Baseball Tournament Preparation
What if? A question that could keep groundskeepers tossing and turning in the night.
However, for Brian Hall, facilities and maintenance director for the Sylvania recreation district in Sylvania, Ohio, the what if’s are what bring him peace of mind. The Sylvania recreation district is home to 60 fields, half being utilized for soccer and the other half reserved for baseball and softball. Hall’s crew is made up of 25 members, including seven full-time employees. We sat down with Hall to discuss what his crew does to prepare and recover when hosting large baseball/softball tournaments at their facility. He detailed the tried and true tips that could be successful for your crew as well.
Every groundskeeper hopes for the best but plans for the worst. This is no different for Hall and his crew when it comes to juggling their routine maintenance, house-league games and tournament planning. Hall and crew have a plan in place for every what if that might come into play. Hall said, “we fly by the seat of our pants and will do whatever it takes to not cancel the tournament. Out of town guests who have rented the complex want to avoid having to issue refunds or cancelling the tournament for teams who have traveled to be there. Because of that we always have a what if plan in place with the tournament directors for every worst case scenario.” Have plans that involve dropping teams, rearranging the game schedule or taking certain fields out of the equation in order to account for weather or other conflicts that might arise.
In order to accomplish any task you’ve got to have a great crew beside you. For the Sylvania Recreation District, tournaments and events are scheduled well in advance of the season’s beginning. This helps dictate all hiring decisions and ensures that they’ll have the staffing resources they need all season. Staff training and accountability also become vital game players throughout the season for Hall and crew. Hall said, “we save a ton of time and money by training our staff properly the first time around. This ensures that when the job is completed the first time around, it’s being done correctly. Secondly, our staff is accountable for identifying and addressing any issue they might catch on the field.” Each time a crew member steps foot onto a field be sure they’re running a health check on the field and if an issue arises, have them assess what can be done immediately to fix it. Hall credits his crew for making his job from the pilot seat so much easier. “I have a phenomenal staff that is always giving 110%. We’re a cohesive machine that brings an ease to the work we love doing.”
When you have a tournament planned for the weekend, Thursday is not the day you should check in with your fields for the first time. Having a routine and weekly check list in place is what will allow you and your crew to conquer a tournament with ease. Each day on the field should be spent checking the vitals of the field, whether you have a long home stand coming up for your local league or a heavy tournament schedule. For Hall and his crew prepping for a tournament is the same as prepping for another week in their busy schedule. They drag the infield every day, repack clay every time they touch the field, mow three times a week and address any playability issues. Because of this continual maintenance list, the only extra work a tournament presents is setting up HQ, extra concession stands, tents, temporary outfield fences, etc. If bad weather is on the horizon or they know some fields will see more traffic, they will practice some preventative techniques with extra focus on the dirt, the batter’s boxes and the warning track.
When weather or traffic does take a toll on the field following a big tournament, the Sylvania recreation crew will take extra steps to get everything back into shape. Hall said, “we take a look at the common wear areas, push material back into place, water our infields, groom the grade, tighten everything up by adding moisture and blow loose material back into the field.”
Lastly, having work-life balance is important for Hall and his crew as they work through long seasons of baseball and softball tournaments. In order to avoid burnout, Hall said he’s lucky to work for an agency that values time away from the park. Hall said, “I have been with my agency for 21 years and have always been treated fairly. In return I try to ensure nobody is working over 45 hours a week and that when they are home they have the opportunity to be present and clear their mind of what we’re doing here. We will always have a full-time manager here but we have an effective rotating schedule that allows everyone to get time with their families or a chance to clear their mind.”
If you and your crew have a season of tournaments on the horizon or it’s something you’d like to get involved with. Be sure to always plan for the what ifs and have a great staff, routine and work-life balance.