Winter-like weather challenges Progressive Field groundskeeper ahead of Indians' Opening Day

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The head groundskeeper at Progressive Field says this offseason has been the most challenging he's experienced in 25 years with the Cleveland Indians to make sure the field is ready for Opening Day.

"The really really difficult part is the clay," says Brandon Koehnke. "The clay areas, the infield clay, the baselines, mound and plate; because they freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw and freeze and thaw, it's like a pothole."

A lot of fans are wondering if the game will be played as scheduled Friday, with near-freezing temperatures and an early chance of precipitation, but the forecast is slightly improving as get nearer to game time.

Koehnke and his crew are in charge of placing clay evenly in the infield, laying the foul lines and base paths, and making sure the grass and turf are not uneven.

Northeast Ohio's seemingly-everlasting winter does not make those tasks easy.

"We've rolled the field multiple times this spring to try and alleviate some of that. The vast majority of the game Is played on the infield dirt-  and just try and keep the dirt as warm as possible so we don't have that problem," Koehnke says.

Usually, Koehnke, who is celebrating his 25 year with the team, gets about 14 days to manicure Progressive Field. This year, he's had only 4 days.

The Cleveland Indians first game of the 2018 season at Progressive Field is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. Friday against the Kansas City Royals.

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