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Beautifying Bowman

When the 2019 version of the Williamsport Crosscutters emerged from the locker room donning their sparkling white home uniforms to meet the local media for the first time before the season began in mid-June, the day was warm, the sky blue and no moisture was falling from the sky. It was almost a perfect day

When the 2019 version of the Williamsport Crosscutters emerged from the locker room donning their sparkling white home uniforms to meet the local media for the first time before the season began in mid-June, the day was warm, the sky blue and no moisture was falling from the sky. It was almost a perfect day for their Bowman Field debut.

As the players and coaches mingled with media members, undeterred, the stadium’s ground crew was busily working in the background, seemingly unaware of the bevy of folks milling around the dugout area. That is a baseball fact of life. No one comes out to see them perform and they get their most scrutinized attention only when the rains are falling and they race to get the tarp in place.

When the Crosscutters arrived in June head groundskeeper Cam Richardson and his crew had been caressing the stadium’s turf and dirt since Valentine’s Day, four months earlier.

“Our job started about mid-February,” Richardson noted. “Those early tasks were to get things squared away from the winter and to get the field ready for Penn College and the high school games that are played here. So our season started months before the Crosscutters arrived in town.”

Richardson is employed by Brightview Landscapes, the firm contracted by Major League Baseball, to maintain the field. The grounds crew consists of field supervisor Isaiah Lienau (who spent much of June in London supervising ground crew operations for the two games played there between the Red Sox and Yankees on June 29 & 30), Richardson and two interns.

Since the advent of the MLB/Little League Classic three years ago MLB has played a leading role in keeping Bowman Field in immaculate condition. Since MLB’s involvement over $4-million of improvements have been made.

“Cam is employed by Brightview and Major League Baseball so we don’t have to go out and find a head groundskeeper,” explained Gabe Sinicropi, Crosscutters vice-president of marketing & public relations. “The Crosscutters are responsible for paying for the assistant grounds crew members. We have daily contact with Cam. They know what they are doing. We just need to keep them clued in on the Crosscutters needs, what the team is doing day-to-day and what their field schedule may be. But as far as normal maintenance they take care of the field. It is really great to have experienced hands doing this very important job.”

“I wasn’t able to see what Bowman Field was like previous to the improvements that have been made, but after the renovations everything is immaculate,” Richardson added. “There are certain rules that need to be adhered to and we are doing our best to carry those out. This operation is a change from what goes on with a normal minor league team.”
Just like the Crosscutter’s players Richardson’s crew has responsibilities they must follow.

“First is the mowing,” Richardson detailed. “If it is a game day we are mowing every day. Second is the moisture. This is especially true with the infield dirt. You don’t want the dirt to be too hard or two soft. You have to find that happy medium. That is what the players like and we have to maintain that texture. The weather is the villain when you consider the heat and the rain. Lastly, is the constant checking of the weather forecast. We need to see what the radar is showing and be ready for tarp pulls if they become necessary.”

“Just like the players have batting and fielding practice, we do have tarp pull practice. All the people who are new to the Cutters this year we run them thru some practice just so they are familiar with what needs to be done when that time comes.”

Asked what is considered a good time for getting the tarp to cover the field, Richardson replied, “As quick as possible!”

Baseball fans are familiar with the intriguing patterns cut on the outfield grass surfaces of Major League stadiums. Referencing patterned grass cutting at Bowman Field Richardson’s crew doesn’t get too fancy.

“For the most part here we just try to keep things pretty straight laced. At the beginning of the season we used a checkerboard pattern and we like to keep things traditional. I try not to get too crazy with it because the crazier you get the more time you have to spend on the mower.”

“Our lawn movers are equipped with little rollers that push the grass in certain directions. So as we cut, light and dark colored stripes appear on the field. The light colors appear to be going toward the outfield wall and the dark colors are coming toward the infield. That affect is created by the reflection of light and how the grass is bent by the rollers as we mow in two different directions.”

“We cut the outfield grass and foul territory at one inch and the infield at one and a quarter inches.”

Richardson explained that often the infield grass is cut shorter than the outfield but as the Crosscutters do a lot of practicing on the infield the grass is kept a little longer to keep it stronger and healthier.

Asked about why the infield seems to be constantly being watered even in instances where it may have just recently rained, Richardson explained it is all about the dirt.

“The dirt on our infield has been specifically engineered and almost every major league team has the kind of dirt we have. The dirt comes out of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania and it is a champion when it comes to water. It drains wonderfully and can take a lot of water. We may get an inch of water the day before and we could be watering a couple hours after the rain has stopped.”

“We put in some very long days. On a typical game day we are here from 8:30 a.m. until after 11:00 p.m. Most people probably don’t realize that. But when the team is out of town it becomes more like a regular work day. We just come in, get our work in and go home.”

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