Pulling Tarp: Baseball’s Favorite Pastime

So when anybody makes the decision to get into pro baseball they’re told one important nugget of information: “You have to be willing to pull tarp.”  For those who don’t know, the tarp is that big square thing that covers the field during rain delays.  The reason most people don’t like to pull tarp is because it can be somewhat messy.  The tarp is wet (and stays wet after getting rolled up), has infield dirt all over it and presumably has the chemicals that treat the field on it as well.  Also, it often gets pulled in the rain – so you get really wet.  Add to that the act of taking the tarp off, which usually involves lots of standing water and it’s not a very fun task.

There’s another important note about pulling tarp — you never really know when you have to do it.  You could have to pull tarp in the morning, during a game, after a game, on the weekends, at night, in a box, with a fox, in a house, with a mouse, here or there or anywhere (if you caught the Green Eggs and Ham reference, point for you).

Box Office Manager Shannon "dressed" the field in its tarp...See what I did there?

Now take a second and get inside the 20 something female mind. You there yet? ………….I know, scary, but glad you got there safe.  Now that you’re in this mindset you know that getting ready to got out with friends means a lot of prep work. You have to pick the right dress and shoes and get your hair set and makeup in order etc. This is nothing short of what I’m assuming is a six-hour process. Logically, one would not want to pull the tarp after this lengthy ordeal…well tough, this is Minor League Baseball. Saturday Night’s tarp crew might have been the best dressed tarp crew in the history of baseball. I’m glad to say I was in a t-shirt and jeans. I’m also glad to say I had shoes on for this one (see below).

That brings us to Saturday night. On Sunday the University of Michigan and the University of Connecticut played at Pelicans Ballpark. Rain was in the forecast late Saturday night and into Sunday morning. That meant we had to pull the tarp Saturday night…literally at night. Around 8pm everybody in the front office got a text message that we should be ready to pull the tarp on the field at 8:30. What made things complicated is that it was 8pm on a Saturday night and it also happened to be a certain member of our front office’s birthday, with most of us ready to go out together to celebrate.  After mutch kvetching we all got to the park and pulled tarp…still dressed to the nines.

Green feet!

Nobody really thought much of not wearing shoes for pulling the tarp.  I’ll be the first to admit I’ve pulled tarp barefoot, no big deal.  When a handful of the people on your staff are in high heels, barefoot seems like a better option.  Pulling in heels could lead to this.  Or this.   Or this.  What was not expected, however, was that Sports Turf Manager Corey Russell had fertilized with a tracking device earlier…the tracking device being a greenish substance that might look like paint if you step on it.  So Happy St. Pattie’s Day!  Several members of our staff wound up members of the green foot club.

Long story short.  The Pelicans pulled tarp in dresses and heels on Saturday. That, is dedication.

Till Next Time,

Joel

Bracket Time…Here’s My Two Cents

So when it comes to NCAA Tournament time everybody is always looking for input on how to fill out their brackets.  In my family I’m always the go-to guy because I work in sports.  That system led to me texting my brother things in all caps yesterday as he told me he had Louisville in the Final Four.  It was a typo….thank goodness.  Below is a rundown of my NCAA Tournament bracket.  Take it for what it’s worth.  Yes, I am a college basketball broadcaster in addition to what I do with the Pelicans, BUT (there’s always a but) I worked for a team in the Northeast Conference this year and thusly have been exposed mostly to teams not in the field.  That exposure also makes me think LIU could upset Michigan State in the first round in an historic upset…so just keep that all in mind here.  Anyways – here we go.

SOUTH REGION

Round of 64 Winners

Kentucky, Iowa St, Wichita St, Indiana, UNLV, Baylor, Notre Dame, Duke

- Yeah, I know, it’s all chalk.  I did seriously consider UConn here based on the fact that Jim Calhoun is back, but the Big-12 is a seriously good conference and Iowa St had some big win, plus I like the fact that they’ve got a hodgepdge of transfers from different schools.  Take it or leave it.

ROUND of 32 WINNERS

Kentucky, Wichita St, Baylor, Notre Dame

- I took Wichita over Indiana.  Big 10 teams never seem to do well in this thing and the Hoosiers are young.  I took Notre Dame over Duke because I’ve just never liked Duke.  I love Mike Brey and the BIG EAST and we don’t know about Ryan Kelly’s health.

SWEET 16 WINNERS

Kentucky and Baylor

Notre Dame’s run ends here.  Baylor is too good…again, the Big-12 thing.  Kentucky is Kentucky.  Wichita St’s mini-run is cute, but not good enough to shock the top team.

ELITE EIGHT WINNER

Kentucky

I thought long and hard about taking Baylor…and I may still before the final deadline, but how can you not put UK through…they’re just that good.  That and I do have lingering reservations about Baylor and how good they really are…remember they stumbled after starting 45-0 (or something like that).

WEST REGION

Round of 64 Winners

Michigan St, Memphis, Long Beach, Louisville, Murray St., Marquette, Florida, Mizzou

- Again I considered taking LIU over Michigan St.  Then I woke up.  I like St. Louis over Memphis and the A-10 is a better league than Confernece-USA, but I think Memphis is underseeded and could actually take out MSU in the next round.  The Beach provides our first big upset.  In Casper Ware, they’ll have the best player on the court and I’m not on the New Mexico bandwagon.  Also, I was on that wagon last year and got very disappointed.  Everything else is as you’d expect.  I thought about taking Iona over Marquette…then Iona forgot about the second half last night.

ROUND of 32 WINNERS

Michigan St, Louisville, Murray St., Mizzou

- Michigan St. ALWAYS goes to the Final Four….ALWAYS.  So I put them through despite my reservations.  Also – the last two times MSU was a No. 1 seed the Spartans went to the Final Four and in ’00 won it all.  I am concerned with Murray St.  They are 30-1 but have beaten NOBODY.  There was a time when you could look at the last two months of the Racer’s schedule see one, count it, one above .500 team.  But they’re stll 30-1.  So they’re through.  I like Mizzou.  The Tigers advance.

SWEET 16 WINNERS

Michigan St and Mizzou

1 vs. 2.  Sorry upset lovers.

ELITE EIGHT WINNER

Michigan St.

I have learned to never pick against Tom Izzo.

EAST REGION

Round of 64 Winners

Syracuse, K-State, Vandy, Wisky, Cincinnati, Florida St, West Virginia, Ohio St.

- Really tempted to take Asheville over Syracuse. Then I woke up again.  I thought long and hard about Harvard over Vandy.  Vandy is the darling of all after winning the SEC….and I never feel comfortable with that pick.  West Virginia pulls an upset over the Zags here too.  Fear the Beard….and they have a guy named Truck and Kevin Jones.

ROUND of 32 WINNERS

Syracuse, Vandy, Florida St., OSU

- Could Syracuse lose here?  Yes, in Fab-ulous fashion.  BUT, you have to consider this — Even without Fab Melo, Syracuse is still better than 55 teams in this bracket.  In fact they could still win a title.  Vegas dropped their odds from 10-1 to 12-1, so lets be real here.  I’m taking my hometown Orange.  Vandy wins because I hate the B10 in this tournament.  Cincinnati is playing great and Yancy Gates is the size of four people, too bad FSU has four people his size.  Ohio State gets a hard battle and beats WVU in overtime.

SWEET 16 WINNERS

Syracuse and Florida St

- Again, call me crazy..but Syracuse is still a good team.  That and Vandy is the hot team — too hot for my blood.  It’s one thing to be the hot team, it’s another to be the trendy hot team.  Also, let’s play bracket strategy.  Vandy I think loses to FSU so this pick, if wrong, wont cost you too many points down the road…if you’re right, nobody else will have Syracuse here because they’re all haters.  Play the numbers game and take the risk with me!

ELITE EIGHT WINNER

Florida St.

I really want to still pick SU here….and I may.  But how long can it last?  FSU is just too big in the middle and beat down UNC, which is full of trees.  The Orange dream dies here…while Fab Melo watches from home.  Actually, hopefully he’s studying and only catches the hilites on SportsCenter….but only after he’s done studying.

MIDWEST REGION

Round of 64 Winners

UNC, Creighton, USF, Michigan, SD State, Georgetown, St. Mary’s, Rock Chalk Jayhawk

- Only surprise here is USF.  I like the Bulls.  They’re won a lot more than they should have this season and there’s got to be a reason for it.  Anybody who wins 20 games in the BIG EAST is okay in my book.

ROUND of 32 WINNERS

UNC, Michigan, SD State, Kansas

- Only shock here is SD State.  Georgetown just doesn’t do much for me.  They’re not that sexy.  I really think it’s a bad year for 3-6 seeds making deep runs overall.  Just don’t have a good feeling around them.

SWEET 16 WINNERS

UNC, Kansas

- UNC beats Michigan because of my Non-MSU Big10 rule.

ELITE EIGHT WINNER

Kansas

Thomas Robinson talks like a man possessed.  I like Kansas and I don’t like that John Henson might not be totally healthy.

FINAL FOUR

I’ve got two No. 1′s, a No. 2 and a No. 3.  I have Kentucky and Kansas in the final.  Kentucky is just better than MSU I think and Florida State in a national title game, no really?  KU is my national champion.  Kentucky is everybody’s pick and I’m a firm believer that everybody’s pick never wins and that the best team also never wins.  Sorry Kentucky.  Rock Chalk K-U…Wooo!

—-

Notes here:  I know I don’t have a ton of upsets or a deep running cinderella….but in all honesty, it’s actually not that common for crazy things to happen deep in the tournament.  I did some digging and have a feeling that George Mason and VCU are the exception…not the rule.  Maybe I’m wrong, but it makes me feel better about picking a mostly chalk Sweet 16.

Opening Day Already!?! For the Grounds Crew, Yes

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans season doesn’t start until April 6th, but not for everybody.  For Pelicans groundskeeper Corey Russell, the season started a month ago when Virginia and James Madison rung in the college baseball season at Pelicans Ballpark.

Sure, for broadcasters, ticket reps, promotions staff, players and coaches, the Carolina League season countdown is still ticking, but ever since February 18th it’s been business as usual for Russell.  Every day Russell and his assistants are out mowing the grass, fixing the mounds, laying down chalk and dragging the infield dirt.  It’s all in preparation for college, junior college and high school games at the park.

“Technically, we’re already in the month of May,” Russell said, comparing the amount of work his team’ been doing to the regular baseball season.  “It’s good for us to get everything going.”

Not only is it good for Russell to get his gears going (and teach the newbies on his staff, like assistant Kevin ‘Bacon’ Schmidt — who by the way bears an incredible resemblance to SNL star Bill Heder), but it’s also good for the field.  I got a little lesson in earth science while Russell explained dirt maintenance.  Apparently over time, the dirt builds up in layers, so if left unmanicured it breaks up in chunks and pieces when players run on it.  Think about those awful Little League fields we all played on.  To prevent that from happening, Russell regularly runs the nail drag over the infield.

Russel (second from the left) and the Pelicans groundscrew.

“[Having games now] gives us a purpose of being out there instead of saying ‘it’s 3:30, time to tear up the infield,’” Russell said, “as opposed to us being out there tearing it up for the fun of it.All the games also force the grounds crew to continuously upkeep the pitchers mounds, something of an art in the groundskeeping world.”Basically what we do out there is a pottery class, “Russell said.  “We’re putting two pieces of clay together just like you’d make pottery.”

Having to be at the ballpark for such long hours even before the season starts does have its obvious drawbacks too though.

“My girlfriend hates it,” Russell said.  “But it balances out because everybody else has to sit in an office all summer long while we’re out on the field.”

Russell and crew do have certain activities in order to break up the monotony of working the field for seven and a half months.  Cookouts are a semi-regular occurrence beyond the ballpark’s rightfield wall.  Sometimes Russell’s girlfriend even cooks dinner and delivers.  In addition to food, Russell’s dog also helps lighten the mood.  Maggie, a black and white Iforgottoaskwhatkindofbreedsheis, makes regular appearances on the Pelicans Ballpark field.  She can often be seen chasing Russell on the various Gator’s and lawnmowers he rides around.

“She just wants to be around me,” Russell said jokingly.

So if you happen to be at Pelicans Ballpark, give Russell a wave and tell him hello.  Maybe even bring him dinner, but don’t try chasing the lawnmower, it does go pretty fast.

Till Next Time,

Joel

Postcards From Surprise 3/7

Alright so a few things to tackle here today.  First things first…we’ve changed the name of the blog.  While I liked the creativity of connecting my Joe Mauer blogging experience with my new blog here with the Pelicans, I really liked the Beachbound & Down title I came up with for my Eastbound & Down related blogs.  I liked it so much I thought it would be a FAR better name for a blog than Springtime Sunchips…and it takes much less explaining.  So now that that’s out of the way, onto our Spring Training links parade:

Robbie Ross has been the talk of Surprise the last day

Lot of talk about former Pelican Robbie Ross at Rangers camp over the last couple days.  He performed really well in his most recent appearance, striking out two in a perfect inning against the D-Backs.  There have been some thoughts that Ross could make the big league club as a lefty out of the bullpen, but those rumors seem to have been put to bed, with the Rangers wanting to develop Ross more on his current track.

FW Star-Telegram: Robbie Ross and Martin Perez

SB Nation: Robbie Ross Video Update

Dallas Morning News: Ron Washington Talks Young Lefties

Mike Olt has also turned some heads lately.  The former Pelican isn’t in the mix to make the Rangers (Adrian Beltre might take issue with that), but he is in big league camp and having success.  The third baseman went 2-3 in yesterday’s game.

FW Star-Telegram: Olt Takes BP

MLB.com: Olt Makes Spring Debut at First Base

The lineups are posted for today’s Rangers game.  There will be a strong Pelican flavor with former Birds Joe Wieland and Miguel De Los Santos expected to pitch.  Wieland is throwing for the Padres, having been traded last year.  Roman Mendez is also expected to throw.  The pitcher was acquired for the Red Sox in a trade a few years back and should be on the Beach this year.

FW Star-Telegram: Line-ups In for Padres Game

Finally, we had a lot of chatter about pitcher Matt West in our last post.  He, however, has suffered a setback and will miss six weeks.

MLB.com: West Out Six Weeks With Sprained Elbow

Till Next Time,

Joel