The second time was the charm for Blake Anderson, assistant director of sports turf operations for the University of Arkansas, when it came to entering the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) Mowing Patterns Contest. His design at Arkansas’ Baum Stadium, home of the school’s baseball team, was named the third-ever winner of the annual contest in December.
“We entered a photo for the competition last year but it was a couple of days late and we didn’t really promote it on Facebook or anything,”Anderson says. “When we submitted the pattern this year we were ultimately hoping to win but it also kind of on a whim.”
Anderson, an Eastern Kentucky University graduate, has been with the University of Arkansas for almost two years, and before that he worked as the assistant grounds manager at Atlanta’s Westminster School. He started his professional career working on baseball fields. His resume includes time with the Atlanta Braves and Lexington (Ky.) Legends, the Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
The entry was picked a popular vote on Facebook from Oct. 21 to Nov. 20. Anderson credits a bit of social media resourcefulness and the help of Razorback nation for the win.
“When I posted the photo for the competition I tagged the baseball team in it, and the Razorbacks have a pretty good fan base for college baseball,” Anderson says. “They just know what Baum Stadium is all about and how it looks great during baseball season. So they were more than willing to take the time to like the picture.”
Anderson refers to his winning design as “common” and “classic” but with one slight difference: To make it “pop” a little bit more, he says they came through the foul territories with their walk mower that is usually used on the infield.
That aspect made it tougher for Anderson because he had to maintain the lines as straight as possible with the break in the dirt. Anderson gave credit to someone else, again, because this addition to the design wasn’t his idea. It was his student assistant, Tyler Carr.
“I told him we could take the lines all the way to the warning track if we had the time,” Anderson says. “A lot of the time it’s just me out there, because Tyler is a student and has class. So during the week I’m out there by myself doing what I can.”
Carr comes in earlier on the weekends to help out Anderson. The pair started the project on a Friday right after the team left for an away trip. That extra time allowed them to burn the design in a couple of times, and then mow it through the next week.
When asked if he thought the winning pattern was his favorite, or the best one he has ever done, Anderson had a simple response:
“I don’t really have a favorite pattern,” Anderson says. “I just try to keep straight lines.”