Smile, groundskeepers, this is the grass of dreams

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

April 01, 2001|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

FINALLY, IT CAN be written, a secret likely to make groundskeepers from Savage to Woodstock to Lisbon smile: An experimental grass that was quietly seeded on a third of Howard County's ball fields last fall is sprouting and needs only a week or so of 65ish weather to take hold.

This new grass grows thick, is drought-impervious, stays green year-round, drains even heavy rain within 15 minutes, doesn't scuff, rut or wilt under heavy use, needs mowing once a season, and when you paint lines on it, they're indelible. And it's real, not plastic.

Gruff Grass is so durable, word is from West Queens, N.Y., where the strain was developed, that lacrosse, soccer and field hockey teams needn't shift practice goals around to avoid the ugly bare spots where goalkeepers' cleats can shred weeks of tender new growth in minutes.

For baseball and softball, teams can play without dirt infields that are so erodible and costly to maintain. Balls bounce true, and this new grass lets bunts roll and roll and roll on down the foul line -- so slowly at times you can read the name of ball's maker as the ol' spheroid turns.

Moms, especially, will appreciate this turf, because if a kid slides on it -- no pesky grass stains or icky "rug" burns. Dog souvenirs clean up spotlessly the first time; use one of those bags your (Washington) newspaper arrives in.

Rec and Parks has six golfers and a pinochle player -- volunteers -- advising on Gruff Grass' potential for absorbing reflected light at Western Regional Park. Two Columbia Association committees are looking into phasing in the grass in fiscal 2007, when the nonprofit's facilities start cranking out serious, uh, surplus revenue. The association is interested, because if Gruff Grass is mowed really close a couple of times, it blocks poanna, which is how more than a few folks who should know better spell poa annua, permanently from golf greens. Better yet, one association committee hopes, this new grass shows promise of putting the lawn back into tennis.

Collectively, though, the county's amateur sports groups can't decide what they think; they aren't conferring about this field-related matter, either.

But in greater River Hill, boosters are chatting about raffling off seed in 2.75-acre quantities (lot minus McMansion), with proceeds for not only improving soccer fields but spiffing up that recent Camaro untidiness, as well.

And the cost? Free. No layout whatsoever for Gruff Grass, except the smidgin of mental energy some slower readers should expend now remembering what day this is. :-))

Jaguars tournament

Can't stand pro basketball but need another dose of hoops after the college season ends tomorrow night? Check this out locally:

More than 60 boys basketball teams from the Middle Atlantic begin play at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the first of two phases of the ninth Columbia Jaguars invitational tournament.

Age-group games will be played in at least five Columbia-area high school gyms, with competition all day Saturday and four championship games Sunday, starting at noon, at Oakland Mills High School, also the tournament's headquarters. Play in the double-elimination tournament this week is for boys 15 through 19. Boys 11 through 14 will be in town from April 19 to 22.

The Jaguars are run by Columbian Harold Payne, the one-time Rose Bowl player who founded the basketball club in 1973 and is still coaching -- three teams this past winter, in fact.

Other gyms being used are Hammond, Centennial, Wilde Lake and River Hill, with Long Reach possibly to be added, depending on late registrants, said Payne, who is facing a new problem this year. "It's the first time we've had competition," he said, "but we're going to survive."

The annual Capital Classic in Washington, as well as a new Philadelphia-area tournament and a Nike-run tourney in Hampton, Va., are drawing off some teams that have come here before. So go locally. Support this Columbia-based club.

Ideas for us? Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or address e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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