Groundskeepers big part of any baseball team
By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer
ROSWELL — When fans go to a baseball field to watch a game, one thing they rarely think about is the condition of the field. But the groundskeepers who keep the field in playing shape are as much a part of the team as the pitchers, hitters and managers.
Charlie Ward, who coaches the New Mexico Military Institute high school baseball team, is also the head groundskeeper for the Roswell Invaders. As a coach, he knows how important it is to have a well-manicured field.
“You want that kind of field because you want to have a little pride in your field and you want your players to have a little pride in it,” he said. “That is important because of the playing surface. You want to have the true hops. The true ground balls, but also just any kind of field, when you take care of it, you want it to be first class. You want it to be as best as what they give you with the facilities they give you. You want it to be the best in the league, if that’s what you’re trying to do.”
And that’s what Ward has been trying to do for the last two years for the Invaders. A 27-year summer employee of the Roswell Parks and Recreation Department, Ward began working on Joe Bauman Field once the deal was sealed to bring the Invaders to town. His staff includes “some of the best high school kids in this area who know baseball because they’ve at least been around the game. They understand what it takes. These are Roswell, Goddard kids and they all understand the game and they have a lot of pride in what they’re doing.”
City employees Ken Smith and Mike Rainey also help.
“Those two are very important because their crew also helps out a lot,” Ward said. “They cut the field almost once a week. Maintain the outfield. We mainly maintain the infield, but they take care of the little things. The weed eating, the press box, the whole outside of the field that’s not inside the diamond. But it takes the whole teamwork of the city, too.”
For the past two years, that included former Parks and Rec director Kim Elliott, “Who was a big, important part of it, because Kim really loved the baseball part and he would do whatever it took to keep this program going at the very best, like what he would want it to be.”
When the Invaders first came to Joe Bauman FIeld, which is used by Roswell HIgh School, it needed work.
“I know the first year, everybody was maybe not as impressed, but I think we worked all summer to make it very good for the first Invaders year,” ward said. “Then they went into the playoffs, and being the champions of the league that year, I think they were very proud of the field then. In the second year we tried to get the field better, and I think it was, and now with Roswell High and us and the city, I think they’re getting it better and better. They want it to be the best.”
Ward said the outfield still needs work, but he and his crew will keep trying to make it the best they can as the Invaders go into their third year in Roswell.
And while the fans might only notice the grounds crew when they’re prepping the field during the seventh-inning stretch or trying to cover the mound during rain storms, Ward said there’s a lot more to maintaining a field than just that.
“We stripe it once a week. We stripe the lines. Check the foul lines. So you’ve got to take care of that part to maintain the field. That takes work. You gotta come in in the morning, that takes a few hours to make sure you have the field stripes brand new, looking nice for the next series. All that’s part of it. It’s a lotta work people don’t know about or think about. And there’s a lot of work after everybody’s gone at 10 o’clock, we’re still working a couple more hours to get this thing ready for the next night.”
Those summer rain storms are also something grounds crews have to prepare for.
“You’ve got your tarps prior to the weather, hoping you can save it, but sometimes the storms during the summer here in Roswell, they come so fast, it’s going to be hard to play,” Ward said. “But it makes it fun because we just love being out there. But it is tough. You’ve just got to be prepared as best you can to be ready to see if we can keep playing the same day or have it ready for the next day.”
Ward is proud of the work his crew does at Joe Bauman Field. He said Las Cruces probably was “the cream of the crop,” while also praising the Alpine field. But he’ll put the Invader field at the top as well.
“I would say Kokernot is probably one of the top two, and I just believe, with everybody who’s in the league now, we’ve got to be in the top two or three.”
For more information visit Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs LLC. http://www.PecosLeague.com 575-680-2212