Welcome to our series of Five Minutes with… blogs that will feature interviews with AstroTurf’s staff of experts, partners, clients and friends. We hope you learn something about our industry and the great people associated with it. Today we talk with Doug “Whitey” White, AstroTurf’s Director of Baseball Operations.
Doug, you’ve been around the game of baseball all of your life. Tell us how Doug the baseball coach became Doug the AstroTurf salesman and how the two are intertwined.
I was very fortunate in my coaching career to have coached with several different terrific teachers and mentors. To this day I am thankful to Brad Hill for giving me a chance to coach with him at Hutchinson Community College as his pitching coach. I am also thankful for being hired by my former coach, Rick Dreiling, as the pitching coach of my alma mater, Butler County Community College. I have been an assistant coach with some terrific people like B.D. Parker, the former coach at Butler County Community College and former head coach at Nicholls State University, and Coach Mark Hogan, the retired coach from Southeastern Missouri, Ed Yeager (NBC World Series champion, Wichita Broncos in the summer of 1990) who is the current athletic director at Chandler Gilbert Community College in Chandler Arizona. I was fortunate to coach against legendary coaches like Gary Roarke, the retired baseball coach at Crowder Community College, Lloyd Simmons, “Coach Zero”, from Seminole Junior College, the Burroughs brothers (Dave and Lefty) at Cowley County Community college and so many others.
The best advice I give young coaches today is to coach with and for as many coaches that you can to receive different perspectives. As the former head coach at Coffeyville Community College, I had tremendous assistant coaches that were paid virtually no money, guys like Russ Ringgenberg the great centerfielder out of Kansas State University, Ken Peters the former player at Tarkio college was a terrific pitching coach, I learned a great deal from Gordon Tipton the former pitcher at Oklahoma State University, and then there is Scott Hennessy, the current head coach for the Tulsa Drillers who I stole a lot of hitting tips from. These coaching relationships have allowed me to become a trusted advisor to many of my former coaches, players and colleagues.
What sets AstroTurf’s baseball products apart from and above other industry offerings?
Without a doubt RootZone, ERA mound, and our infield nylon clay fiber sets us way apart. AstroTurf has technology that is unmatched in the industry. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and we are ironically witnessing several of our competitors trying to imitate our RootZone technologies. These pretenders cannot replicate the nylon technology that goes into our baseball products. I am reaping the benefits from the technology that Matthew Boggs help create.
What do you tell someone who asks you if they should turf the baseball mound or leave it natural?
Without a doubt turf the mound. But also build an additional natural clay mound in the bullpen to allow pitchers to adjust to the ever changing shape of a natural clay mound. I had one Division I coach tell me that he “was 100% against artificial turf mounds and now that he has seen the benefits, he is 70% for it.” It is absurd to me to allow an 18 foot diameter circle be the reason that a game is cancelled or postponed due to rain. Also you eliminate having to hear pitchers cry about having to fix the mound after a home game. I would rather see them running foul poles.
How do you advise a customer who is seeking to extend the life of their turf for 3 to 4 years past the warranty?
Transplanting high wear areas from the outfield warning track to the slide area around first base and the slide into second base. The warning track on the baseball field receives zero wear, and consequently it’s important to have the ability to transplant those areas. Also, there are currently 4 different shoe companies (Mizuno, Adidas, New Balance, and Nike) that provide a baseball cleat specifically for artificial turf that can be used for natural clay and natural grass fields as well. Therefore there is no need to buy two different cleats.
Tell us about a couple of your favorite AstroTurf installations that you have been involved with and what made them special.
We have so many terrific turf partners that are very special to the AstroTurf family. From Oral Roberts, University of Oklahoma, Wichita State University, Oklahoma State, University of Kansas, University of Missouri, Kansas State University, Sam Houston State, Dallas Baptist, Iowa University, Indiana University, Michigan University, Ohio State, University of San Francisco, Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, St. John’s, Tulane, Boston College, Washington State, Kentucky, Portland University, as well as many notable division II powers like the reigning national champion Augustana College, Pittsburg State University, Missouri Western University, and University of Central Missouri. Our RootZone technology has allowed us to gain 80% of the market share for NCAA clients. As much as I enjoy all of our partners, my favorite projects are the ones that we built for my former colleagues and friends in the Kansas Jayhawk Conference. Johnson County Community College with Coach Kent Shelley was a terrific project, Coach Phil Stephenson at Dodge City Community College, and our current installation at Barton County Community college with Coach Brent Biggs and his staff. I don’t view these projects as work, rather a renewal of old friendships.