It couldn't have been easy but McNair Field in Forest City, NC won the 2009 STMA Schools/Parks Baseball Field of the Year without the benefit of even one full-time employee dedicated to its maintenance.
Blanton is MVP for Forest City (NC) Parks & Rec
It couldn’t have been easy but McNair Field in Forest City, NC won the 2009 STMA Schools/Parks Baseball Field of the Year without the benefit of even one full-time employee dedicated to its maintenance.
Brian Blanton is nominally the head groundskeeper but he is also superintendent of the town’s golf course; he has two full-timers on the links who also work on the baseball field itself, while two other employees maintain all the parks and outside areas of McNair Field. So that translates into very little sitting around time for Matthew Gowan, Chuck Freeman, Bobby Adair and Mike Flynn, not to mention Blanton of course.
Blanton wrote in his award entry: “The challenge of not having any full-time employees dedicated to McNair Field has been a tough one. [Beyond the staffing challenges] we also are under many time restraints. And, keeping the field playable during the wet season in May is still another challenge.
“We have to use our VertiDrain deep tine aerator (3/4-inch holes by 10 inches) to help control water on the field, which works very well. We host many games, including American Legion and Coastal Plains League contests; some weeks we have a game every night.
“We have overcome the many challenges that sod can bring. We get our sod from a nursery 120 miles away, so in order not to make that trip as often, we started growing our own sod, which is cut by the nursery super thick, approximately 3 inches. Our sod grows on top of a tarp that sits on a concrete pad, which enables us to give the same care to it that we give to the field itself. The convenience of having sod at the field after each game enables us to keep the field in great shape.”
SportsTurf: How has the recession affected your operations?
Blanton: Rutherford County previously was a huge textile producer. When all of the plants closed down it left a lot of people unemployed, like the majority of the textile towns in America. The baseball team has really given everyone a reason to come together. Forest City’s Town Council members want the field to be as clean and green as possible every game. They look at it as providing a service to the community. They provide me with all the necessary resources to make the best playing surface possible. The field is the “crown jewel” of the town’s recreation facilities and operations have only been slightly affected by the recession.
ST: What changes to your maintenance plans are you making this year, if any?
Blanton: Maintenance plans for this year should remain the same with a few exceptions. Due to the fact our ryegrass is thicker than anticipated a couple more vertical mowing sessions have been needed. Also there have been discussions about buying laser equipment and performing the yearly skin renovations ourselves instead of contracting the work to other companies.
ST: What’s the best piece of turf management advice you have ever received?
Blanton: The best advice that I have received was to not be afraid to ask questions when in doubt. There is always someone out there who has found themselves in the same situation and found a solution. I am fortunate enough to have salesmen that were superintendants at prestigious courses in my area. They have a wealth of knowledge and are great resources that allow me to stay updated on what other turfgrass managers are doing for disease prevention and what disease pressure they’re experiencing.
ST: How do you balance your work and personal time? During spring and summer there is very little balance between work and personal time. Trying to maintain ryegrass at 5/8 inches through the month of June in the Carolina heat is tough. It seems like you’re always dragging hoses and chasing hot spots even while using the best wetting agents. With the 75 games played between April and mid-August McNair Field becomes my “home away from home.”
ST: If you could have any turf manager job in the country for a week, what would it be and why? Blanton: I would like to work on the crew at Turner Field for a week to observe their field maintenance techniques. Some possible questions I would ask is how they transition from rye to bermuda and at what height they maintain their grass at different times of the year. The climate in Atlanta is very similar to that of the Carolinas therefore the experience at Turner Field would give me another perspective on how to keep McNair Field at its best.
ST: How do you work with those who use your facilities to promote better turf?
Blanton: The coaching staff of the Forest City Owls and I work together to schedule maintenance and practice times. Before batting practice can begin the infield screen must be placed over the field and fungo will be hit off the on-deck mats. I also ask that they limit the number of players standing around the turtle at one given time to limit compaction of the field. The staff and players are always cooperative and helpful at keeping McNair Field the best in the Coastal Plain League.
Achieving the Field of the Year honor would not be possible without the dedication of my crew. I would like to thank Matthew Gowan, Travis Keever, and Tim Blanton. Their countless hours are much appreciated. I also want to give a special thank you to my wife and son for their understanding of my long hours and late nights.
McNair Field Monthly Maintenance/Fertility Program
Mow 1x/week at 1”
Mow 1x/week at 1”
Week 1-Fertilize 16-4-8, spray .5 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft.
Week 2-Fertilize 16-4-8, spray .25 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft. & 2 oz. Fe/1,000 sq. ft.
Mow 3x/week at 7/8”
Hand water dry spots as needed; aerate wear areas with solid tines
Week 3-Fertilize 32-3-12, 1 lb. N/1,000 sq. ft. coated with Barricade .75 ai/acre