ALWS: Laying the groundwork

The rain that delayed Friday’s games at The American Legion World Series also meant for a busy day for the grounds crew at Keeter Stadium.

Well, busier than usual.

“If it rains, we’re out here really early ‘til really late because we’re trying to get water off the field,” said Cory Ferree, part of the grounds crew since Shelby, N.C., hosted a Legion baseball regional in 2002.

Ferree’s father, Craig, is stadium chairman on the Cleveland County ALWS Baseball Executive Committee and asked Cory to serve on the grounds crew 15 years ago.

Cory Ferree said a typical game day — one not involving rain — begins for the grounds crew four hours before the first game and lasts an hour and a half after the last game.

There’s the field work before and after the games, but there’s also plenty to do during the games.

“Basically at the end of each game we have what we call a pre-prep, where we go out, drag the field, make sure there’s no cleat marks or ball marks in the dirt, and we prep the mound and home plate for the next game,” Ferree said. “Then after the teams take infield, we do what we call post-prep, which is basically eight minutes and that’s when we actually line the field off. The middle of the game, after the top of the fifth inning, we come back out and broom the dirt just to try to get some of those ruts out where they’ve run and balls have been hit.

“That’s a typical game, we do that however many times a day.”

Of course, rain adds to the ground crew’s duties.

“The first thing is, we hope we get the tarp out on time,” Ferree said. “That’s the key, because that helps save the infield from having to do a lot of groundwork in the dirt. The biggest thing is once the rain ends, we get the tarp off. It takes about 25 guys to get it off because the water sitting on top makes it very heavy. We get that folded, get that off, and just try to find areas where the water is pooled and water is standing and just try to push it out of the way as best as we can.

“(The players) might have wet feet, but they’re not running through mud puddles all over the place.”

Ferree moved to Canada for a job in December 2012, but he loves coming back to his hometown to help at the ALWS.

“It’s a community thing," he said. "We’ve got maybe 500 volunteers total, there’s about 20-25 of us on the grounds crew alone. It is a sense of community to know that these teams come from all over the United States and when they get here and see the field for the first time, a lot of them really speak highly of it and then they get a chance to play on it. It speaks to the effort that happens not only during the World Series but year round, because there’s somebody out here every week keeping (the field) cut, keeping it in good shape, so when summer hits, we’re not fighting behind the 8-ball. This whole American Legion World Series is a lot of pride in the community.”

American Legion Baseball

American Legion Baseball enjoys a reputation as one of the most successful and tradition-rich amateur athletic leagues. Today, the program registers more than 5,400 teams in all 50 states, including Canada and Puerto Rico.

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