Cook teaches grounds maintenance in Canada

MLB's field and facilities coordinator hosts clinics during three-city tour

Cook teaches grounds maintenance in Canada

The latest tips in field maintenance are finding their way north of the border.

Murray Cook, Major League Baseball's field and facilities coordinator, has spent the past week bringing his expertise to a three-city tour of Canadian ballparks. Cook led a delegation to Vancouver on Monday and Edmonton on Wednesday, and they'll end their cycle at Winnipeg's Whittier Park on Friday.

Cook said that the timing was just right, as the first clinic coincided with perfect weather in Vancouver and the second just missed an Edmonton snowstorm by about a week. Cook surveyed the field at Centennial Park in Edmonton on Tuesday, and he looked forward to hosting the second clinic.

"This is the first time we've ever done anything up here," said Cook when reached on Tuesday night. "We're always going to South America or the Dominican Republic, but there was not much up here. We had a great turnout in Vancouver on Monday and we're expecting one in Edmonton Wednesday."

Cook's clinics, run in conjunction by MLB, Baseball Canada and Turface Athletics, were designed to teach people of all experience levels how to properly care for a field. The clinics brought people with Little League and Minor League backgrounds, and it taught them Major League techniques.

The interesting thing, said Cook, is the sheer variety of people involved. There were parks and recreation workers at the first clinic, and also ambassadors from Baseball Canada from several different provinces. Some of the people at the clinic worked at private schools and some worked for different youth organizations that host baseball leagues, but they all left armed with a little more knowledge.

"They ask a lot about dimensions and home-plate maintenance. They ask about how to take care of the infield," said Cook. "We really stress safety, and we tell them that the least they can do with a field is make sure that it's safely playable so there's not an issue with kids getting hurt. They ask typical baseball stuff, but in Canada, you have a few months of play and then it's winter again."

None of the clinics were staged in Toronto or Montreal, interestingly enough, but Cook said he'd be in Toronto on other business later in the week. The first clinic was held at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, the home of the Class A Vancouver Canadians and a former Triple-A facility.

Cook, who runs the highly informative Murray Cook's Field & Ballpark Blog on MLB.com, had several different topics of interest for the people who turned out. The clinics taught about ballpark safety, lighting options and maintenance, fence and rail padding, and screens and protective nets. There was even a section on equipment winterization, a chapter especially suited to its surroundings.

Cook's travels will likely take him down to Latin America again before the year is out, but he said it was a pleasure to work in conjunction with Baseball Canada. The game is thriving and in great shape north of Cooperstown, N.Y., and Cook said it has fitting fields and facilities to continue its healthy growth.

"You're seeing a few more synthetic turf fields here. Not many. They have a lot of beautiful grass fields," he said. "There's a place for synthetic turf in every country where you have a little piece of land and you've got 100 kids on it 365 days a year. Natural grass has a hard time dealing with that."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.