It seems the Akron RubberDucks are second to none when it comes to defending their home turf.
Canal Park and head groundskeeper Chris Walsh have earned the 2018 Turface Athletics Ohio Field of the Year title from the Ohio Sports Turf Managers Association.
This marks the first time Canal Park has won the top honors among the countless athletic fields in the state, from high schools to parks to collegiate and professional turfs that compete annually for the best of the best.
Walsh said it is a real team effort to keep the field at Canal Park in tiptop shape.
He credits his workers, including assistant James Petrella and his trusty dog, Duke, who chases off the occasional Canada goose or two or three. They even deploy a decoy dog in the field so Duke can have a day or two off from protecting the Kentucky bluegrass field from feathered intruders.
RubberDucks General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Jim Pfander said many folks have little idea how often the field is used and trampled on in a typical year.
“They work tirelessly to keep the playing surface in outstanding shape for 70 RubberDucks games, plus 30 to 40 additional special events such as the Akron Marathon, high school baseball games, charity events, and all those thousands of kids who run the bases and stampede in the outfield during our Sunday Family Fundays at Canal Park,” Pfander said.
Walsh has been with the RubberDucks for nine seasons.
The city and team replaced the ballpark's field before the 2016 season and installed new grass along with drainage and irrigation systems.
The Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians will have its 2019 home opener Thursday, April 4, at 6:35 p.m. against the Altoona Curve. This will be the team's 23rd season in Akron.
Craig Webb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.