Thunder Bay

Groundskeepers in for long days during Baseball World Cup

Getting Thunder bay's Port Arthur Stadium and Baseball Central fields up to the high standards needed to host the Under-18 Baseball World Cup means long days and hard work. But Thunder Bay's Bruce MacAskill wouldn't have it any other way.

Groundskeepers put in long hours readying fields for Under-18 Baseball World Cup

Bruce MacAskill, one of the volunteer groundskeepers in charge of getting Port Arthur Stadium ready for the Under-18 Baseball World Cup. (Kris Ketonen/CBC)

Getting Thunder Bay's Port Arthur Stadium and Baseball Central fields up to the high standards needed to host the Under-18 Baseball World Cup means long days and hard work.

But Thunder Bay's Bruce MacAskill wouldn't have it any other way.

"I'm proud of it," MacAskill, one of the volunteer groundskeepers in charge of Port Arthur Stadium's field, said Thursday.

"Proud of both fields, proud of what we're hosting," he said. "It's a world-class event, and I'm looking forward to it."

A world-class baseball event needs world-class baseball fields. And now, Thunder Bay has two that are, in terms of the playing areas themselves, up to Major League Baseball (MLB) standards, MacAskill said.

"When you watch TV and you see an MLB game, you're looking at a field that's exactly like that," MacAskill said. "We've had consultants here, MLB consultants — one's working with me, and one at Central."

"We have to maintain that standard," he said. "All measurements, everything is done the exact same way."

Team Japan practices at Port Arthur Stadium on Thursday, the day before the start of the Under-18 Baseball World Cup. (Kris Ketonen/CBC)

But given the heavy use both fields see during the summers — a Thunder Bay men's baseball league plays at Baseball Central, and the Port Arthur Stadium is home to the Thunder Bay Border Cats — the groundskeeping crew had to touch up some of the work in the weeks leading up to the Baseball World Cup.

For example, MacAskill said, take the pitching mound at Port Arthur Stadium. It was completely rebuilt from scratch last fall by a company from Montreal.

Mounds, bullpens, plates rebuilt

"They built the entire mound," he said. "Years before, we would have a Marco clay, with bricks all the way around. Now, it`s ... a Turface clay in the front landing areas, and Marco in behind."

But due to the heavy use during the season, MacAskill and his fellow groundskeepers have had to check levels, rebuild the landing areas, and rebuild the push-off areas "on the mound and the home plate, the T-box areas where they're standing."

"Make sure all the levels meet, make sure all the slopes meet," he said. "We spent the afternoon [Wednesday] rebuilding the mound here at the stadium because the slopes didn't meet the standards."

That wasn't all.

"We've been totally stripping both fields," he said. "We've had to repack, we've had to re-laser line it."

"Rebuild home plate, rebuild the bullpens. That's been about two weeks' steady work."

And with Friday marking the official start of the Baseball World Cup, the groundskeeping duties will change, MacAskill said.

"We're going to be here probably at six in the morning until midnight or one o'clock in the morning," he said. "We have to set up the field, all lining, make sure your grade's fine, make sure everything's dragged fine."

Leaving a legacy

"They're long days, but worth it," MacAskill said. 

The work, MacAskill said, will leave a legacy, one that he hopes will be preserved. But it's a challenge, he said — at Central, for example, five volunteers take about two hours the morning after a game to get the field ready for the next one.

"It's going to be tougher," he said. "I hope they do maintain the standards, especially here at the stadium."

"At any time ... they find it's not going their way, come and see us, consult with us," MacAskill said. "I want the level to stay the way it is now, because it's going to be benefit all players."

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