You just never know who may be in the crowd. A gentleman, attending the Halloween Spartan football game to watch his grandson play for Moberly, was so impressed with the condition of Tom Adams Field at Spartan Stadium that late in the season that he talked with Jeff Southwick at halftime.
“It surprised me to have a guy come up to me at halftime and compliment us on our field,” said Southwick, director of athletics, buildings and grounds, transportation and food services for the Richmond School District. “He said his name was Steve Trusty. He gave me his card and said, ‘By the way, I work for SportsField Management Magazine and would like to do an article on it.’” The article appeared in the Jan. 2009 issue.
Southwick was quick to praise those that help with the various fields. Besides Tom Adams Field, crews also maintain Woodson Field, the RHS practice field below Spartan Stadium, Southview Baseball Field, Lady Spartans Softball Field and Southview A and B fields behind Richmond Middle School and the middle school practice fields north of the school.
Many people take time to work on the fields before a game, said Southwick. “Steve Minnick and his maintenance guys play a big role in this. I let him know we have to have it mowed ‘today’ and they get to it.”
Members of the All Sports Club paint the numbers and decorate the end zones. The school maintenance crew paints the lines, and Puff Adams and Terry Dickey paint the numbers on the field on Wednesday or Thursday. He also gets help from Gregg Steele of Richmond Farm & Lawn.
“There’s a lot of people that pull it together, especially on game day,” Southwick said.
Care of the field is ongoing, involving more than mowing and fertilizing. Explaining that field condition is “all about timing,” Southwick stated they apply fertilizer to the fields two times in early spring. Mowing, with the John Deere Z-track mower, begins in the spring with the blades adjusted as high as possible. After the first mowing of the season, it still takes 40 minutes every other day to keep the fields looking like they do.
“It’s all about timing. You feed the field when it wants to be fed,” Southwick explained. Other care includes proper soil compaction and aeration.
A slow release fertilizer is put on in the summer, as August and September are the most stressful time of the year for a field due to foot traffic in the hot and dry conditions. By this time of the year, mowing is only done every third day. The turf is taken down closer as the season progresses, however no more than a third of the height is cut at one time. Heavy amounts of fertilizer are applied in the fall and reseeding down the middle of the field takes place approximately three times a year. The entire field is reseeded in the fall.
“Mike Karl, Shirkey Golf Course superintendent, helps me from time to time. We do have one of the best-looking football fields. It’s my enjoyment and I take pride in it,” said Southwick. “My relaxing time is to go out and work on the field.”
While it may seem that the varsity and ninth grade football games should both be played on the high school field, Southwick explained that two games a week on the field (three if they included the eighth grade games) would place too much stress on the field and not allow enough time for it to recover. Soon it would look worn again.
“We’re very fortunate to have two football fields to play on. Our number one priority is to keep them in good condition and safe. Seven years ago, a large rain would cancel games. Being able to rotate helps, and reduces the number of rainouts,” he said. “Later in the season we’re able to hold some ninth grade games there.”
Woodson Field receives attention too, and is also a good field to play on. “The Class of 1971 won their state championship on that field,” Southwick replied.
The main thing is to keep the field in peak condition. “The four to five-inches of rain we had in Savannah – something like that and all the fieldwork you did all year can be wiped out in those conditions,” Southwick said.
“When you get the field where it needs to be, you can play on it a little more. It’s established, but it still has to have continued attention to keep it that way,” Southwick said. “Next year, weather permitting, we’ll try to have more freshman games on it and see how the field holds up.”
Southwick was pleased that the hard work of so many was noticed. “To have all the work we’ve done on it, and have someone come from an entirely different area (Trusty is from Iowa), and see what we have, and to be recognized – it’s a yard I’d like to have at my house. It’s something that comes with pride.”
Photo: Members of the Richmond R-XVI Maintenance Department work on the baseball field at Southview Park in October of 2007. The department’s work has garnered the school district some national attention. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News)