Scott Bultman, Stadium Journey

Keeping Camden Yards Green and Pristine

Juxtaposed with the rows of buildings and infrastructure that define downtown Baltimore is a patch of natural beauty that shines brightly under the warm summer sun: Camden Yards.

Ever since its opening in 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards has been widely considered one of the best ballparks in all of Major League Baseball. The Orioles seem to have everything going for them at Camden Yards, with an unbeatable atmosphere, delicious food, and loyal fans. All of this splendor, however, would not be possible without a world class playing surface functioning as the foundation.

The Orioles just finished the three-week process of replacing the entire playing surface at Camden Yards. Although the installation only takes three weeks, the entire process is substantially more complicated. Luckily, the Orioles have one of the best head groundskeepers in all of Major League Baseball to take care of their beautiful ballpark, Nicole McFadyen.

With the sod being replaced most recently in 2008, some fans may be wondering why the playing surface must be replaced so often and what replacing it entails. Stadium Journey had the opportunity to speak with McFadyen and gain some insight into the replacement process.

McFadyen explained the number of decisions that go into replacing the 105,000 square feet of sod. The initial stages of planning can start years in advance. The preliminary decision for replacement, McFadyen explained, is heavily driven by data. McFadyen and her team look at how the playing surface is performing, especially in regard to drainage. As most fans are aware, rain delays can be one of the most frustrating aspects of attending a baseball game. It is crucial that the playing surface has proper drainage so play can resume as soon as possible.

McFadyen also explained how her membership in the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) proved to be an important influence in the decision making process. According to McFadyen, the STMA is helpful because it creates a network of professionals who are on the cutting edge of turf grass sciences. These valuable resources provided McFadyen and her team with the most information possible when making their final decisions.

After deciding to replace the playing surface, McFadyen needed to determine the source of the grass. She traveled to sod farms to look at plots of land and map out the square footage. Eventually, McFadyen decided on Tuckahoe Turf Farms in Hammonton, New Jersey as the best source for the Orioles’ needs. To completely replace the playing surface, 400 tons of Kentucky bluegrass traveled on 12 tractor-trailers to Camden Yards.

Due in large part to the work of McFadyen, the entire replacement process went smoothly. It is also important to note some of McFadyen’s most recent accolades. She is one of two female head groundskeepers in the MLB and recently won the Mary Pickersgill Award for Women’s Leadership in Business. Additionally, a recent video by the Media Education Foundation, entitled “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” tells the story of McFadyen’s journey to becoming Head Groundskeeper of the Baltimore Orioles.

It is clear that the Orioles are making every effort to remain at the top of the MLB in every facet of their organization. By all accounts, these efforts, just like their most recent playing surface replacement, have been nothing but successful.

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