Weather, grounds report: Covering all the bases

LSU officials prepare for possibility of rainy weather at NCAA tournament

David Taylor and his staff are ready.

Taylor, LSU’s director of game management, knows Mother Nature may not fully cooperate the next few days at Alex Box Stadium, site of the Baton Rouge regional of the NCAA Tournament.

“We are all prepared to be sitting around here all day the next few days and be off schedule at some point,” Taylor said.

That’s why people like longtime horticulture foreman Wardell Antoine spent part of Thursday afternoon unloading bags of turface, the cat-litter like substance used to help absorb the moisture on baseball fields.

LSU keeps 1,700 pounds of it in a space near the dugout. An even larger supply is kept in a nearby storage facility.

“We started the year with 20 tons and that usually lasts us throughout the year,” said Eric Fasbender, LSU’s assistant director of athletic facilities and grounds. “We just restocked and have four tons on hand now.”

If rain does come, Fasbender and his staff can roll out the tarp and have the field covered in anywhere between 90 and 120 seconds.

“Once the tarp is removed, we can get the field ready in about 15 minutes,” Fasbender said.

Unlike during the regular season, officials with the NCAA are actually in charge for postseason play.

Gary Overton and Warren Turner are the two NCAA representatives who would make the ultimate decisions as far as postponements.

Both were at Alex Box Stadium on Thursday as LSU, Houston, Bryant University and Southeastern Louisiana held 75-minute practices.

Overton says the NCAA prohibits him from commenting to the media on issues such as contingency plans in case of bad weather.

“Our job is to work with our reps,” Taylor said. “They are knowledgeable enough in the sport to not put the coaches in a bad spot or the team in a bad spot. Their job is to make sure the competition is fair and both teams are able to play to their peak performance.”

Coaches are prepared for whatever schedule changes may come.

“I’m sure the people who are in charge are not going to start a game and blow a starting pitcher if they know we are going to get rain two innings later,” said Bryant University coach Steve Owens. “We trust the decisions are made in the best interest of the tournament. When it’s time to play, we’ll be ready to play.”

Many of the weather-related policies used for the postseason are the same as those used during the regular season.

For example, if lightning strikes within 8 miles of the stadium, there is a mandatory 30-minute delay.

LSU subscribes to a monitoring system called Weather DTN to keep track of potential dangerous weather. Taylor stays busy on his laptop, iPad and his cellphone keeping track.

“When you see me walk out to the umpire with the iPad, it’s probably not a good thing,” Taylor said. “Some of the fans sitting down close know that now and they start groaning when I walk out there.”

A 30-minute lightning delay starts over again with each lightning strike.

In addition, precautions are taken if a storm is detected within 15 miles.

“If the storm is not in the area, like 15 miles to the south and it’s moving to the east, I try not to interrupt the umpires so they can focus on the game,” Taylor said.

Lightning or storms could also cause fans to have to evacuate the stadium.

Fasbender, like Taylor, is prepared for whatever.

“The weekend we played Mississippi State, it was supposed to rain all weekend and we didn’t get a drop,” he said. “The weekend of the Bama series, it wasn’t supposed to be bad, and we got tons of rain. I’ve learned that in Baton Rouge, you just never know.”