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Wildcats Get (Less Than) Dry Run for MLB Tarp Detail

The Pennsylvania College of Technology Wildcat baseball team will serve a second stint on the tarpaulin crew for Sunday’s 7 p.m. MLB Little League Classic between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets, to be televised nationally on ESPN.

About 20 players and head coach Chris Howard will staff the infield tarp before and during the game, seated along the right-field line, at the ready for inclement weather. More than a dozen are returning from last year’s inaugural game, in which the Pittsburgh Pirates topped the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-3.

The idea originated from Little League President and CEO Steve Keener when asked last year by Major League Baseball if any Little League Baseball World Series grounds-crew members could handle the tarp. Keener suggested to college President Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, who was serving as chair of the Little League International Board of Directors, that the Wildcat baseball team would be a good choice for it.

“Looking at the forecast this week, it looks like we’ll be doing more work than last year,” Howard said. “But we’re up to the task and we’re excited to be a part of this event again.”

Murray Cook, who, as president of BrightView Sports Turf is a renowned MLB field and stadium consultant, echoed the coach’s outlook.

“Their job is perhaps more important this year than last,” he said. “This ground can’t take any more water, so the responsibility goes beyond saving the game to protecting the field.”

Cook welcomed the ‘cats when they arrived for Thursday’s training at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field, where a seeming army of workers was again transforming the minor league venue into a major league showcase. With clouds roiling overhead and the weather map bathed in an inhospitable shade of green, he assigned positions with an emphasis on safety and teamwork.

“Button down your wallets and phones and keys,” he added. “If it falls off, it stays in the tarp, and we become part of the ESPN bloopers as the worst grounds crew ever. And we don’t want that!”

But the facilities specialist – who has supervised grounds personnel in locales as varied as Japan, Europe and for a July 2016 Braves-vs-Marlins game at Fort Bragg, North Carolina – wasn’t really worried about the athletes’ performance.

“They did a great job last year,” Cook said. “I really like their ‘gung ho-ness’ in keeping it all together. Plus, they love the game.”

– Photos by Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist/photographer


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