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Creating A "Field of Dreams" Is Year-Long Process For Waco Little League

July 28, 2010

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Bob Baker is the head groundskeeper for the Southwestern Regional Little League here in Waco. Each summer, baseball and softball players from 8 states, stretching from Mississippi to Colorado, come to Waco with dreams of glory in their heads. The games bring dollars to Waco and ESPN broadcasts to the fields on University Parks Drive east of LaSalle. And it's up to Bob Baker and assitant to make sure the field looks great. Because the precursor to the sounds of cheering fans and the crack of the bat is a sprinkler or the firing up of a John Deere mower that is an everyday occurrence. Because for Bob, the condition of the grass on gameday is the symbol of his year's work. And he treats that grass with a lot of attention and TLC.

For the grass to look good when little leaguers arrive and stay strong through nearly two weeks of games, it has to be cajoled throughout the cooler months and cultivated to withstand the 90 summer heat. There are a number of tricks to the trade involving chemicals and products. But a lot of it is just taking the right kind of year-round care to ensure that officials aren't left scrabling come August. So Bob is out on the mower faithfully every day, taking care of the four fields, including the flagship Marvin Norcross Stadium.

But why every other day? Baker says some don't do it that often. But it's that regular cutting that helps prepare it to handle each subsequent mowing. Otherwise, he wouldn't like the results.

Bob is generally outdoors at least 6 hours a day this time of year, braving the heat and taking the time for the regular mowing that is no short process. And there is a spot for creativity in lawncare. If you've watched a major league baseball game, you've seen some intricate patterns in the grass. That's no exception locally, where if Bob is an artist, the field is his medium.

It's a playable palette where a lot of kids dreams come true. And for Bob, there is a payoff in seeing the field look good on ESPN and hearing from officials in Williamsport, Pennsylvania that the field looks good. But the bigger reward comes from seeing the players' eyes grow big when they walk onto a pristine field to play for the chance to reach the World Series. Knowing he'll see that each summer is a driving force in the 100 degree heat and in the January days when baseball seems a long way away.

Softball begins play on that field July 30, with the baseball players arriving next week. For KWBU news, I'm Derek Smith.

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