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  AP News | The Times-Tribune | thetimes-tribune.comBuy AP Photo ReprintsGLENDALE, Ariz. -- With 24 da...
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  • 1. AP News | The Times-Tribune | thetimes-tribune.com AP News | The Times-Tribune | thetimes-tribune.com Buy AP Photo Reprints GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With 24 days remaining before opening day at U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago's never-ending winter plods along with no regard to the calendar. After Thursday's 7-4 loss to the Mariners at Camelback Ranch, meteorologist-manager Robin Ventura predicted a cold one, not to be confused with the kind of cold one most Sox fans prefer. "The forecast is not real good," he said. "(Groundhog) saw his shadow, I guess." That means the most valuable employee in the Sox organization is head groundskeeper Roger Bossard, who faces his biggest challenge yet -- getting the Cell ready for some baseball. Bossard quickly corrected me. "Well, probably the biggest challenge was the day after Disco Demolition," he said. "Please, let's not forget that." Of course not. But as far as season openers go, de-thawing U.S. Cellular Field figures to be a most difficult task,
  • 2. even for the man I dubbed "the Sodfather" many years ago. One of the coldest, snowiest winters in Chicago history has left its mark, and Bossard, a lifelong Chicagoan and inventor of a patented drainage system, must deal with the aftermath. "I've never run into this before," Bossard said Thursday at Camelback Ranch, where he's in charge of the Sox's spring training fields. "Obviously we've had a lot of snow on the field before. You get it off. You bring in little Bobcat skid-steers and put them on the track. We have snow blowers. You blow the snow off the field to the (warning) track and load up the skid steers into seven-ton trucks and dump it into the parking lot. "I've done that a number of times. But I have never done what I'll have to do this year because the frost-line is down to 30-plus inches. For grass to grow, it's the soil temperatures that are conducive to that. I have to bring that out of dormancy. I've never dealt before with 30 inches of frost." Bossard returns to Chicago next week and will begin working on the field March 16. He said he usually lays the tarp on different sections of the grass for a day or two. But this year he'll do it three or four days for each spot, and also put four 600,000-BTU heaters underneath the tarp, hoping to get http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/health the temperature below to 75 to 80 degrees just to warm up the ground. "For the average homeowner, that's a lot bigger than their furnace at home," he said. White Sox Chairman Jerry http://www.google.com/intl/en_us/health/about/ Reinsdorf sends Bossard down to spring training every year, knowing the importance of a good field to the team's preparation. He arrived in Glendale on Feb. 8 and tends all the Sox back fields, along with the actual ballpark that is shared with the Dodgers. "Jerry wants me to duplicate the fields as close to possible as the one we have in Chicago," he said. "A lot of times what happens is some of the fields here are like bricks. I understand. There's no humidity here, and the sun bakes it. "I always have a soft infield in Chicago and that's what the players want. I try to give that to them here, so when they come back they're ready. They don't come from a hard surface to a soft surface, which takes them three or four games to get used to. "From a groundskeeper's viewpoint, and from (manager) Robin Ventura's viewpoint, one or two wins can make a difference." Ventura said Bossard's value is more important to an individual player than to the team itself. "When I played (for the Sox), every time I took the field it was exactly the way I liked it," Ventura said. "You go on some fields where you don't feel that comfortable. He can go around to each guy and make each spot exactly the way they want it. In the old days they could probably do a little more tweaking for your personal team. For me, he was always the best." As opening day approaches and below average temperatures remain the norm, the pressure is mounting. But neither snow nor rain nor gloom of a 99-loss season will keep Bossard from getting the Cell in playing shape. "It's going to be a challenge, no question, but we'll be up for it," he said. "For a groundskeeper,
  • 3. March 31 comes real, real quick. I was talking to Roger Baird, the Cubs' groundskeeper, the other day and told him how fortunate he was to have (the Cubs' home opener) four days later. You don't realize it, but to a groundskeeper, four extra days that time of year is huge. But we'll be ready." The Sodfather is always ready. The question is whether the Sox will be ready as well. psullivan@tribune.com Twitter @PWSullivan ------ (C)2014 the Chicago Tribune Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services http://hosted2.ap.org/PASCR/72917a5e85e24b6f8e667afce1dda249/Article_2014-03-07/id-baf6498e8 6bb4df052341637f48a0688
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