TP04: 10 Questions With…

…Tom Farrell, Rogers Centre Head Grounds Keeper

ever wondered about how the field at Rogers Centre is maintained
throughout the
lengthy season and 81 home games, you’re not alone. I had the
opportunity to
sit down and chat with Tom Farrell, the Head Grounds Keeper at Rogers
the day before the 2010 Home Opener. In the off-season the Rogers Centre
installed a new turf system for the season and with that change, a lot
of areas
have been effected. Based on ten questions, I discovered more about
position and what the daily tasks and objectives of the Grounds Crew are
ensure the best kept infield for the Blue Jays from April to September.

Tom Farrell


Megan Robinson: How long have you held this
position with the Blue Jays and Rogers Centre?

Tom Farrell: I’ve been supervising since 1994
when I took over for the then, Head Grounds Keeper, who unfortunately
away from cancer at a very young age. I was asked to take over interim
they could find a replacement. My career goal was to attend the Ontario
of Art but when I was asked if I would take over temporarily, I did that
for a
few years. I applied and was accepted to
OCA (now OCAE) and was about to submit
payment for my first classes when I was offered the job full-time. It
was a job
I loved and a very rare opportunity to be a Head Grounds Keeper so I
took it
and haven’t looked back since.


As Head Grounds Keeper, what is the
main objective for the dirt and baseball operations ground crew staff?

Our main objective is to make sure
the playing field is to Major League Baseball specifications. On a daily
we’ll come in and maintain all the dirt areas which include the bases,
plate, pitching mound and the bullpens along with our other
responsibilities of
setting up and tearing down all batting practices. So, pretty much
that goes on the field that’s baseball is what we’re responsible for.
There are
two crews that work on the field – there’s a conversion crew that does
the turf
and then there’s the grounds crew, which are my guys. We just
concentrate on
the dirt areas and bullpens.

Currently we’re 25 hours and
counting away from the 2010 Home Opener – How have you been preparing
for that?

Well, right now we are making
corrections based on the fact that we have a new turf system. The
previous turf
that we had was a palate system, so the turf was on trays. The thickness
of the
tray system was greater than it is with the [new] roll system. With the
roll system, the turf is rolled out almost like you would lay down
carpet in
large rolls and therefore it’s thinner. As a result, we’ve had to lower
pitching rubber and our home plate. So, this close to opening day and
currently just getting all of our levels to the right height.

Once Home Opener has passed, what
is a typical game day like for you?

On a typical game day, we would
start at
11am and the first thing we
would do is break into groups. The
first group would go and work on the dirt areas, where each guy has a
area which they’re responsible for and the other group would work on
setting up
all the batting practice equipment. What people don’t realize is the
number of
hours we spend grooming and maintaining the dirt areas, repairing holes
the night before, watering, raking, and leveling. So, we’ll work from
11am till 2pm when the visiting team
will come
out for extra hitting. If the visiting team doesn’t come out at
2pm, we’ll continue our work
3pm which is approximately
when the
home team comes out for extra batting.


You mentioned a little bit about
the pitching mound, but explain the technology behind the mound.

The pitching mound is quite
remarkable; it’s a simple technology but what it does is outstanding.
Basically, the mound is made up of clay which is similar to most
baseball parks
in the Major League. What’s different is that the clay is built on a
dish that was manufactured by a local yacht company. This fibreglass
dish is
essentially a boat – for lack of a better term – and below the pitching
is a deep well, so what happens when we want to bring the mound up for
baseball, this well is filled with water. As the mound floats up to the
surface, there are five locking pins that lock into place. Then the
water drains
out and the mound rests on those locking lugs. We fill in the remainder
of the
perimeter of the mound with steel channel plates and we cover those
plates up
with clay. When we’re done, it looks like that mound is always there and
take it out, it’s just the reverse. It’s really a remarkable system and
been here since ’89 and I’ve been here we’ve never seen any problems
with it.


With all the rules and regulations
that the league mandates, how to you go about ensuring all of those
rules are met
here at Rogers Centre?

TF: There
multiple rules that we have to follow that are set out in the official
which they send me every year. Also, MLB will let me know right away if
are any updates. For example, the distance that the mound has to be from
plate is 60-feet-six-inches, which is the same for every team in the


With all the rules and regulations
and constant maintenance to the field, a lot of work must be done. How
people makeup the grounds crew?

Currently we have 15 part-time
grounds keepers and as of now I’m the only full-time grounds keeper. The
of the crew works mostly in the summer time with the exception of my
who works all year round with me. We’ll have a couple extra grounds
keepers on
to help out over the winter but for the most part they’re all part-time
they work over the summer.  


The grounds keepers who are part of
the 5th inning cleanup are boasted as the “Quickest in the
Majors” –
is there any specific training or necessary preparations that they do to
prepare for that?

No. When our grounds keepers are
interviewed they’re asked if there is anything that would prevent them
running the distances; they need to run, they have to do it every day
and it’s
approximately 60-seconds to clean up. So they’ll run out from the
corner, come out to the base areas, do their jobs – switching out the
base with
a new one, sweeping loose dirt back onto the dirt area from the turf,
leveling out the dirt which they do with a toothless rake – we almost
always do
it in under a minute.


Walk me through the duties of the
grounds crew post-game.

Well, post-game we’ll come out and
start closing out the field. What that involves is raking the dirt
areas, sweeping
the base area, removing the top dressing off the mound and the same
thing with
home plate- not all parks do that but we find we can water it and work
on it
better when we remove all the loose dirt. It’s mostly just closing the
off and getting it prepared to do all the filling of the holes the next

Finally, what’s your favourite Blue
Jays memory?

My favourite Blue Jays memory would
have to be the ’93 World Series Joe Carter home run. Back then I was a
part-time grounds keeper and I was sitting on the field waiting for the
game to
end. Every one of us had an objective: by the end of
the game
we had to secure a piece of equipment, for fear that if fans ran on the
they would remove some of the stuff. My personal objective was to
third base and make sure it was kept safe. So I was sitting on the warning track
the left-field side of the field and Joe Carter hit that home run. I ran
out to
grab the base and I almost took it before he rounded third. Sometimes on
highlights you can see a glimpse of a person standing in the background
as Joe
Carter rounds third, and that’s me – almost taking third base before Joe
rounded it.

Rogers Centre Field in Numbers

– The record time in seconds it took for the 5th
inning clean-up at a game in 1991

The number of crew used during the 5th
inning clean-up

– The approximate number of turf
rolls used to cover the field

– The length in feet, of the
longest roll of turf used which is placed at centre field

– The number of hours it takes to build the pitching

2,700 – The amount of dirt in pounds,
used to cover all three bases

60.6 – The set distance, in feet, from
the pitching mound to home plate as per MLB

 “10 Questions with…” will appear as
an additional weekly feature to the Triple Play blog.

One comment

  1. capn

    From the mound to home it’s actually 60.5 feet since there’s 12 inches per foot – I know, we Americans really need to switch to Metric…some day…

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