When it comes to baseball, players and coaches only make up a portion of what goes into the gameday experience. At Founders Park, the South Carolina groundskeeping crew works long hours to ensure the field remains in perfect condition.
Donnie Lindler, the sport turf supervisor at Founders Park, says the process of getting the field ready begins a few days prior to game day.
"You gotta mow, game mound has to be prepped, home plate has to be prepped, infield has to be dragged and watered at certain times depending on weather issues," Lindler said. "You gotta make sure bases look good — clean, white — and again it's a staff thing. I can't do it by myself ... it's a team effort."
Along with Lindler, groundskeepers Justin Scurry and Maritza Martinez play an integral part in taking care of the field.
Though each of them has had different experiences in the industry, they've been able to build a special bond by working as a team.
"Every one of us have worked in different outlets of sports turf and to different levels that we have learned different details," Martinez said. "I wouldn't say it's the hardest part [of the job], but it's learning different ways that things can be done and then us sitting down and actually talking about who's going to win out of the three of us on how we're going to take something."
For the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected so many people — including the groundskeeping crew. Scurry said it was "an ongoing event," which made doing their work difficult. Scurry said because they were in close quarters with players, the team “always had to get tested” as well as continue their work.
"Sometimes when we had to get tested, you're not at the field, so you have to allocate enough time to where you have to go get tested and just say roundtrip — that's an hour — so that's basically an hour that you're not able to work on the field so that takes away time," Scurry said.
In 2020, the group had plans of creating a palmetto tree design in the outfield, which was meant to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of South Carolina's first College World Series championship. However, it was shelved due to the season's cancellation.
While the Gamecocks were on the road in March 2021, the grounds crew went to work on "Under the Carolina Sky" and finished in time for the first home SEC series.
In December 2021, the crew won the Sportsfield Management Magazine Mowing Pattern Contest with its design receiving 522 votes. Scurry said the most challenging part of the process was keeping the project a secret from the public.
"My biggest fear when we were doing it, though, was that it was going to hit social media before I could even post it," Scurry said. "We just didn't want anyone to know about it."
When the design caught fire on social media, the response from the fan base was overwhelmingly positive.
"I'll always hear people talking about the field as I'm walking by and that's the biggest thank you for me as I just keep walking and I smile," Scurry said. "To hear people talk about how good the field looks — I don't go there and say that's something I did or something we did as a group — it's just a huge compliment and I just keep walking and keep smiling because our work is on display."
Even head coach Mark Kingston showed his appreciation for the grounds crew, calling them the best in the business.
"Both in terms of the quality, but also the aesthetics. We all know they won an award for that design last year headed up by Donnie, who's been here for a long time," Kingston said. "Best in the business, both at what they do. Great people, very easy to work with. Can't say enough great things about everybody that takes care of our field."