Mike Egan: Turf Magician of the Sacramento MSBL
By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
The Sacramento MSBL opened the Sacramento Army Depot Park, their new two-field home, on July 17th, 2019. The city of Sacramento donated land to replace McAuliffe Park, the long-time home of Sacramento MSBL. They are very fortunate to have such a wonderful facility to play on. Enter Mike Egan.
SMSBL member Mike is a 60-year-old with a long history of Sports Field Engineering and Building, with a resume that includes the San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves, soccer fields in China, numerous golf courses, and the 1996 Olympics, to name a few.
“The SMSBL is blessed to have Mike in our league,” explained League President Alan Van Ness. “We operate our own dual-complex and we noticed that our infields could not sustain the usage. So, in the offseason, Mike took the lead in rebuilding both infields. He volunteered his time and was there sometimes until 4 am. This went on for a month because of all the wet weather we experienced.”
Mike received his training from the University of Georgia and began a small family farm but soon turned it into a sod farm.
“We were close to South Carolina, where there were a lot of golf courses,” said Egan. I noticed that a lot of greens needed some help so I developed a sand-based growing process and got a copyright. As our reputation grew in the turf industry, I was contacted by the NFL, Major League Baseball, and soccer organizations to help them out. It puts me on the road about 220 days per year but I love being able to help them. I enjoy helping people help themselves and showing them a path.”
You may have seen various events at stadiums that require a complete makeover from Monster Truck rally back to baseball the next day. Well, that’s Mike’s company doing that.
“I had to install a brand-new field for a Super Bowl in Miami but the biggest deadline challenge was probably in Atlanta. In 1996 the Olympics were held in Atlanta and turf and grounds legend George Toma called me to help with the Olympics. The stadium hosting the Opening ceremonies had dead grass! It took us 56 straight hours to put grass back on the infield of the coliseum. This was while simultaneously prepping Fulton County Stadium for Olympic baseball.”
Mike is obviously very talented with his expertise and company, but how does this relate to the Sacramento MSBL?
“I got involved a little when they were building the new Army Depot Park facility, though not the early days,” explained Mike. “Then after it was done, I noticed some things could be improved and offered to help. I adjusted my usual level of expertise to make it adaptable to the sources they had available. They play a minimum of 100 games per month on those fields, including Babe Ruth, high school, tournaments, and all the leagues. It was built years ago as a city park but they now had to modify to make it able to handle the traffic. I came up with a few suggestions.
The project for the renovation of the infields started at the end of the 2022 season. Then it rained “cats and dogs” off and on through February. I have not been able to fly to Asia since the Pandemic started which freed up a lot of time for me. I was able to lay out a plan and able to order and secure the new grass in November 2022 after our season. The installation occurred December 21, 2022, but did not finish until right before the Winter/Spring season started on February 15, 2023.”
To detour here briefly, Mike is also quite active as a ballplayer in the Sacramento MSBL and experiences the conditions firsthand, as MSBL Hall of Famer Mike Pankow recruited him into the league. He is far from simply supplying advice as an outside consultant. He plays on four teams in the league and also gets to the MSBL World Series with the Tri-Valley A’s in the 50s and 55s. He knows what he’s looking for.
“The first thing I looked at is if they had the right type of grass and the proper drainage. 90% of problems relate to water. It’s either too much or too little. You need to try to get it right. They needed to change their sub-surface to adapt. Friction is the biggest killer and their constant usage was hurting them and it could never rest. You have to have a deep root system. So, what did this mean? Rip it all out and start over.”
They used West Coast Turf to supply the sod and reserved it to make sure they had the right stuff from day one. This is the same company that was used to supply the San Francisco 49ers field. The key was a new sand base. The grass came in December but it continued to rain and then toward the beginning of the season it rained even more and they found they had a problem with drainage so the water had nowhere to go, but at least they found about the drainage problem and could address it. It was a blessing in disguise.
“It took a lot of guys, especially because it rained like crazy and made it tough. We started in November so we had from December to February to have the fields done. I’m a much better guy taking care of sports fields than a baseball player. I used to be a boxer, so that explains a lot!”
Mike volunteered his time and tried to help contain the league’s expenses for all of the work to just supplies and materials.
“The league did a lot in-house and saved a ton of money. This league is one big family. I check on the fields a few times weekly to make sure all is well. I try to anticipate what their needs might be so that they can avoid another massive re-do.”
As an aside, both of Mike’s girls went to college and played sports, probably on fields he has had a hand in. One is a civil engineer and one is a teacher. Mike is also a grandfather!
Mike concluded by saying, “I want to mention that if I can help other MSBL facilities, I would be glad to consult with them. I can help them get as much value out of any monies spent or help come up with a structured plan to upgrade their facilities.”
Mike’s email is: firstname.lastname@example.org