- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - A bit of magic will be returning to Four Winds Field this week.

That’s the way South Bend Cubs President Joe Hart sees it as the team’s stadium returns to a natural grass playing surface.

“I think it will be amazing,” Hart said. “I remember as a kid growing up, and even now when I go to a Major League stadium, what’s the first thing you do? Even before I go to the concession stands. You walk in. You don’t even go to your seats. You just walk into where you can look out and see the field. I think that’s the experience that’s going to come back here now.”

Players will love it, Hart added. “From a play-ability standpoint, having Roger (Bossard) do it, it’s going to be a Major League field.”

Work began in late September. After tearing out the FieldTurf surface that’s been in place for four seasons and putting down 7 1/2 inches of sand on the field, the team plans to begin laying sod today, finishing by Friday, Bossard told the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/1s2ZVFV ).

Bossard is no ordinary groundskeeper. He’s put in 12 big league fields, including Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and his home field, U.S. Cellular Field, where he is the head groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox. He’s been working on White Sox playing surfaces for 46 years.

It’s crucial to get the sod down now, Bossard said Monday while praising his crew and taking a short break amid another long day and night at Four Winds Field.

While most people are looking forward to putting their lawn mowers away in a few weeks, the South Bend Cubs are looking forward to finally using one 10 days after the sod is in.

“I need three to four weeks of good growth to get my feeder root down a couple inches,” Bossard said. “And I think I am going to get it. I want to get the feeder roots down at least 2 inches by the time the first snow hits. I’ve been saying a rosary.”

After the sod is laid, he will begin a maintenance program that will include a couple of different fertilization procedures. He likes the forecast calling for mild weather the next five days. He’s not that worried about any frost.

Bossard always planned to do the field this time of year, Hart said. If South Bend were to have another winter like the last one, Hart is not sure there would have been enough time in the spring before the season starts in April.

In addition, vines from Wrigley Field to be planted on the Four Winds Field outfield wall will have to wait until spring since their growing season is over.

Hart says part of the reason for the natural grass over synthetic turf was to attract a new Major League team, but also points out owner Andrew Berlin and himself would have done it anyway because of their belief in having a natural grass surface. The South Bend franchise signed a four-year deal in September with the Chicago Cubs to be their Class A affiliate.

Hart is confident the new field will look much better than the old one, which had almost no dirt other than its sliding boxes around the bases and the batter’s box. The new field will include the normal dirt base paths and a grass surface around the inner portion of the infield.

Counting a new tarp to cover the infield during a rain delay and new lawn mowing equipment, the total cost with the field will run possibly as high as $725,000, Hart said, with Berlin paying the bill.

But Hart was all smiles Monday as he headed to the field.

“It’s going to be phenomenal,” he said.

___

Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com

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