Hammons Field stays ready for unknown return


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Thursday was supposed to mark the season opener for the Springfield Cardinals.

Instead, the sounds of baseball: The crack of the bat, pups barking at the park and the cheer of the crowd are all gone from Hammons Field.

“It’s been pretty quiet,” Director of Field Operations Brock Phipps said. “The front office staff has been working from home.”

But that doesn’t mean the ballpark is devoid of noise.

“Derek, my assistant, and I have been here at the ballpark,” Phipps said. “We’ve been kind of trading shifts off and on. We’re not here at the same time. Once we get done using equipment we’ll sanitize it. Make sure everything is safe and ready to go.”

Phipps and his field crew would usually be at the height of preparations with just one week until the home opener.
“This is our go time,” Phipps said. “To not be able to do that, it’s kind of confusing a little bit. Also, we’ve got to kind of take a step back and look at the big picture right now.”

Instead, they’re keeping the field ready for the return of a season they got just a small taste of before it was taken away.

“We had Missouri State in here,” Phipps said. “We had played several games with those guys in here. I remember that day when Coach (Keith) Guttin came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re not playing anymore.’ It’s like woah. This is it.”

So in the meantime, they are keeping Hammons in tip-top shape.

Which is the norm for a playing surface that’s earned Double-A field of the year six times in the last seven years.

Who would’ve thought the biggest threat to the streak would be a global pandemic.

“No, never thought that,” Phipps said. “That’s out of my control right now. I’ve got more things to worry about than winning field of the year. My daughter is a senior this year at Willard. My oldest son is working at Disney World and he’s laid off. Kind of right now there’s other things to worry about than field of the year.”

More important things to focus on.

More pressing matters to attend to.

But eventually baseball will be back, and Phipps is counting down the days – just without knowing how many days that might be.

“We would love to be able to start playing, have people in the seats and have everything back to normal,” Phipps said. “Who knows when that might happen.”

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