The 2008 Keep America PlayingTM Tour, sponsored by Turface Athletics, wrapped up its educational curriculum at Nationals Park on October 21, 2008. Consisting of three featured events and over 35 local field days and seminars, the 2008 Tour educated groundskeepers and field managers of all levels on effective ways to manage sports fields.

The featured events, held at Gainesville, Fla., in June and Kansas City, Kans., and Washington, D.C., in October, provided the opportunity to see maintenance demonstrations from industry specialists and interact with some of the top groundskeepers in the business. Educational sessions included field conditioning, game-day prep, turf management, irrigation techniques and fertilization practices.

On October 15, wet, windy weather hit Kansas City, driving the event under a tent for the duration of the day. However, the weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the 150 attendees from a five state area, and it provided an opportunity to demonstrate how well Turface® works in rainy conditions. The event was held at Community America Ballpark, home of the Northern League Kansas City T-Bones. Informational sessions were presented by Chicago Bears head groundskeeper Ken Mrock, Cincinnati Reds head groundskeeper Doug Gallant, T-Bones groundskeeper Joey Fitzgerald and Rodney St. John, a Kansas State University Research and Extension turfgrass horticulturist.

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“It was very successful,” said Jerry Moore, senior manager at Grass Pad, local sponsor of the Kansas City event. “Many groundskeepers commented that at these types of events, guest speakers frequently talk about groundskeeping at the professional team level. At this event, Doug (Gallant) and Ken (Mrock) not only spoke about what they personally do, but also demonstrated techniques applicable at the parks and rec or high school level that don’t require a six-figure budget.”

The Washington Nationals’ new ballpark played host to 50 field managers and groundskeepers on October 21 for the last featured Keep America Playing event scheduled for 2008. All were from the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia area, including a number of parks and recreation managers from Washington, D.C. The Nationals’ sports field manager Larry DiVito and Cincinnati Bengals head groundskeeper Darian Daily headlined the sessions.

“I tried to stress to attendees that they can apply these techniques using regular equipment they can get at a hardware store,” DiVito said. “My equipment was on site, but the demonstrations were all done with hand tools.”

Co-sponsors of the event were Newsom Seed and Lofts Seed, both of Baltimore and Fisher & Son Company Inc. of Philadelphia. The event was supported by Major League Baseball’s Baseball Tomorrow Fund, which provides grants for improving sports fields in underprivileged areas.

Joe Betulius, vice president of sales for Profile Products, said the Washington, D.C. event was an excellent end to the 2008 tour. “Those attending learned from some of the best in the groundskeeping business on the newest field in the major leagues,” Betulius said. “It was a privilege and an honor for us to be able to hold this event on the Nationals’ field, which was constructed using our Turface soil conditioners.”

The Keep America Playing Tour is a comprehensive field education program that gives those responsible for sports field maintenance the resources and knowledge to keep fields safe, playable and in peak condition. The on-field sessions educate attendees on subjects like game-day preparation of skinned infields; turf management; aerification techniques for a football or soccer field; mound and home plate construction and maintenance; fertilization practices; and irrigation techniques. Partners such as PONY, American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) chapters, and local distributors supported the tour through planning and promotion.

“We had a great turnout at all three of our featured events as well as the many local events we supported. Now, we are looking forward to more successful Keep America Playing events next year,” said Chris Wilhite, brand manager for Turface Athletics. “The input we received from sponsors, speakers and those attending was that the events were a great educational opportunity to learn from each other in order to provide athletes the most safe and playable fields as possible.”

For more information on Keep America Playing, visit www.keepamericaplaying.com or call (800) 207-6457.

SportsField Management