Cleveland Indians grounds crew combats Cleveland weather for Home Opener
This winter has been grueling for all Tribe fans located in Northeast Ohio, and possibly even more so for Brandon Koehnke, the Head Groundskeeper of the Cleveland Indians. Needless to say, the snow and extreme low temperatures are not an ideal environment to keep a field in a pristine state for baseball.
“It’s been quite a challenge. It’s been probably the biggest challenge we’ve had in the 21 years we’ve had here at Jacobs/Progressive Field,” Koehnke said Monday afternoon. “The winter was extremely difficult for a lot of reasons; the No. 1 reason being how deep the frost is in the ground. It’s been a challenge to get it to the point where you can physically do work on the field.”
Luckily, because of current technology, the field is in much better condition than it could have been under similar circumstances in the past. “If we didn’t have the modern day stuff — the field built on 12 inches of sand, drainage the way it works — we wouldn’t be anywhere near the position that we’re in right now.”
What was the biggest problem? “Over the winter, we never really had a week, 10 days, where [temperatures] came above freezing. It was the constant low temperatures; the frost line was about five feet deep in the ground.”
Considering the circumstances — including five inches of snow on Saturday — Koehnke is confident the field will be in decent shape for the Home Opener on Friday. “We’re better than I thought we would be,” he said. “We have some challenges left over the next four days, but I think a big hurdle that we crossed was two weeks ago when we put the tarp on the field.” The grounds crew put a large tarp over the infield two weeks ago to draw the water out of the clay with heat and air. The bubble this created on the mound rose to 30 feet high at one point.
No matter what the weather is like for the Home Opener, Koehnke is looking forward to seeing his crew’s hard work pay off once the team hits the field — and all of Tribe Town is thankful for that.
– TribeVibe contributor Courtney Shilling