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Grounds crew gets to work after Busch football game

Grounds crew gets to work after Busch football game

ST. LOUIS -- The Busch Stadium grounds crew will be busy this weekend.

The Cardinals' ballpark hosted Southeast Missouri State and Southern Illinois for its first college football game Saturday, and it left significant wear and tear in the outfield.

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The grounds crew immediately went to work following the game -- which was won by the Salukis, 39-19, and drew a crowd of 14,168 -- and have about 48 hours to return the field to normal baseball conditions. The Cardinals open a six-game homestand Monday, beginning with an evening game against the Nationals.

"We certainly expected that there would be a lot of damage, and we were prepared for it," said Vicki Bryant, the Cardinals' vice president of event services and merchandising, who oversees all non-baseball events at Busch Stadium.

The crews began by removing the goalposts and tearing up the sod along the middle of the football field, which was oriented across the outfield to avoid removing the mound and minimize damage to the infield.

"It's labor intensive, there's no doubt about it," Bryant said. "It takes a lot of people, but it was a well-thought out, coordinated effort. We think we've got the best field crew in baseball. They'll have it in great shape by Monday."

In Milwaukee, where the Cardinals are in the middle of a series against the Brewers, general manager John Mozeliak said he had received a few texts about the condition of the field back in St. Louis. Asked about the timing of hosting a football game so close to the start of the postseason, Mozeliak said he would reserve commenting on possible field problems until he sees the condition in a few days.

"I have a lot of confidence in [head groundskeeper] Billy Findley and his staff, and they feel like they can get this field ready by Monday," Mozeliak said. "Not to say he's not feeling some stress involved in that, but he does think we can get it ready."

Players on both teams said the sand-based grass surface was slippery and required some getting used to compared with the turf football fields they more often play on.

"The field was coming up every time we tried to make a cut, but it's all about being an athlete and being able to adjust to it," said Southern Illinois tight end MyCole Pruitt, a Kirkwood, Mo., native.

"It was slippery out there and the dirt was pretty hard, so it was two different things we had to get used to at the same time," said Paul McRoberts, a Redhawks wide receiver from St. Louis. "I felt that we handled it well to be just put on the spot like that."

This is not the first time Busch Stadium has transformed its playing surface to house a different sport this season. Premier League clubs Chelsea and Manchester City drew a record 48,263 fans to an exhibition at the ballpark in May. In order to adapt the field for the soccer match, the mound had to be removed along with a layer of dirt in the infield and around home plate. The grounds crew had a full five days to convert it back to normal before the Cardinals' next home game.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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