Preparations are underway at TD Ameritrade as the College World Series draws near. The beers are on ice, fans are flying in from all over the country, and eight teams are getting ready to take the stage in the most important games of their young adult lives.
One aspect of the preparation many fans don’t think about is field preparation. The 22-person TD Ameritrade grounds crew works around the clock to make sure the field is perfect on Opening Day.
TD Ameritrade Director of Communications Kristi Andersen said most of the prep work comes between the Big Ten tournament and the College World Series.
“The field is usually in pretty good shape following the Creighton season, so preparations for the Big Ten tournament are minimal,” Andersen said. “ The Big Ten tournament does rough up the field a bit because of the large number of games over a five day period. The Grounds crew spends more time on the College World Series prep because they have more time to.”
Turf Manager Dan Blank said the most time consuming aspect of field preparation is dirt work.
“Since 70% of the game is played on dirt, it is important to get that right. Dirt work includes skin, mounds, and plate areas. The infield skin is stripped of conditioner, nailed, leveled, rolled, and a fresh layer of infield conditioner is spread out,” Blank said. “The crew spends days on the edges of the skin to make sure the transition between turf and dirt is as smooth as possible.”
Along with the infield, the mound and the bullpens get makeovers also. The crew rebuilds the pitcher’s mound completely by installing a new pitching rubber and making sure the slope is correct.
The Omaha summer heat makes it tough for field preparation as well. Andersen said the most challenging part about the heat is making sure there is moisture in the dirt.
Hot weather and beach balls seem to go hand and hand. On average, the grounds crew collects a couple hundred beach balls a year. With temperatures projected in the high 90’s, this year shouldn’t be any different.