Dragon’s employee’s design mows down the competition in turf contest.

Eric Spangler

Barry, the sports turf manager of the Dayton Dragons baseball team, the class A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, initially created a grid pattern in the outfield grass when the team was practicing before the start of the 2016 season. Barry and his crew then reshaped the grass design and added the Dayton Dragons logo in centerfield prior to opening day.

Members of the Sports Turf Managers Association voted that design as the best during the group’s recent mowing-pattern contest, says Kim Heck, CEO of the Sports Turf Managers Association.

“It was a lovely pattern,” she says. “It was fairly complex yet fairly clean and so detailed oriented.”

Earning the top number of votes from the Sports Turf Managers Association’s 2,700 members is big deal, says Heck. “They take it pretty seriously,” she says. “It’s a pretty stiff competition.”

So how do they make those winning patterns in the grass? It’s simple, says Barry. The light reflects differently on grass blades that are bent away from the viewer compared to grass blades that bend toward the viewer creating light and dark shades, he says.

Grass blades are bent over with rollers on the back of the mower’s cutting reels, he says. It may take several passes to “burn in” the design by mowing and rolling over the grass, says Barry.

Although there is always a design in the turf for each home game, Barry says the crew makes sure to change the design every two or three weeks so the grass can stand back up and doesn’t grow unnaturally in one direction.

Barry says mowing pattern design ideas come from watching other sporting events on TV, social media posts from sites like Twitter—where there’s a big turf following—and simply by “winging it” while mowing.

“Some of the coolest patterns you see someone just goes out there and starts mowing,” he says. “And once you get halfway through you get some good ideas.”

Although unique mowing patterns are all part of a sports turf managers’ expertise in providing fans with a great game-day experience their No. 1 concern ismaking sure the fields are safe for the players, says Heck.

Barry says his goal is to make sure the edges of the turf are clean so there are no bad hops, everything is graded correctly and the pitching mound and area around home plate are all groomed correctly. “Once that’s all done then we can focus more on mowing an intricate pattern,” he says.

Since he’s so good with a mower one would think Barry would have all kinds of fun patterns in his own yard, however, that’s not the case. His wife mows their yard, he says.

“She enjoys it,” Barry says. “I’ve a nominated her the director of grounds at our home.”

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