Several athletic fields in Caroline County have undergone improvements recently, but the most dramatic change has come to the baseball field at Caroline Stadium.
Caroline High School head baseball coach Frank Dow has partnered with parents and friends of baseball and reworked the outfield. On any given day, Dow can be seen working on the field, often with his own equipment, to maintain its excellent condition.
Although Dow has been meticulous in his single-handed care of this facility, the outfield had come into a state of disrepair. Dow and Caroline parent Steve Grinde took on the task of improving the outfield, spending many hours deciding exactly how it could be done in conjunction with Dow’s other grounds keeping responsibilities. The plan was to create a good field where Caroline high school teams could play, as well as other area off-season teams.
“I want the outfield to look like the infield,” remarked Dow.
Thanks to assistance from Bobcat of Richmond, this project began in earnest this summer. Bobcat took the opportunity to show off their latest high-tech equipment by having a three-day school at Caroline Stadium, inviting Bobcat dealers from throughout the state to see demonstrations and get a hands-on opportunity to try out the many machines that were used at the stadium.
The biggest task was to remove the sod on the out field and then use a laser-guided machine that re-graded the outfield. After the work was done, the new surface was free of holes and dips. In addition, the grade was set so that it drains to either side of the outfield from a slight, unnoticeable crest in center field.
Restoring the sod provided quite a challenge, but was accomplished with the assistance of players and the baseball boosters who came and by hand, planted Bermuda grass sprigs in the outfield. A mechanical planter was out of the budget.
With the next two weeks being a critical time as the sprigs had to be kept wet as they rooted, the boosters and players again stepped up and monitored the sprinkling system to make sure just enough water was applied. The grass looks green and lush, but Dow commented that this was a year-long project and the sod probably would not be filled completely until fall of 2014.
As he reworked the outfield, Dow was able to have a warning track added to the edge, something that has never been seen at this facility. In addition to a warning track, drain tile has been put in front of the dug outs with rock dust being spread that will remove any standing water and take the place of the bare dirt patch that has existed in the past at these spots.
Besides this massive project, Dow has continued to maintain the infield, which involves more than just cutting the grass. The list includes putting the pitcher’s mound in just the right spot and at the correct height for optimum usage by pitchers, edging the running areas and keeping the entire playing area squared according to regulations of the Virginia High School League.
Dow commented that often as he works on the field, people will drop by just to see what he is doing and begin relating stories of when they played ball there. Caroline Stadium is not just a Bowling Green ball field, but stands as a witness to the many who have enjoyed careers playing ball there from throughout Caroline County.
As much work as Frank Dow has put into the field, there is one area in which he is powerless to improve, and that is the structure of the stadium itself. If one were to travel throughout this region to visit the many ball fields where young and old alike play ball, few would find a structure like Caroline Stadium. Built in the 1940s, its character stands strong to let people know what an affect baseball has had on us as a society for many years.
There are areas that need improvement. Dow has mentioned that hopefully another entrance would be put on the dug outs by volunteers. The structure itself could use a sandblasting and then repainting. One big improvement to the stadium would be to put in bleachers instead of the concrete steps.
Parents are thanking Dow for the work he continues to do to maintain the field at Caroline Stadium—a Caroline County icon.
This spring saw all the athletic fields at Caroline High undergo improvements. According to athletic director Paul Heizer, the fields were “blown up,” meaning new grass was sown and the grass was allowed to grow long without being mowed so as to establish the new turf on the field. The girl’s softball field appeared especially dramatic with tall grass.