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Facing the heat, SFMA award winner makes the most of tough 2021

March 13, 2022  - By
The field at Norbrock Stadium in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. Norbrock won the 2021 SFMA Field of the Year award in the schools & parks, baseball category.

2021 SFMA Field of the Year winner Norbrock Stadium in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. Norbrock was one of two winners from Kamloops in 2021. (Photo: Mike DeCicco)

The year 2021 was a challenging one for Mike DeCicco. Not only did DeCicco and his crew in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, contend with the ongoing pandemic, but they also faced record high temps and wildfires across Western Canada.

“We had an extreme heat year this year with forest fires burning all over the interior of British Columbia and Western Canada,” he says. “That was the biggest (challenge), having that heat and trying to keep the fields playable. With the amount of heat we had, there were some water restrictions happening.”

Mike DeCicco, crew leader - turf, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada

Mike DeCicco

In overcoming those mighty challenges, DeCicco and the City of Kamloops earned honors from the Sports Field Management Association (SFMA) — formerly the Sports Turf Manager’s Association. The SFMA named Norbrock Stadium and the Tournament Capital Ranch Slo-Pitch field , Fields of the Year in the Schools and Parks category within the baseball and softball subcategories, respectively.

This marks the second time Norbrock has won an SFMA award. It also won a Field of the Year award in 2018, while the softball field at the ranch is a first-time winner.

DeCicco, crew leader, turf, credits several techniques he and his crew used for keeping the fields alive and well, especially regularly applying wetting agents.

“We applied some wetting agents, which helped get water into the turf. (We did) more aeration, (applied) different types of fertilizer, and we were watering as much as we could, but the wetting agent was a big one for sure.

“That was probably the biggest thing; it wasn’t easy growing that grass when we had very minimal precipitation this year. That week that we had 40 (degrees Celsius temperatures or 104 Fahrenheit) was the same week the city of Lytton burned down.”

Lytton, BC, Canada, a small village around 104 miles southwest of Kamloops, was hit harder than any Canadian city by the wildfires. Fires destroyed nearly 90 percent of the village as Lytton set Canadian temperature records.

On June 29, 2021, Lytton saw its highest temperature of 49.6 degrees C or 121 degrees F. On that same day, Kamloops broke its heat record with temps reaching 47.3 C — or 117.14 F.

New year, new challenges

With 2021 in the rearview mirror, DeCicco and his crew have new opportunities ahead of them.

Norbrock will have a new user in the spring, the Kamloops NorthPaws. The NorthPaws are members of the West Coast League — a collegiate summer baseball league that features teams from Canada and the U.S. The NorthPaws, alongside the league’s four other Canadian teams, did not participate in the 2021 season due to border restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

“It’s going to be a higher level of ball that we’ve never had before, which is awesome. We’re looking forward to that. The field was money before they got there, but we’re just bringing it to another level for them.”

2021 SFMA Field of the Year winner Tournament Capital Ranch Slo-pitch field in Kamloops, British Columbia Canada. The field at the Tournament Capital Ranch was one of two winners from Kamloops in 2021. (Photo: Alex O'Daly)

2021 SFMA Field of the Year winner Tournament Capital Ranch Slo-pitch field in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. The field at the Tournament Capital Ranch was one of two winners from Kamloops in 2021. (Photo: Alex O’Daly)

That next level includes upgrades to the stadium like extended safety netting, new foul poles, locker room updates and a new paint job. On the field, DeCicco says the infield will receive new infield amendment alongside some irrigation upgrades.

DeCicco’s crew made some updates a year ago in preparation for the 2021 season before its cancelation.

For DeCicco’s crew, working alongside the NorthPaws is a welcome challenge. Especially after the pandemic affected the field’s usage over the last two years.

“We need it,” he says. “It’s been two years in a row that we’ve had less than normal usage on the field with not as many events and tournaments happening. So, we’re hoping that for Norbrock and the ranch, we have full-on events starting in April.”

According to DeCicco, both Norbrock and the fields at the ranch are already receiving bookings. Those events bring hope and optimism that 2022 could, potentially, be a somewhat normal year for the Tournament Capital of Canada.

“We’re hoping we can have a normal year like we haven’t had since 2019. That’s what we’re looking forward to, just getting back to what we do.”

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About the Author:

Rob DiFranco is Athletic Turf's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Athletic Turf, DiFranco was a sports reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio

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