Bats add robo-mower to groundskeeping staff
One week prior to the start of the 2022 season, the Louisville Bats announced an unorthodox new hire. Now working for the grounds crew, the Husqvarna CEORA. In a press release touting their new, non-human addition, the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate declared that “With the low noise, emission-free CEORA robotic
One week prior to the start of the 2022 season, the Louisville Bats announced an unorthodox new hire. Now working for the grounds crew, the Husqvarna CEORA.
In a press release touting their new, non-human addition, the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate declared that “With the low noise, emission-free CEORA robotic mower, the Bats’ grounds team can define the work areas, set schedules, and choose different cutting heights from their handheld device.” The Bats are the first professional baseball team in North America to utilize a “robo-mower”; it is likely that they will not be the last.
“We got it a couple weeks before the season started, and installed a GPS satellite antennae on the roof,” said Brett Myers, the Bats vice president of stadium operations. “It’s all on the phone or iPad, with a Bluetooth connection to the unit itself…. So we set it all up on the phone, the [ballpark field] map, the no-mow zones. It was all GPS coordinates we were using the first couple weeks, making sure everything was functioning.”
Husqvarna, a Swedish company with a North American division based in Charlotte, N.C., was one of many exhibitors in attendance at a turf and tractor show held in Louisville this past fall.
“Some of the grounds guys and myself went there to see the booths and ran into the Husqvarna folks,” he said. “They had a [CEORA] production unit there, showing it off. We were intrigued, thinking about what it would work like on the Minor League Baseball side of things. Louisville is a tough market from a [grass] growing standpoint, in a transition zone between cold and warm weather. We need to have something here that can take care of both challenges.”
The partnership between the Bats and Husqvarna is beneficial for both sides, then, as the CEORA was built primarily with Europe’s colder-weather growing climates in mind and had not yet been utilized for an American baseball field. The Bats’ experiences with the CEORA will help the company make adjustments for the North American market (including converting the grass cutting measurements from the metric system). The surface of Louisville Slugger Field is an annual rye overseed atop Bermuda grass, a combination that accounts for both cold and warm weather.
“The transition period, it will be interesting to see how the mower works with that, to see how it handles it as we’re taking out rye and getting into Bermuda,” said Myers. “We know it works with rye, but Bermuda we don’t know how it will transition. It will be interesting to see over the next few weeks.”
Myers said the CEORA has performed admirably in the early going. It quietly hums along on its preprogrammed mow routes, avoiding any obstacles that may be in its path, before eventually finding its way “home” to a charging port located in the groundskeeping storage area behind the center field batter’s eye. He stresses that it is a tool to assist the grounds crew as they go about their myriad other duties, and that the team still uses a “normal” mower on game days.
In short, you can’t replace the human element.
“It’s not like we’ll eventually get 15 of these and then have one grounds guy doing everything else,” said Myers. “I don’t think that would ever happen in baseball, because of the intricacies of working with players and coaches and what they need on the field…. It’s just a tool the guys use now. It’s about how it helps them so they can have a life outside of the ballpark. Instead of worrying about rain in three days, and when to mow, we can catch it in-between periods of rain. Maybe that would be 2 to 3 in the morning, when the staff’s not here.”
Because of these benefits, Myers said he’s received “a lot of interest from groundskeepers who want to come up and take a look” at the CEORA robotic mower. And, in typical Minor League Baseball style, there are plans to make it into more of a ballpark character.
“The front office is having fun with it, talking about wanting to put [mascot] Buddy the Bat on top, maybe some googly eyes,” said Myers. “And we’ve talked about having a naming contest.”
But for now, just call it the robo-mower.
“First, we’re working on making sure everything’s working the way it’s supposed to, before we get into the fun, silly things,” said Myers. “It’s been a great partnership so far.”
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.