Adam Shinder/Recorder staff A crew sprays a mix of rubber pellets and sand out of a truck Friday to fill in the new artificial turf infield at Shuttleworth Park.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff An advertisement for Gabriel Paving & Excavating has been stenciled into the new artificial turf infield at Shuttleworth Park.
By ADAM SHINDER
Three-quarters of a century ago this week, the city of Amsterdam was preparing to open the doors for baseball at the newly-renovated Mohawk Mills Park. Seventy-five years, a few more facelifts and a name-change later, the diamond at what is now Shuttleworth Park is almost ready to debut in its newest iteration.
The final steps in the installation of a new artificial turf infield are currently in progress, and sometime next week -- perhaps as early as Monday against Bishop Maginn -- the Amsterdam High School baseball team will play the inaugural game on a field that's built to last with relatively low maintenance.
"It's a big relief to know that we have a couple days left, and hopefully we'll be all set," city of Amsterdam Recreation Director Rob Spagnola said. "We probably would've been done by the weekend, but a couple days of rain screwed us up a little bit."
Friday, a crew was on hand performing one of the final tasks to prepare the next-generation Astroturf surface itself, spraying a mixture of rubber pellets and sand into the turf. Now, there are only a few items left on the checklist to be ready for play -- re-sodding the back edge of the infield where excavation was done, finishing the pitcher's mound and replacing a portion of the fence in centerfield that was moved in order to give the work trucks a place to enter the park.
"We're looking forward to seeing the finished product and actually getting a game in on it," said Brian Spagnola, who represents two of Shuttleworth's primary tenants as president and general manager of the Amsterdam Mohawks and head coach of the AHS baseball team.
The bulk of the installation process was delayed until early April thanks to a cold, harsh winter, but once work began, Mohawks assistant general manager Dan Nelli said, things moved fairly quickly.
"For the last couple months, we've been really rocking and rolling down here," Nelli said.
Before the turf could even be laid down, several area businesses contributed to the project in its early stages. A drainage pipe was installed, a concrete rim was poured on the outside edge of the infield that the turf was later attached to, the original infield dirt and grass was excavated and several local municipalities helped haul in nearly 800 pounds of stone to lay the foundation for the new field.
"It was definitely a huge team effort and a lot of different organizations and businesses working together to really accomplish this," Nelli said. "It should be something that people in Amsterdam can look at and are very proud of. There'll be travel teams, men's leagues that play on this, the high school will play on this. It's not just the Mohawks that benefit from this, it's everybody in the community."
With the work on the field nearly complete, Brian Spagnola said he's excited for players to get a chance to test it out -- especially given the reports he's gotten from his friends on the coaching staff at Wake Forest University, which has the exact same Astroturf surface.
"They kind of fought it a little bit when it was mentioned, because they're obviously traditional baseball guys, but they said they wouldn't trade it for anything in the world right now," he said. "Regardless of the weather, when they walk out for practice, the field is perfectly groomed every time."
And while the new surface may be manufactured by Astroturf, both Nelli and Brian Spagnola were quick to point out that Shuttleworth's infield isn't the rock-hard, green-carpet-over-concrete Astroturf of the 1970s, but a smooth, safe field to play on.
"Four or five years ago, Major League Baseball changed and went to this new Astroturf -- which isn't like the old-style turf -- and they say it plays more like baseball than the FieldTurf," Brian Spagnola said.
One thing that should become much simpler with the new turf is field maintenance. Rob Spagnola said the turf would save manpower for keeping the park clean and maintaining the infield -- with no more need to keep the infield dirt in shape or chalk the foul lines and batter's boxes.
In order to keep things pristine, Nelli said that items like sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts and chewing gum won't be allowed near the field, and they'll attempt to limit players' use of metal spikes on their cleats.
"There's not a lot of maintenance involved in it, but we'll do everything we need to do to make sure we have the best possible field, playing condition-wise, for everybody," Rob Spagnola said.
One thing's certain: After a long, cold winter and a wet spring, the project's long-awaited completion is a relief for the driving forces behind it.
"We're a few days behind, but it's a day-by-day thing," Brian Spagnola said. "The stinking weather this week has screwed it up. They couldn't work at all on Wednesday, and Thursday they worked half a day. ... But, we'll be in there within a few days, regardless."
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