Most importantly, I discovered how awesome these rakes were for maintaining a field. First, they’re lightweight, which makes them easier to maneuver while causing less fatigue. When you flip the rake over to float an area, you have a nice wooden float that does the trick — much easier and more precise than the thin edge of an aluminum rake. Plus, if you need a narrower grooming rake — like when prepping to inlay pieces of sod — you can easily remove a few teeth to make the rake as narrow as you need it to be. They’re great for use on any part of the infield skin, the warning track or even for removing aeration cores in the turf after aerification. Truth is, we had a couple aluminum rakes, but they were rarely used. Instead, we all preferred the versatile wooden rake.
When I left the Orioles, I immediately introduced the wooden rake to Beacon Athletics and it became a mainstay of our field maintenance tools for many years. That is, until our supplier’s 100-year-old machine used to manufacture the rake became permanently and irreparably broken.
So, when a new supplier had been found and we were finally able to unveil the wooden rake at the STMA show in Phoenix, I have to admit, even I was blown away at the response. The reaction from groundskeepers was genuine excitement — and some, you might say, were flat-out giddy, including current Orioles Head Groundskeeper Nicole Sherry (pictured below). It may not look like it, but trust me, she IS excited!
One question that always comes up with the wooden rake is, “won’t they break easily if you toss them around like other tools?” The best way to handle that possibly is to give each crew member their own rake. Much like our Orioles crew, they’ll take ownership over his or her rake, putting markings or tape uniquely on the handle to identify it as “theirs”. They’ll want to take care it to keep it in top shape and won’t be quite so cavalier about tossing it around. And if the teeth do break, it’s no problem. Replacing teeth is easy. Just use a 1/4-inch bolt to pop out the broken tooth and tap in a new one (our wooden rake actually ships with 4 replacement teeth).
Over the years, my experience has been when it comes to the wooden rake that roughly half of those who try them absolutely love them, and half prefer to stick with their aluminum rakes. This is definitely an individual preference situation. But much like each carpenter has his or her set of tools they use to craft their woodworking projects, so do groundskeepers. I encourage you to give this timeless finesse tool a try for both yourself and your crew, and find out how you like the classic Wooden Field Rake.