Minute Maid’s Grass Artist

One of the obvious differences between the Minute Maid Park and the Astrodome is the field. No more artificial turf, just natural grass. If you’ve been to a game you know it’s well kept and appears to be flawless. A lot of work goes into making it look that way. Bill Stamps spent a morning with the grounds crew and has this report.

Its around eleven o’clock in the morning. The Astros don’t play for another 8 hours. But the grounds crew is already out getting the field ready.

“We spend all morning out here on the field, doing all the behind the scenes work.”

Dan Bergstrom is in charge of the crew. He knows everything there is to know about grass…and he should he’s got a degree in it:

“Bachelor of Science in horticulture with a turf grass specialty. Four years of math and science in plant science plant pathology.”

For many people just keeping their front yard is difficult. Dan is responsible for a field the size of more than fifty lawns. It’s a skill he’s learned little by little over the years…beginning with his first job, which was working on a golf course.

“The golf course led me to the turf grass science and then to the degree and then I got a chance to go to the NFL, worked for the Cleveland Browns for a couple years. I’ve worked for a couple of major universities in Kentucky and Nebraska. And now I’ve been down here for six years.”

Wondering what’s the secret?

(Bill) “Would this grow in my front yard?”
(Dan) “It would grow in your front yard, but it is a pretty high maintenance grass. You have to stay after it. The key is just staying ahead of it. You have to outguess the weather — know what’s coming. And have the grass ready for what’s coming. This time of year in July we’re talking about hot dry weather, keeping enough water on the grass. Stay ahead of it that way. Because once the grass starts to burn up it’s really hard to get it back in the middle of the summer.”

And what about those perfect lines we see on the field.

“The artwork comes from the fact that the grass blade is two different colors. The front side and the backside are two different colors. And so all you’re seeing is the front side or the backside of the leaf blade and we’re just showing you one way or the other.”

Dan has a handful of people working with him each day including Willie Berry who used to be the grounds crew chief at the Astrodome. Since the dome didn’t have grass Willie did most of the field work himself. He likes the setup at Minute Maid much better.

“When I first came down here, I missed the dome a little bit, but right now I like this more.”

In case you’re wondering, the grass they use at Minute Maid is called Seashore Paspalum. You probably won’t find it at most nurseries, but you can order it online.

( Bill) “How cool is your job?”
(Dan) “Ahh, it’s the greatest job. Come to the ballpark everyday, work out in the sun and see a game at night. It’s the greatest job.”
(Bill) “You still around for the game?”

(Dan) “Absolutely, we’re here all day long we get out of here about 11pm. It’s usually a 14, 15, 16 hour day depending on the game and uh, love it. Love it.”

Each game day Dan Bergstrom and crew are guaranteed to have the field in perfect shape by the time the first pitch is thrown. What they can’t guarantee is how well the Astros will play. Bill Stamps. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

View photos on Flickr