03/30/11 12:00 PM ET
Turf's up at Dodger Stadium for Hansen
Groundskeeper had challenging events leading up to opener
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
For Opening Day on Thursday, it will return to normal.
Eric Hansen is responsible for turning the former into the latter. He's the assistant director of turf and grounds at Dodger Stadium -- a fancy name for head groundskeeper. Think of him as the executive vice president of eliminating bad hops.
He's tended to the Dodger Stadium field for 14 years, and this year, his assignment is a little more challenging than most, due to Jan. 22's motocross and Feb. 19's monster truck race.
As much as those events tear up his beloved field, Hansen only wishes he had until Opening Day to put things back together. Actually, it was 2 1/2 weeks earlier for the Dodgertown Classic college tournament on March 13.
Hansen makes it sound like it's all in a day's work.
Of course, it rained throughout the Feb. 19 monster truck event.
"There was mud all over the place and standing water everywhere, and nobody could work," said Hansen. "Typically, the promoter gets everything off the field right away, then I take over and get everything else done. Normally it takes only a couple of days. This time, they came out, and it was the end of the day Wednesday before they got everything off and got down to the base. Then we got the turf removed, and by Thursday, it was done."
One week after the monster truck race, the old turf had been removed and 450 tons of sand -- which allows proper drainage -- was brought in, roto-tilled and laser graded. On Tuesday, 70,000 square feet of sod (in rolls 100 feet long by 42 inches wide) was trucked in and laid down like green carpet in time for the Dodgertown Classic, which featured the USC-UCLA crosstown rivalry.
"It wasn't as smooth as I would have liked, but the field played really well," said Hansen. "Now the process is more working on the dirt and then we got it laser graded, and we'll keep working on it until the Dodgers get back. There's still some detail work. Also, before the classic, we brought in 15 tons of warning-track material and got it leveled."
Hansen has a crew of six, with a game staff of seven to chalk the foul lines and the batter's boxes, rake the warning tracks and mow the grass. He came to the Dodgers from the Blue Jays, where he was in charge of their Dunedin Spring Training complex for six years.
Typically, Hansen paints the Opening Day logo in foul territory on the off-day before Opening Day, but this year there is no off-day before Opening Day. So the logo will be visible while the Dodgers play their final two exhibition games at Dodger Stadium on Monday and Wednesday nights.
"That's the only thing we do special for Opening Day," said Hansen.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.