Smokies grounds crew toil on despite uncertainty of season

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SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – By 9 A.M. in early-April Tennessee Smokies Head Groundskeeper Eric Taylor has already been at Smokies Stadium for over two hours, his typical day doesn’t end until the sun goes down. April of 2020 is not typical.

“With this (COVID-19) going on right now I get here about eight o’clock and try to get out of here by one or two o’clock,” Taylor explained. “Just try to get back home.”

Taylor, like the rest of the world, is navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The three-time Tennessee Turfgrass Association Professional Sports Field of the Year Head Groundskeeper has often found himself weighing the benefit versus the risk of getting work done this spring.

“The hardest part is finding out if we’re wasting our money or not, yanno?” he said. “We need to be able to mow and edge and run some of our equipment but do we need to do it as frequently? Do I need to have my interns here as much? Whatever has to be done we’ll do it and we try to make sure when we have to be here we stay away from each other.”

The Pandemic’s impact on baseball’s season also forces Tayor to plan ahead for the potential of fall play.

With no start-date, therefore no end-date and no word yet as to whether or not they will proceed with a full season Taylor also has to prepare for a challenging time of year to maintain a baseball field.

“Once the days get shorter we won’t be able to grow as much grass and the dirt doesn’t dry out as fast,” he explained. “We’ll have to adjust the way we water and our fertility that we do.”

Taylor has already begun that planning. He explained they have already basically cut their current fertility plan by about 75% with plans to carry it out at a later date.

“The shortest amount of time would be 24-hours, that would be the shortest amount of time. We could play a pro game here no problem. Wouldn’t have any issues. Would like a week, if I had a hardcore wish it would be like two weeks.”

Whether it’s twenty-four hours, two weeks or two months from now, the field at Smokies Stadium will be ready for an opening day unlike any other.

“This opening day I think will be a lot more special because of the uncertainty of where we’re at in the country,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a sell-out.”

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