Feature Article - March 2003
Find a printable version here

Good Sports Fields

How to make your grounds look like the pros

By Melissa Bigner

Photos, above and left:  Members of the Reading
Phillies ground crew in action.

Work smarter, not harder. The cliché has spread out of offices and into nearly every field of business these days, including grounds maintenance programs. The message is this: If you want to survive in an unforgiving economy, you have to economize, in the best sense of the word. That means using your assets and maximizing your manpower in such a way that you waste neither minutes nor money.

The smarter-not-harder philosophy shows itself many times over in the latest innovations taking place in ground maintenance. And good news—the advances have little to do with the scale of your operation. No matter whether you tend a little-league diamond or baby its big-league brother, there's something on the following pages that is sure to apply to your situation. But enough of the drumrolling. We asked a handful of the country's experts what has piqued their interest of late, what new developments they were most excited about in the field. Here's what they had to say.


We've all heard it: The difference between men and boys is the size of their toys. If that's as true as it seems, guys—and gals, too, of course—should be pretty excited about what's going on with grounds keeping equipment today.

Seminars, conferences and other industry
events are good places to hone your field
maintenance skills.
Beam me up

Precision laser leveling, in which a field is graded with the use of laser beams, has been around for years and has become more and more prevalent. But Paul Zwaska, the former groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, sees something else on the horizon. He predicts that the next big thing will be combining groomers with laser leveling, so you can do grading touch-ups with the same machine. Multipurpose equipment like that knocks out wasted hours and is ideal for smaller ground crews, as one person can do the work of several. Thus the investment pays off: Put a little more money out front and reap the rewards in less man-hours and manpower.

Radio head

You gotta love any gadget that does the math for you, especially while you sit cozy at home, miles away from work. That's how radio- and satellite-controlled irrigation systems operate. Dr. Gil Landry, professor of turfgrass management at the University of Georgia in Griffin, says this simple technological advance does wonders for groundskeepers, whose lives are ruled by weather reports. Sensors placed throughout a targeted area measure the amount of ground water and detect rainfall. From the comfort of your home, office or some other remote place, you get readings of what is going on water-wise at the field. A report relates the stats to the amount of water you've budgeted that month to ensure healthy turf. Thus you are directed to either turn off irrigation systems (remotely, of course) or head out to cover the fields. Of course, the system is especially useful if you live far from your keep, Zwaska says, as it may be raining on one side of town but not the other.