Turf Management ‘All Stars’ Pitch in to Renovate Orlando High School Baseball Field

Sports turf managers are accustomed to watching the nation’s best athletes play and work as a team on the immaculate playing surfaces they design and maintain. But this week in Orlando, it was their turn to take to the field and do what they do best.

On Jan. 16, professional turf managers from NFL and MLB teams rushed the baseball field at William R. Boone High School in Orlando and renovated the playing surface from top to bottom as a community service project. With equipment and materials donated by The Toro Company, Turface Athletics and Covermaster Inc., these top sports field managers from around the country rebuilt the pitcher’s mound, bull pen and batter’s box, filled in all low spots, incorporated sports field conditioner into the infield and put a straight edge on all turf borders.

“These guys take a real interest in this project because this is an opportunity for us to give back to the community,” said Bob Christofferson, head groundskeeper for the Seattle Mariners and the organizer of the event. “They are all great guys and they really enjoy what they’re doing. This is just a lot of fun.”

This unique event was held in conjunction with the 2006 Professional Sports Turf Symposium, which precedes the 2006 Sports Turf Managers Association Conference and Exhibition this week from Jan. 19-22, in Orlando. For the past three years, these sports field managers from professional teams have selected a distressed high school facility that doesn’t have the funding to create top-quality playing conditions.

“We try to choose an inner-city school and we also look for a school that’s going to continue to maintain what we’ve done,” said Christofferson. “The coaches and staff here are dedicated and we think it’s in good hands.”

The spirit of teamwork was in the air in Orlando as more than 30 sports turf managers and reps from Toro, Turface and Covermaster joined together, shoveling, raking and cutting excess turf to ensure Boone High School had a professional-quality ball field. This major league event was attended by big hitters from the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and many more.

“This is my first time down at STMA because we’ve been in the playoffs the last two years,” said Dan Shemesh from the Philadelphia Eagles. “I think it’s just great. This is not only a great way to give back, it’s also a really good networking opportunity and it’s nice to see other people’s techniques and share some ideas.”

The sponsors of the event provided equipment, materials and time to this worthy event.

Founded more than 50 years ago, William R. Boone High School is a Class 6A school with about 3,500 students. The school has high athletic and academic standards and was the State baseball runner-up last year. However, due to high traffic and low maintenance budgets, the baseball field was in poor shape.

“Our facilities are nice, but the field itself was in bad shape. It was probably in the worst shape it’s been in 12 years,” said Doug Patterson, athletic director for Boone High School. “We’re absolutely thrilled that we were chosen for this. We take a lot of pride in our facilities here at Boone, so it’s going to be great from an exposure standpoint. It’s just excellent that we have somebody who’s willing to put the materials and the effort forward to fix one of our fields.”

According to Patterson, the students of Boone High School are particularly appreciative for the professional playing surface that resulted from the hard work of all involved. “The players are absolutely ecstatic,” said Boone’s Patterson. “They are so fired up about the season because of this.”

When it was all over, the entire field was transformed. The batter’s box and pitcher’s mound were perfectly symmetrical and top-dressed. The lines were all straight and the infield was masterfully groomed. Although this event is over, the organizers are confident that the school will keep up these immaculate conditions. They are also optimistically looking toward future events.

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