The Sounds Returned Home
By Kili Hood
Having had the final two games of their previous homestand rained out, the Sounds returned home after a long road trip to a noticeably unchanged field at Greer Stadium. Normally this would be insignificant, but with much of Nashville being devastated by the flooding, the ballpark sustained surprisingly little damage.
The only major issue was the tarp having been left on the field for 60 hours, which is virtually unheard of. The groundscrew was expecting a good amount of heat damage, and when the tarp was removed, the entire infield was black.
Greer Stadium's Head Groundskeeper Thomas Trotter wasn't sure how he and his crew were going to be able to bring the field back, seeing as Nashville was under a water restriction and temperatures soared into the upper 80's. "It was day to day. We basically had to sit there and watch and cross your fingers, hope that somehow, some way it would come back with no water, no fertilizer. It was luck, that it came back," explained a relieved Trotter.
It got me thinking about how little people really seem to know about the hard work that goes on behind the scenes concerning the field itself, so Trotter sat down with me during this past homestand to shed a little light on how he got into the business of groundskeeping and how hard the groundscrew works both during the season and the off-season.
Trotter received his degree in Turf Management from Clemson University, and after an internship with the San Diego Padres, he knew there was no going back. He was hooked! After completing his second internship with the Louisville Bats, he was hired on as the assistant groundskeeper, where he stayed for two years. Music City had always been on Trotter's radar as a place he'd really like to be, so when the head job opened up with the Sounds, he took the leap and headed south.
While most people believe the grass is the center focus of the field, it is actually the dirt, according to Trotter, that is the most important aspect of the baseball field. Most days, around noon, the groundscrew actually puts so much water on the clay that the field becomes virtually unplayable. "What you're doing, is building up moisture," Trotter explained, "so that later on in the day, when the ball hits it, it hits soft and it hits really true. Players get a lot of traction out of it. That's pretty much what it's for...100 percent playability."
Not that the grass isn't important. In fact, most groundskeepers I know take great pride in how green the grass looks come opening day. The work for that begins in mid-September, shortly after the season ends. The groundscrew works tirelessly from then until the end of December on grass maintenance, and hopes for a mild winter!
According to Trotter, this past off-season was especially bad for the field with extra frigid temperatures in Nashville, but he and his crew were able to recover quickly and have the field in tip-top shape for opening day, and I have to admit, it looked great!
Ask any groundkeeper, and they'll tell you that their biggest pet peeve is people walking on the field, especially in heels, which is a big no-no. Trotter, however, surprised me when he admitted that he doesn't mind people walking on the grass (just not in heels). In fact, his only real pet peeves come of the food variety - sunflower seeds, gum and peanuts - it drives him crazy to have to clean that stuff up!
Back to the business of baseball, the aforementioned road trip which had our guys out of town for a good stretch, was not so kind to the Sounds players. Having gotten off to an incredible road-start, the guys struggled a bit, only managing three wins in the eight-game trip. One bright spot coming out of that road trip was the hitting - several guys returned home riding season long hitting streaks, and the power had returned, more guys were hitting home runs.
Back at the friendly confines of Greer, the boys returned home hoping that pesky home-field advantage would start to kick in, but struggled a bit, wrapping up the homestand with a 6-2 loss, and managing only a 4-4 record. Not to worry, however, the Sounds remain in first place in their division, and still boast the second-best record in the league.
The boys hit the road once again for another eight-game swing on the West Coast where they'll face the league leading Fresno Grizzlies and Sacramento River Cats. The good guys return home Friday, May 28th for another eight-game stint, including back-to-back 2:05 starts on the Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend.