The All-Star Game grounds crew at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.
MLB All-Star Game journal
Editor’s note: Brent Schroeder, national account executive for Beacon Athletics, was invited to be part of the grounds crew for last month’s MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland. A former groundskeeper himself, Brent agreed to keep a journal of his experiences:
Head Groundskeeper Brandon Koehnke had not hosted the All-Star Game since 1997
and he knew how much the event had evolved in those 22 years. Preparation in
advance would be key to clearing up any unknowns for him and his staff.
figured the best way to prepare for the event would be to fly to Nationals Park
in July 2018 to see the festivities with his own eyes. So, he packed up and
headed to our nation’s capital to witness the week’s full lineup firsthand,
with the help of Nationals Head Groundskeeper, John Turnour, and his staff.
if going to DC was helpful, Brandon said, “It was a huge benefit; my head would
really be spinning right now if I hadn’t experienced it last year.”
occurrence that sticks out in my mind was a small conflict with a popular
beverage company that uses very large animals for marketing purposes. The reps
from this company were attempting to get those large animals on the playing
field. They told Brandon they had taken them on the field last year in
Washington. His response was swift; he politely reminded them that he was at
the game last year and the animals never walked on the field, they only walked
around the warning track. For reasons like this I’d agree with Brandon that
watching last year’s game in person did provide him enormous benefits.
The crew in
Cleveland did an outstanding job. Especially with all the unknowns and sudden
schedule changes thrown at them. A lot of their work over the week entailed
immediate reaction and adjustment to those sudden changes. They were all doing
much more than their job description entails. But they know all too well that
this is part of their job. Some of those roles included security, directing and
coordinating logistics for event rehearsals, shagging balls, lifting stages
over the base paths, installing in-ground cameras for Fox Sports at a moment’s
notice, and the always prevalent, “Please stay on the Enkamat” order. It was
shocking how many bystanders would duck under a yellow rope to stand on the
turf for a photo instead of the mats that were obviously there to keep them off
the field. That, in particular, was a never-ending challenge. Back in 2016 I
had the opportunity to go work with the crew for the World Series in Cleveland.
Those games did not even come close to the amount of field traffic and general
clutter of people on the field with their own agendas. In my opinion, 90% of
the folks standing around the field and warning track had no business being down
there. But I suppose you must expect people will take full advantage of that
field pass around their neck. Even when they have no reason to be there,
besides getting in the way of staff trying to get actual work done.
Below is a
brief outline in sequence of the schedule that the grounds crew needed to work
around to complete their regular tasks:
Friday, July 5: All-day rehearsals; the Miracle
Game, 3-4:30 pm; then continued rehearsals ending around 9:00 pm.
Saturday, July 6: Construct temporary softball fence
6:00-7:15 am; JR Home Run Derby 7:30-9:15 am; Pitch, Hit and Run 9:20-10:45 am;
BP and infield for high school game 11:20-1:10 pm; HS game 1:30-4 pm; Home Run
Derby rehearsal 5-7 pm.
Sunday, July 7: Outfield design work 8-10 am;
All-Star rehearsal 10-12 pm; HS HR Derby 12:15-1:30 pm; Futures Game BP and infield 2-4:25 pm; Softball pre-game 4:25-4:50 pm; Softball game 5-6:30 pm;
Futures Game 7-9:30 pm; Rock & Blast 9:45 pm; ESPN load in 10:15 pm.
Monday, July 8: Client BP 7-9 am; HR Derby
Rehearsal 9:30-1 pm; AL BP 5:20-6:15 pm; NL BP 6:15-7:10 pm; extra BP for HR
Derby 7:10-7:25 pm; Field prep 7:25-7:50
pm; HR Derby 8 pm.
Tuesday, July 9: Client BP 7-9 am; Mound
measurement 9-10 am; All-Star rehearsal 10-1 pm; Client bullpen 1:45-2:45 pm;
AL BP 4:50-5:55 pm; NL BP 5:55-7 pm; All-Star Game 7:30 pm.
week for the grounds crew included 18-hour work days, cluttered on-field
schedules, and non-stop requests from others, all while trying to fit their
standard field prep and maintenance routines in. Even with all this going on it
never seemed to visibly discourage Brandon’s staff. To my surprise they all
remained calm, cool, collected, and in great spirits the entire week. Fist
bumps, laughs, and words of encouragement never slowed down amongst his crew.
They all have a lot of pride in their field as they should and never overlooked
any minor detail. Every member of the crew played a vital role in how smooth
everything ran, and it didn’t go unnoticed. Brandon’s exact words were, “I
really do have a great staff. They rose to the occasion.”
I had to
drive back to Wisconsin the morning after the game, so I was not able to really
assess the damage from the stages, pyrotechnics, celebrities sliding on the
grass, and trailers rolled across the field multiple times for rehearsals.
Brandon thought the areas that would need the most work would be in foul
territory down the aprons, mainly because of all the foot traffic and
compaction from stages and people standing around. They were compacted by
Sunday morning but he’s hoping some aerification and extra love would help them
to bounce back. He still was not certain on Tuesday if he would need to re-sod
those areas. Unfortunately, they only had 2 days to work on the field before
starting a 10-game home stand, so whatever needed to be done would just have to
Brandon one day after the game that if he was to host the event again, what
would he do differently? “I will give it some thought. Not sure right now. If
possible, I would try to be more involved in the scheduling of our home games
post break. That might be limited, but I would try to have a say. Operationally
I know we checked every MLB box.”
like to extend a special thanks to Brandon and his assistant groundskeeper,
Travis Barnhill. Also, thanks to Beacon Athletics for encouraging me and
providing the resources to attend such a memorable event. Another thanks to the
entire Indians grounds crew for keeping me busy driving the Workman to Panini’s
for their special groundskeeper discount lunch, and for taking me under their
wing. I’d also like to recommend and thank Pete Davis from New Ground
Technology for providing the initial outfield pattern design. His
professionalism and attention to detail was top notch and played an integral
role in the visual aesthetics of the field all week.