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Fields of Dreams? That's Hoerr's Department


Every day of baseball ... is a day closer to football.

That's one of my favorite sports aphorisms, and this is the time to break it out. No disrespect intended to my brethren of the horsehide, but pigskins fly around the NFL this week, with the Jets opening their full-squad practices Thursday morning.

What brought that thought home last week was a drive around Hofstra University's soccer stadium, the two-fields-long area where the Jets always hold their training camp.

The fields have been lined, and the logo for Capital One Bank, the sponsor of this year's camp, is painted at the grass pitch's 50-yard line. The turf field looks greener than ever, and the grass is getting tender loving care as a sprinkler, to the thup-thup-thup rhythm of the interrruptor, sends rooster tails of water through the air.

For this pristine picture of the calm before the summer storm, we have Blake Hoerr and his crew to thank.

Hoerr, in his third season as the Jets' director of fields & grounds, is appreciative for any congratulations and well wishes, but he's also up to his Clegg Hammer in things that need to be taken care of.

"There are a lot of details, going through security, through the trainers, through the coaches, through the operations people. We're the get-it-done department," Hoerr said the other day outside his office. "And this is a whole different monster we're going through now,"

The monster Hoerr referred to is the Jets' two-headed, two-state grounds crew operations. While Hoerr and two members of his team, assistant groundskeeper Kevin Cherry and coordinator Joel Hunt, take care of business at Hofstra on Long Island, manager Matthew Henn and assistant Jonah Snyder are working the fields at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., to where the Jets will migrate in September, shortly after camp breaks.

But the fans who will be filling the bleacher seats and ringing the fields for the next month want to know about what's going on just outside of Weeb Ewbank Hall.

"We're getting things painted and set up," Hoerr said. "We're repainting all the goalposts. We've got the fields lined and we're watering the grass field. The irrigation system's pressure isn't that high so we have to go to a water wheel and move it around the field to make sure everything is covered."

The turf doesn't have to be watered, but it still has to be maintained.

"We'll clean it up and groom it," he said. "We'll disinfect the field now and then once a week after that because of the amount of players who will be using it."

Grooming is where the aforementioned Clegg Hammer comes in. That's a tool that is dropped a short distance onto the surface and measures the turf's resilience. There are some tricks to the trade to providing the field with an optimum springiness.

When contractors come in to put up the different tents on and away from the practice fields, Hoerr and his team help coordinate the timing and the placement of the canopies.

"There's the VIP setup, getting what they need for the family bathrooms, the water and power supply," he said. "And we work with [senior director of athletic training] John Mellody to make sure he gets all the power he needs for his cool zones, his fans and air conditioning."

Along those lines, Hoerr has a bigger structure than ever that has been put together behind the weightroom on the first floor of Weeb Ewbank Hall, out of sight of the fans on the soccer fields.

"It's made up of two trailers, 1,960 square feet," Hoerr said. "It's the size of a house."

Two kinds of folks will take it to this house. Every one of the 80 roster players who needs intravenous fluids in the hot Long Island sun will come here after practice. And all of the assistant coaches, who may not get out of the facility until after watching video from a late afternoon practice, will come here at night to crash so they can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the next day's work.

The details can get mind-numbing at times, but they bring their own brand of excitement for the guys who prepare the fields so that the Jets can prepare themselves for the rapidly approaching season.

"I think I'm most excited when not one coach asks for a single thing because we have done our job and made sure all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed," Hoerr said. "Also, I'm excited like any other fan about the possibilities that a new season brings."

Spoken like a true football fan in July.

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