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07/31/09 8:32 AM ET
Groundskeepers prepare Target Field grass
Focus shifts to playing surface with heavy construction done
By Tyler Mason / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Target Field is the second stadium project in the past three years for head groundskeeper Larry DiVito, as he also worked on Nationals Park in Washington D.C. And as the pieces continue to come together on the Minnesota Twins' new home, DiVito can't help but draw comparisons. For starters, DiVito said there were concerns that Nationals Park wouldn't be finished in time for Opening Day on March 30, 2008. In Minneapolis, he said, that concern is nowhere to be found. "That was a really fast-tracked project," DiVito said of Nationals Park. "We're sodding here (at Target Field) Aug. 24. We didn't finish sodding there until Nov. 8. ... It was that way with everything else in the stadium." Unlike his experience in D.C., DiVito said everything at Target Field is right on track to open in the spring of 2010. "We were worried. 'Are the lights going to work? Are things going to be functional for Opening Day?'" DiVito said. "Whereas here, barring a major accident -- which is not too likely at this point given the cranes are gone -- everything's right on schedule." With most of the heavy construction of Target Field completed, the focus now shifts to the playing surface where the Twins will roam next season. Workers continue to lay down layers of sand and gravel that will sit under the grass that's set to be planted Aug. 24. The sod is currently being grown in Colorado, and DiVito said it will be transported via refrigerated trucks to Minneapolis. And while the thought of playing baseball in April is still many months away, DiVito and his crew are already preparing the park to handle potentially cold conditions. Throughout this week, heating tubes are being laid down on the field on top of the gravel. These tubes will eventually be filled with hot water and glycol and will sit 10 inches below the playing surface to help keep the turf thawed in winter months. "It won't melt 10 inches (of snow) in five hours. That's not what it's for," DiVito said. "But it will help melt snow because heat rises and helps us from getting ice. "It shouldn't be a problem melting snow out here. If it's the first week of April and we get 8 inches of snow, I bet I get [the field] ready before the stadium's ready." Aside from Washington D.C., DiVito has worked on Minor League ballparks that have faced similar weather concerns. Between dealing with snow in the offseason and rain during the playing months, DiVito and his crew will have their hands full. He also knows weather patterns can change from month to month and year to year, making it tough to predict exactly what to expect. "Weather is what it is," DiVito said. "It's a crapshoot. It's so random. You look at averages, they're just that -- averages. We get years where you have spring floods all up here. We're not going to get floods, because we have an incredible amount of drainage." As the field begins to take shape, other parts of the stadium continue to get closer to Opening Day form. More plastic seats are being put in place each day. And as the installation process goes on, the exact seating capacity remains to be seen. "We're saying 40,000," said Chris Iles, Corporate Communications Manager for the Twins. "But already, as we put the seats in we're discovering little spaces and saying, 'Hey, you could put another seat here.'" Most of the seats in the outfield seating sections are already in place, but Iles said wooden seats -- ash wood from Michigan, to be exact -- will fill the remainder of the outfield, something not typically found in modern-day parks. "We're the first ballpark since World War II to have wood-back seats," Iles said. DiVito said he's been impressed with the stadium's attention to detail, everything from the stone exterior to the metal fences behind the foul territory seats. "In Washington, it's just a chain-link fence. This is a nice, detailed (fence)," DiVito said. "Things like that. The finishes here are really nice. ... It's pretty impressive in that sense."
Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.