In all his years as a groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox, Roger Bossard has never faced anything quite like this.
The snow that piled up at U.S. Cellular Field could be dealt with easily enough. It's Chicago, after all. But the frost in the ground can be measured in feet, not inches. To ready the field for the first pitch, Bossard is overseeing an effort akin to blowing a gigantic hair dryer under a tarp to pump hot air onto the field and thaw it out. Crews have been chipping away at ice near the right field line with shovels.
And opening day is less than two weeks away.
"This has actually been the perfect storm for me," Bossard said. "I've been in this for 45 years and I've seen a lot of snow. Certainly, that's not hard to handle. ... My problem actually is the permafrost. I've actually never run into where I've got 30 inches of permafrost."
Groundskeepers all over baseball are scrambling to help their ballparks recover from months of snow and freezing temperatures that left fields looking more ready for cross-country skiers than bats and balls.
Like the White Sox, the Detroit Tigers are scheduled to play at home on March 31, when the regular season begins in earnest with 13 games. The Minnesota Twins — who for so long played in the indoor confines of the Metrodome — have been digging out from their own snowy surroundings at Target Field. They at least have until April 7 before they have to play a home game.
Points farther south have been affected, too.
"It's rare that we get snow as bad as we've had this winter," said Nicole McFadyen, head groundskeeper at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Luckily, McFadyen caught a break just in time: The snow is melting because the sun's reflection is heating the stadium.