How does agriculture relate to the world of baseball? We chatted with Vern Stenman, President of the Madison Mallards and Todd Rupiper of Maple Leaf Landscaping to find out! As the first game of the year approaches, there is much work to be done for the Madison Mallards regarding their field and turf grass management. The field needs to be in perfect shape to ensure playability and safety for the players, and be visually appealing for fans.
They are in the process of recovering from a crazy year, after having the Mallards 2020 season cancelled due to local health restrictions. Instead of their normal season, they instead decided to turn the ballpark into a drive in movie theater for community members having up to 100 cars each night parking on the outfield to watch a movie on the big screen. It was a fun event for the Mallards and participants, but as Stenman said looking back it turned out not to be “the best thing for the health of the baseball field grass.” That just means they’ve been hard at work rolling, re-sodding, coring and over-seeding the field to get it back into shape.
In order to get all of this pre-season prep and full season maintenance complete, they need quite a crew at the Mallards. Stenman mentions that they try to hire agriculture or farm based people on their team whenever they can. “We’re big on versatility and people that can do a lot of different things, and I think that growing up on a farm certainly teaches you that kind of thing,” Stenman said. He mentioned that the work ethic and knowledge that ag and farm people bring to their work force is invaluable.
As far as field maintenance, keeping the field looking good and playable is top priority. Todd Rupiper and his crew at Maple Leaf Landscaping partner with the Mallards to help with overall field health and maintenance. “I’m here at least once or twice a week checking,” said Rupiper talking about how much time it takes to ensure the field is in perfect condition. The field is mowed three times a week during the season, and other maintenance such as fertilizing, weed control and surface conditioning is done as needed. Stenman said that even though a natural grass field is a lot more work than artificial turf, it is a better playing surface and fits the bill for baseball “purists.”
After not having the 2020 season, the Mallards are looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. Stenman says that more than anything, they’re “excited to see the community back together.” The Mallards home opener is May 31st at Warner Park in Madison.