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From Winter To Opener: How Groundskeepers Prepare Target Field

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If baseball is a game of inches, the Target Field grounds crew has a lot of inches to cover.

Head groundskeeper Larry Divito says the changing weather above the outdoor stadium can make his job difficult, but that’s what he enjoys.

“It’s an interesting job, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “Every day is different and that keeps it very stimulating for me.”

Tucked beneath blankets for the winter, the field is heated to 39 degrees, just enough to prevent freezing.

Nick Wilz, a Target Field crewmember, said the lack of snow has made his job easier this year.

“We’ve gotten a lot better weather,” he said.

Five weeks before fans fill the stands, crews haul snow off the field. A week later, they peel the protective blankets off, giving Target Field a new look from winter white to spring-time green. The blankets stay in storage until Thanksgiving.

“We haven’t seen any snow mold yet, that’s all I was looking for,” Divito said. “We’re in good shape.”

With three weeks to go, the grounds crews remove the plywood from the dugouts. In the fall, the dugouts are covered so the grounds crew don’t have to dig the snow out in the spring.

Everything — including the 57-foot video board in center field — should be sparking clean for Monday’s opener. Two men clean video board off by belaying down it.

Record highs and sunshine in March helped dry out the mud. But it still needs watering daily.

The trick to a good field, the groundskeepers say, is a lot like baking a cake.

“We water it heavy the night before, come in the morning and rework it and take all the spike marks out,” Divito said. “Then we screen it out, smooth it out and soak it with water and it just kind of sets. Then just let the sun bake it.”

The outfield gets a trim just about every other day, especially during the season. Many people wonder how the stripes in the grass are made.

“The pattern is very important in terms of how the ball rolls,” Divito said.

Each stripe is directed towards the player’s position in the outfield, so the ball doesn’t veer off in an unexpected direction while rolling, like it sometimes does when the grass is checkered.

“A lot of people want us to do different designs, crazy designs, but we like to keep it pretty simple,” Wilz said.

The final touches are dotted into the grass three days before the first game. A color-coded outline serves as the red, white and blue reminder of opening day, an American tradition that transcends time.

How do you become a groundskeeper?

There’s no black and white qualification that gets you the job. Most of the men have turf management degrees, which is similar for groundkeepers at golf courses. And many have a background playing baseball.

Wilz says the best part of his job is getting to work outside.

“A lot of people pay to go onto the field; I get paid to be on the field,” he said.

For a look at what the grounds crew does the day of a game, check out the WCCO Twins Blog.

Click here for a groundskeeper slide show from last season.

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