The art of mowing a baseball field
By Britt Barry
Mowing patterns contest winner outlines how to achieve the right design
By Britt Barry
This December, my crew and I were honoured by being named the 2016 Sports Turf Managers Association’s “Mowing Patterns Contest” winner for our opening day mowing pattern at Fifth Third Field, home to the Dayton Dragons (Class A affiliate, Cincinnati Reds).
A lot of planning and work goes into designing an intricate mowing pattern, but having a dedicated crew willing to put in the time and get the details correct is the biggest factor. Similar to field quality, the “last 5 per cent” is what really makes the pattern. Straight lines, different line sizes, defined corners and spacing all help to make the pattern “pop.” Having our crew dedicated to doing the best job possible is what helps to make the patterns so great.
When laying out this particular pattern, we started mowing our field both straight ahead (centre field to home) and side to side (foul pole to foul pole). This transformed our outfield into a grid to help lay out the logo. We then took our logo and stretched it vertically by one third. This helps to account for the lower line of site from the stands and makes the logo look normal instead of short and compressed.
Using the expanded logo, we measured and added a grid to the printout and began to use irrigation flags on the field, placing them where the logo meets the grid on paper. The grid system can be a bit confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, the project goes quickly and effectively, keeping the exact shape and showing the details of the original logo. Once the flags are down on the field, we used a
walk-behind greens mower to burn in the edges and small areas, and our triplex mower for the larger areas. You may also use a broom for definition in tight areas, or even a hose to help lay the turf down in the direction needed.
Once the logo was defined, we started on the rest of the field, using the walk-behind mower to showcase the logo and then working into the triplex lines for the checkerboard pattern.
It takes time to mow a pattern, so don’t expect instant results after going over it once or twice. The first couple times mowing, you’re just looking to get it close. The lines should be correct in the starting and finishing spots, but don’t necessarily have to be laser straight the first pass. They will straighten up and fade in after a couple times over it, so don’t worry about making it perfect the first time. You also want to make sure not to go overboard and push the grass to the point that it can’t recover.
Take a few days to dial in your new pattern and don’t rush it. You will also need to switch up your mowing patterns over time. We try to mow two directions with each pattern, so we’re not going the same direction each day. To mow out a pattern, just mow it the same way you normally would, except in the opposite direction. This helps the plant blades to stand up straight and removes the pattern.
Mowing patterns can help to make a field stand out and serve as a great tool to promote your playing surface. As important as aesthetics are to playing surfaces, playability should always come first. Mowing patterns that are intricate and time consuming are fun to do, and even better to look at when finished, but should never be a priority over field safety and playability. Most importantly, have fun with it, share it and appreciate your hard work. Your fans surely will! –
Britt Barry’s turf management career began at the parks and recreation department in his hometown of Montpelier, Ohio as a summer employee. As a 2011 graduate of Wilmington College in Ohio, he majored in agriculture with a concentration in agronomy. While in college, he worked on the campus grounds crew, interned for Hyde Park Country Club in Cincinnati, the Brooklyn Cyclones and the New York Mets. After college, he was the assistant groundskeeper with the Dayton Dragons before taking over the head groundskeeper position for the Lexington Legends. Barry is now entering his fourth year as sports turf manager with the Dragons. He enjoys watching baseball, basketball, football and NASCAR.