that “Uncle Robbie couldn’t cut it in the Grapefruit League” — and the rest, as they say, is history…
  • The “Cactus League” was formed in the desert southwest because of the racial intolerance in the south in the 1940s. Bill Veeck saw the intolerance first hand when attending a game where the minor league team he owned at the time was playing a game in Ocala, FL. He sat in the seating section reserved strictly for blacks, as whites and blacks were not allowed to sit together at the time. He was enjoying their company when a sheriff asked him to leave the section, he refused and eventually threatened the mayor of Ocala about the event. Later on Veeck purchased the Cleveland Indians and, knowing full well that he was about to sign a black player, moved his team’s spring training to Phoenix because of the prior incident in Ocala as well as the general intolerance at that time in that part of the country. They were somewhat more tolerant in Arizona and Veeck was successful in coaxing other Major League teams to join him in the desert southwest for spring training.
  • During the years the United States fought in World War II, baseball moved their camps north to help conserve resources to be used for the war effort. The commissioner of baseball and the Federal Office of Defense Transportation agreed to push spring training north of the Potomac and Ohio rivers and east of the Mississippi river so that trains could be better used to move troops and war supplies rather than ballplayers. This resulted in teams training closer to their home cities.

Baseball’s history is full of so many interesting stories, and these are just a few related to spring training. For an especially entertaining education about the beginnings of spring training I highly recommend purchasing the DVD, The First Boys of Spring, written and directed by Larry Foley. It’s available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart and other online retailers.

PLAY BALL!

Paul Zwaska

Paul Zwaska

A former head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, Paul graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1984 with a Bachelor’s in Soil Science with a specialty in Turf & Grounds Management. Paul took over as head groundskeeper for the Orioles’ final season at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and then was heavily involved throughout the design and construction phases of Oriole Park at Camden Yards which debuted on April 4, 1992. Paul has led Technical Sales Support at Beacon Athletics since the summer of 2000. In 2012, Paul authored and oversaw the launch of “Groundskeeper University”, the first online ballfield maintenance training venue. Over the years, Paul has donated thousands of hours working with West Madison Little League, which also plays a critical role in the research and development for many of Beacon’s innovative field maintenance tools.

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Proposed “concussion code of conduct” could help sports insurers ! [Canada]

Legislation that would require a “concussion code of conduct” for amateur sports organizations in Ontario will be the subject to public hearings next week.

If passed into law, Bill 193 will “be a catalyst for longer-term culture change for concussion management and injury prevention,” Ontario minister of tourism, culture and sport Daiene Vernile said Tuesday at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Bill 193 passed second reading Wednesday and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy.

Sports insurers “charge a higher rate for sports that are more prone to concussion,” according to an earlier CIP Society paper published by the Insurance Institute of Canada.

The cost of treating concussions tends to “mount up during the rehabilitation phase, where physiotherapy is required,” Indrani Nadarajah wrote in the CIP Society paper, titled Insurance in the World of Sports.

Concussion injuries have given rise to lawsuits in the past.

Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard, for example, is suing the United States Tennis Association, alleging she suffered a concussion after slipping and falling on a wet locker room floor at the U.S. Open in 2015, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. Bouchard testified Wednesday in a New York city court.

On this side of the border, former Canadian Football League player Arland Bruce filed a lawsuit in 2014, alleging some teams permitted him to play despite the fact the Bruce had signs of concussion. Bruce’s lawsuit was dismissed in 2016 by the British Columbia Supreme Court, which ruled that because Arland belonged to a union, the issue of football player safety should be dealt with through the labour grievance and arbitration process, not the courts. That ruling was upheld in 2017 by the B.C. Court of Appeal. Arland had played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, B.C. Lions and Montréal Alouettes.

Ontario Bill 193 is known as Rowan’s Law, after Rowan Stringer, an Ottawa-area girl who died in 2013 at the age of 17 as a result of head injuries suffered while playing high school rugby.

If passed into law Bill 193 would require organizations that carry out amateur competitive sports “for profit or otherwise” to have a “concussion code of conduct” and to have a rule to remove players suspected of having of having sustained a concussion.

“Concussions are a significant public health issue in our country and in our province” neurosurgery professor Dr. Charles Tator told an Ontario legislative committee in 2016. “It’s the jiggle of the brain within the skull that causes concussion. That’s precisely why helmets don’t protect against concussion, because the brain still jiggles, and no one has created a helmet that prevents that jiggle.”

Dr. Tator made his comments during hearings on Bill 149, the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee Act, which has been passed into law. That bill appointed a committee to review recommendations from a coroner’s jury convened after Stringer died.

In 2013, Stringer was “hit twice in a game a week before her final game and likely suffered concussions each time,” Vernile told the legislature Feb. 20, 2018. “Before the previous injury had a chance to heal, the second injury caused catastrophic swelling to Rowan’s brain, a condition referred to as second-impact syndrome.”

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Score One for the Tall Groundskeepers !

The 2018 Beacon Catalog made its debut just one short month ago and, unfortunately, we were remiss in making our customers aware of one very important change to a very popular product.

The innovative SweetSpot Tamp System is only a few years old and has exceeded both our customer’s and our own expectations. But there was one comment that would rise up every so often. The feedback came from taller groundskeepers telling us the handle was too short. The newest version of the SweetSpot Tamp Handle now features an additional 5-1/2″ of length. The longer handle is the only change to this revolutionary tool. While most won’t notice too much difference, our taller tamping groundskeepers will appreciate the efforts to save their back. Their patience has paid off.

Now, our original oversight on handle length could be explained away by the fact that everyone involved in the design, development and testing stage of the original SweetSpot Tamp Handle were between the height of 5’6″ and 6′. We began receiving calls from some of our taller tamping customers asking about a longer handle. We listened to and observed our taller tampers in action and decided to revisit the handle length.

We enlisted the help of Milwaukee Brewers Head Groundskeeper Michael Boettcher, who’s staff had a handful of very tall tampers willing and able to perform some testing for us. They were provided a prototype handle that was much longer. We asked them to have all of their tallest tampers use the tool and mark where it was the most comfortable for them to handle it during use. The “sweet spot” (pun intended) on the handles for the taller tampers was just a few inches above the top of the old handle.

For taller groundskeepers, those few inches resulted in less bending over and more comfort for their back during tamping. So, a big shout out to Mike and his crew at Miller Park for helping us to improve the operating comfort for our tall tampers.

The new taller handles have replaced the shorter original SweetSpot Tamp Handles used with the SweetSpot Tamp System and they are available now from Beacon Athletics. With the Super Bowl over, tamping season is in full swing!

Paul Zwaska

Paul Zwaska

A former head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, Paul graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1984 with a Bachelor’s in Soil Science with a specialty in Turf & Grounds Management. Paul took over as head groundskeeper for the Orioles’ final season at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and then was heavily involved throughout the design and construction phases of Oriole Park at Camden Yards which debuted on April 4, 1992. Paul has led Technical Sales Support at Beacon Athletics since the summer of 2000. In 2012, Paul authored and oversaw the launch of “Groundskeeper University”, the first online ballfield maintenance training venue. Over the years, Paul has donated thousands of hours working with West Madison Little League, which also plays a critical role in the research and development for many of Beacon’s innovative field maintenance tools.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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City approves up to $1.7 million loan for Bozeman Sports Park !

Bozeman, MT. city leaders agreed to take out a loan as large as $1.7 million to spot the creation of the city’s 10th sports field, making it a possible tournament site and potentially expanding local teams’ field time across seasons.

The money means the creation of the Bozeman Sports Park will include two turf fields. The city called the move a partnership with the Bozeman Sports Park Foundation, which came up with the idea. The local nonprofit is set to repay the loan through user fee agreements, which Bozeman clubs and teams are already paying for the city’s four existing fields.

“It’s a game changer for the community,” said Mitch Overton, the director of parks and recreation.

He said the turf fields could be plowed in the winter for more playing time, unlike natural fields that would be destroyed in the process. Overton said without turf fields now, it’s not unusual for Bozeman teams’ early season games to be matches against other teams that had been practicing for months.

The start of the agreement came through a 4-0 vote Monday night, with Commissioner Jeff Krauss absent. Commissioners said the park will remain public, not just slotted as a destination for soccer and lacrosse players.

The city bought the 80 acres on the corner of Baxter Lane and Flanders Mill Road in 2014.

“The city planted the seed that creates the ability for us to grow the park,” said Bridget Ekstrom with the Bozeman Sports Park Foundation Board.

The foundation is set to pay the loan back over 20 years.

The first phase of the fields are planned to wrap up this fall. More than $8.4 million of city Trails, Open Space and Parks bond money has gone toward or is slotted for the fields. At this point, the foundation has raised more than $335,000 in cash and $742,000 in pledges for the space.

Assistant City Manager Anna Rosenberry said there are some pieces of the deal that makes the city vulnerable. For starters, Bozeman would be using the majority of what’s left of its borrowing capacity for the current fiscal year.

Second — which could be viewed as a pro or con — is the foundation would manage the fields. Rosenberry said on one hand, that’s giving up some power. But the move also saves Bozeman officials some time and money.

And third, if the foundation can’t pay the loan for whatever reason, the city would be left with pulling money from its general fund for the payments. If that happens, Rosenberry said Bozeman would potentially be able to dissolve the agreement with the foundation and operate the field themselves and continue to rely on user fees to cover the loan.

“But I’m not going to say it’s not without risk here,” she said.

Monday’s vote means the city and foundation will start drafting the terms of the agreement.

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Post-Season Renovation Part 1: Plan Now !

July is the so-called “Dog Days” of summer, yet many youth, high school and adult baseball and softball seasons are nearing their end for the year. Now is the time to begin strategizing what renovations and improvements to make to those fields in the next few months in preparation for next season.A good groundskeeper will put their ballfields to bed ready to go for the following season. Even those whose facilities host a fall ball season will typically get a period of a couple weeks or more of inactivity before the fall season starts up. Late summer and fall offer the best opportunity to make improvements to these ballfields because of the lack of on-field activity and typically drier weather patterns. Over the next several weeks, we’ll talk about the renovation period for ballfields and make recommendations for the types of projects that should be performed during this renovation window available.

To start things off, any turfgrass on the fields likely is in need of some TLC. If you have irrigation, this is a good start. You may have been a little conservative on watering your fields during the season and because of that the turfgrass cover may have suffered. If your turfgrass density is thin on your fields, start with spending a week or so flooding that turf with lots of water to rehydrate and invigorate the turf. You will be surprised how much your thin turf areas will bounce back with something as simple as water.

With the field fully hydrated, aerification and any overseeding needed would be the next process in getting your turfgrass back into shape (also see the article, Overseeding Tips from a Pro). A soil fertility test would also be a benefit at this time to help you set up the very crucial fall fertility program to help thicken your turf and prepare it for the winter season. For any large worn areas, sodding may likely be your best option.

On the infield areas, this is prime lip removal season. If your lips are fairly small, you can flush these lips out using a hose with a good quality nozzle. The Beacon Pro Shotis, without a doubt, the best nozzle for this job as you can very specifically control your water flow down to 5 to 10 gallons per minute which allows you to use less water to blast out the soil built up in the lips. This process is best done after an overnight irrigation or a lengthy rainfall has softened up the soil which will make it easier to evacuate the material out of the lips.

If the lips on portions of your infield are too large and cannot be removed by rake or water, then it is time to take a sod cutter to those areas and strip away the turf. You can then go back with the sod cutter and cut down and remove the excess soil to get the grade back to the original elevation. Then, replace the sod using the existing turf you removed or use clean, new sod. By removing the lips on your field you have improved the playability of the playing surface and removed barriers that impede water from surface draining off the infield. Remember, you can also visit our Groundskeeper University lesson, Module 103 Lip Management: How to Remove Lips.

If you have issues with your infield soils (too dusty, too greasy when wet, infield soil chunks out too easily, sink into the infield when moist, infield material erodes during rainfall), an infield soil test will unlock all of the issues and will help to plan a strategy to repair that infield soil to help it better perform to your expectations. Beacon can provide the testing and analysis as well as recommend how to fix those problems. Call Beacon for more details on infield soil testing, or checkout the Infield Soil Test on our website.

More on that next time but in the meantime, stay cool and hydrated (both you and your turf!).

Paul Zwaska

Paul Zwaska

A former head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, Paul graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1984 with a Bachelor’s in Soil Science with a specialty in Turf & Grounds Management. Paul took over as head groundskeeper for the Orioles’ final season at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and then was heavily involved throughout the design and construction phases of Oriole Park at Camden Yards which debuted on April 4, 1992. Paul has led Technical Sales Support at Beacon Athletics since the summer of 2000. In 2012, Paul authored and oversaw the launch of “Groundskeeper University”, the first online ballfield maintenance training venue. Over the years, Paul has donated thousands of hours working with West Madison Little League, which also plays a critical role in the research and development for many of Beacon’s innovative field maintenance tools.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It’s Never To Late – Save Your Program Money !
Check Out Our Insurance Program Today !


www.sadlersports.com/soda

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

SODA Logo “Proudly Serving The USA/Canada Since 1981”

www.sportsplexoperators.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada Since 1981”

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