Mud Hens crews transform field in weeks - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Mud Hens crews transform field in weeks

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We often think of baseball as a summer game, but the work goes on year round, sometimes in snow deeper than a line drive.

"I'm really proud of my staff that came in this year.  We had a lot of challenges."

It's easy to see why Jake Tyler is happy just hours away from Opening Day.  Just like your yard, Fifth Third Field spent much of the winter snow-covered.  Unlike your lawn, it went from that… to this in just weeks.

"We never got that January, February thaw that you can almost count on, no matter what part of the country you live in," Tyler said.  "And that was the hardest thing is that we never got all the snow cover melted off before the other snowfalls came in."

Tyler says most people assume the bulk of the work comes on the grass.  While the outfield is a verdant green, his grounds crew focuses on the infield.

"Where the guys are playing 90% of the game is on the dirt and not on the grass," Tyler said.  "And to try to get the dirt to play as consistent as the grass, as soft as the grass and for the ball to roll as true as it does on the grass, is the hardest part of our job year around.  But this year it definitely made it harder just because of the frost that we had in the ground."

Eight of Tyler's crew started at the very beginning of March, shoveling excess snow off of Fifth Third Field.  They also used a heated dome for the infield that spared the crew two weeks of work.

"Another one of the challenges we have here at the ballpark is the way it sits down below street level.  And the buildings around we have a lot of shade areas on the field.  So even when it's 55,60 degrees out, right field doesn't get sunshine until usually about the first of May, when the sun gets a little bit higher."

Because of that shade, the grounds crew hand-shoveled 18 inches of snow from center field to the first base dugout.

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