Delivering safe and playable athletic fields is the priority for Jason Waldron, facilities manager for Harvard University athletics. Waldron’s responsibilities include eight baseball fields, indoor and outdoor tracks, a tennis center, pool, and hockey complex.
One of the biggest challenges in maintaining the outdoor athletic grounds isn’t pests, weeds, or unpredictable weather. It’s overuse of the fields.
“That’s something we always struggle with,” said Waldron, who oversees five groundskeepers. “Whether natural or synthetic, the surfaces need rest so they can recover.”
How does a harsh winter like the last one affect what you do with the field?
For a natural field, getting the grass out of dormancy is a priority. It was such a cold spring, the grass didn’t green up. We put a heat blanket over the baseball field this year, which speeds up the recovery process.
How do you make sure a baseball field is level?
The last thing an infielder or outfielder wants is a ball that hops; it needs to have a true roll. Mowing at a consistent height is important. We have a level that spins around on a tripod as the field is groomed. It tells you when the field needs to be smoothed out.
You also manage building maintenance. How are you working on energy efficiency?
In our hockey rink, we changed 750 watt fluorescent lights for 350-watt LED fixtures, which saved on costs. This also improved the consistency of lighting.
How did you get into this line of work?
My first job was with the [Minor League Baseball team] Lowell Spinners grounds crew. I did the down-and-dirty work, from cleaning concessions stands to repairing bullpens. I also worked in Arizona, managing the spring training facility for the San Francisco Giants.
Do you use your turf management skills to help your lawn at home?
I definitely take a lot of pride in my backyard and use the knowledge I have to maintain it. But now that I have two kids, I don’t have as much time, so it doesn’t look as absolutely pristine at this point.Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.