WABASH – A sunny Friday morning at Northfield High School was a welcome sight for Blake Marschand and Co.
Marschand and his team had spent more than two months, and most of their summer, at Hamilton Heights High School preparing the football stadium for turf installation.
The rain extended the project for several weeks. The days of literally moving and leveling tons of stone dragged on and on.
But on the last Friday in July, they got back to doing what they do best: making the area ball diamonds shine.
The crew was at the Northfield softball field for a laser-grade project – Marschand Athletic Field Services’ first service.
Based in Kokomo, Marschand Athletic Field Services maintains and builds sports fields.
For a baseball or softball field, laser leveling is the application of a new layer of soil to the field so that surface water drains to the edge of the field. Transit and GPS equipment makes a laser-quality project possible.
A tractor pulls a level box, which distributes dirt evenly, to preferred specifications. For the Northfield softball field, it was 2 inches of indoor dirt and a 0.2% taper slope. It takes about 50 tons of soil to apply an inch to an indoor field, depending on the square footage.
A taper grade can be thought of as a taper. There is a high point and the field descends from there.
The transit, positioned at the pitch rubber, is connected to the tractor and the level box, ensuring leveling consistency as dirt is spread around the infield.
But not just any dirt. This is high end dirt. Dirt so good the pros use it.
Marschand uses DuraEdge, a mixture of clay, sand and silt on the ground. The field mixes offered by DuraEdge vary in their ratio of ingredients.
It’s the kind of dirt that only leaves cleat marks after a game. DuraEdge fields won’t turn to dust in the summer heat or get rock hard. They also don’t turn into mud pits after a rain.
The brand is used by Major League Baseball teams and some of the nation’s top college programs.
‘From a mess to a virgin’
Dan Armstrong, the former North West athletic director, started what is now Marschand’s Athletic Field Services. Armstrong sold his business, Sports Field Services, to Marschand in 2008.
“It was an interest for me,” Marschand said. “I don’t mind doing that kind of work.”
Marschand worked at Duke Energy for a few years, fixing sports fields on the side before moving full-time.
“I don’t want to be in an office, I want to be outside,” he says. “You look back and say, ‘I can build ballparks for a living. It’s pretty cool.”
That Marschand ended up working ballparks for a living should come as no surprise. He grew up on a baseball field with his father, Greg Marschand, the longtime baseball coach at Lewis Cass High School.
“I’ve been on a pitch since I could walk,” the young Marschand said.
Marschand Athletic Field Services works with nearly every school in the area, including Kokomo, Western, and Taylor. While natural surfaces are Marschand’s specialty, there are also deals in artificial turf, such as the project in Hamilton Heights, for which his company was contracted.
The company works on all types of terrain. “From a mess to a blank” is how Marschand puts it.
Marschand and his team are also behind one of Kokomo’s gems, the CFD Investment Stadium in Highland Park. They maintain the stadium which hosts high school and American Legion baseball games.
A rainy April morning demonstrated what a well-maintained field with DuraEdge Soil Mix can do. Crossing the infield at Highland Park, Marschand showed how the dirt didn’t stick to his shoes, left almost no footprints, the surface was still solid and there were no puddles.
If it hadn’t rained for the rest of the day, the course would have been playable this afternoon.
“It’s pretty cool when you walk through the door and see it glow,” Marschand said.
The job took Marschand to the upper echelons of the sport, including Victory Field in Indianapolis, where his team laser-classified the infield, as well as Notre Dame and Purdue University. Wrigley Field is his dream job.
“Blake Marschand has taken this business globally,” said Armstrong. “I’m proud of Blake.”
For Ball Players by Ball Players
Marschand doesn’t do formal marketing, but he doesn’t miss out on business. word of mouth and Twitter net full of customers. His team is currently at Tri-West High School building new baseball and softball fields.
“I have a huge problem saying no to people,” Marschand said. “I hate keeping people waiting. You try to make everyone happy. This is probably the hardest part. »
The weather can be your worst enemy in completing every project, he said.
Marschand’s team is small, but it’s made up of guys who enjoy the work they do.
No surprise, they’re all former baseball players, including Marschand, whose college baseball career took him to the University of Hawaii Pacific.
Marchand likes this. Athletes know hard work. Baseball players appreciate a well-kept field.
Guys like Emitt Zimmerman, a Carroll graduate. He spent a few summers with Marschand, and he drove the tractor to Northfield.
“I wish someone did that in my field (in high school),” Zimmerman said. “You can do it for the other kids. It’s pretty cute.
This is ultimately what makes the long days, hot sun, early mornings and late evenings worth it. When a job is done, you see the result of their hard work. When a school raves about its new ball diamond? Even better.
“That’s what you want to hear, that’s the good stuff,” Marschand said. “It’s pretty cool, the before and after reaction.”
A job well done
The Northfield project was fairly easy, despite the softball field being flat. Flat terrain can make it difficult to find an existing note to work from.
Sometimes there is more than one. One side of a field may have one grade, the other a completely different one. The challenge is to mix them up while ensuring that the water drains away from the field, towards the edges or sidelines.
“It can be a drag when we go into a field with an existing level,” Marschand said. “There were times when I racked my brains for hours trying to get grades to match.”
Marschand then pulled out an image of a ballpark with squiggles, arrows and numbers on it. The diagram was that of the Northfield softball field. Marks indicated rank.
The first thing Marschand does is determine the slope of the field using GPS. This is called “pulling the edges”.
The next step is to break the infield. A versatile riding machine does this job. New dirt and old dirt need to be mixed together, Marschand explained, or the new stuff will slip off after a rain.
Most of the day was spent bringing and grading the mix to the field, along with a short lunch break. After the last piece of DuraEdge was laid down, the field was maintained with a carpet drag – the type that field teams use between innings of an MLB game.
Marschand and Zimmerman raked the edge of the field. Called “feathering”, this is a finishing touch that allows for a smooth transition from dirt to grass.
“This job will teach you how to wield a rake,” Zimmerman said. “It’s so satisfying to pluck an edge.”
The crew finished around 3 p.m., shortening the day. Conditioner still needed to be applied to the field – it will help absorb moisture while preventing the field from drying out – but that could wait until Monday.
Marschand let his guys go home early after spending more than 12 hours earlier in the week to complete the job from Hamilton Heights.
Before leaving, he took a picture of the pitch and posted it on Twitter. Sometimes there is no better advertisement than a job well done.