Surely you've sat high in the stands at a stadium or, at least, while watching TV, looked down by way of the blimp camera and wondered how they managed to get the grass to take on those festive patterns of light-and-dark strips. Sometimes the field looks as if it's striped in alternating shades of light- and dark-green grass, and if you're lucky, you've seen a game played on a really elaborate plaid, sunburst or bull's-eye design.
Yes, there is an art to making the field look that way, and it's simpler than you might think, explains Boston Red Sox director of grounds David Mellor. You can even make your own lawn at home look as if you're waiting for the Cardinals to drop by for a little intrasquad workout.
Mellor, the author of Picture Perfect: Mowing Techniques for Lawns, Landscapes, and Sports, studied "turf" in college and spent 16 years working for the Giants, Angels and Brewers before getting the call to run the show, dirt-wise, in Fenway Park about a year ago. He claims he was there at the beginning of the whole fancy-grass-pattern revolution when a 1993 Paul McCartney concert in Milwaukee's County Stadium damaged the turf and he and his crew had to do something quick before the next day's Brewers game. Using a riding mower outfitted with a special smooth-down roller on the back, he mowed a complex, hypnotic pattern on the infield that drew the fans' eyes away from the ugly grid of scars in the outfield.
Since that landmark lawn job, Mellor has sculpted an impressive array of circle, wave and star patterns into various ballfields. He has recruited a news helicopter to hover over a field and help blow-dry grass damaged by a flash flood. He has mowed the jersey numbers of retiring players across the outfield, and he says he is now preparing what may prove his trickiest job ever: "My youngest daughter wants me to do Scooby Doo."
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