The Ball Field


I have been a fan of baseball my whole life.  Early on, my Mom and Grandmother listened religiously to Ernie Harwell announcing the Detroit Tiger’s games, so I did too.  I miss this.   Once in a blue moon would we get to go to the park for a game.  The landscape invariably changes, does it not?   Now Detroit has a new ballpark, Comerica Park.  The lions outside are garden sculpture of a massive scale-and so beautifully done.  Kids climb on them, and pose for pictures underneath them. They generate a lot of excitement for the game before you ever go inside.   The huge piazza accomodates lots of fans, so fine for people watching.   


I was given box seats behind home plate for my entire crew and their families by a client. This was a very special treat for us all.

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A ball field is a landscape of a very particular sort.  The grass is lovingly tended, mowed in both directions, and grown to perfection. The ground is flat, but for the infield which has just enough pitch to drain quickly.   The infield is a certain clay over sand that absorbs moisture, enabling ball players to dig in yet still firm enough that they can run for their lives.  This clay also cushions  the shock of a slide into second base. There is just the right amount of dust-up. The composition of infield soil has quite a body of literature, should you be interested.  This probably has no basis in science whatsoever, but I believe the sharp crack when the bat hits the ball owes it resonance to the even moisture in the soil.  This ball park is lit by gigantic high intensity lights.  The lighting is perfectly even everywhere.  No shadows.  This light, which is so unlike the light from the sky, makes everything very sharp and clear.  We American take our baseball seriously-no romance welcome here.  

As soon as a sprinkle of rain becomes regular, the grounds crew appears with a giant tarp rolled-rolled onto a cylinder.  Eighteen grounds crew, and their superintendent, get down to business in a big hurry.  A sopping wet infield makes play impossible. �
I had never seen the rain tarp rolled out before.  As disappointed as I was the game might be called on account of rain, it was like watching a precisely choreographed ballet, seeing that tarp put in place.  Who tarps their landscape in rejection of water from the sky? Ball field landscapes, of course.  The size of this job is no doubt vastly more staggering from the ground plane, than it appeared to me from my box seat.  It appeared effortless and fast; I was impressed. �
I admire the precision of this landscape, as much as I do its maintenance.  Like many Detroiters, I have memories of summer that included baseball;  the 1968 World Series I remember in some detail. field5
The landscape and lighting enabled and encouraged me to watch the play, single out favorite players, follow a fly ball that might do a home run distance, or a close call at the plate. A hotly contested game needs a perfectly maintained landscape-so fans and players alike focus on the play at hand.fieldlast

How amazing that 18 people managed to cover this infield in a manner of seconds.  I am thinking about Heather Nabozny, the only female head groundskeeper for any major league baseball team.  She is young, and people say has a fire burning-this I admire in her. I understand what it means to be responsible for making things happen.   I like it when women do well with landscape.  This has to be a highly technical and demanding landscape to maintain.   She is doing a truly great job; I think the park looks beautiful.  I support my home town team, and all that its landscape does to make the game happen. But most of all I admire Heather Nabozny-she is making my experience, and the memory of my experience, possible.

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