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Troy Daily News, Troy Ohio
A diamond in the rough
Mercer Group brings a new field to Troy

Mercer Group Sports Turf coachesBy David Fong
Executive Editor

Ted Mercer may not have heard voices in a cornfield - but he certainly saw visions in a dump. And much like the movie and novel character Ray Kinsella, Mercer built his "field of dreams."

Mercer - owner of The Mercer Group, a company that specializes in building and maintaining athletic playing fields - would frequently drive south from his Crawford Street office on Union Street past Trostel Park - once the site of Troy's town dump in the 1950s and '60s. He couldn't help but notice the dilapidated baseball backstop and the dirt field overgrown with weeds.

And that's when Mercer knew something had to be done.

"I do most of my work in the south, and whenever I would drive by the park, I would see this old backstop and a field that was really uneven - it wasn't even level. And there were never any kids playing on it. That really bothered me. Baseball has always been a big part of my life. I played in college. My brother Tom played in college. My son Troy played in college. It really bothered me that there was really no place in the southeast part of town that had a good field for baseball or softball."

And so Mercer - along with his son Troy and four Mercer Group employees - went immediately into action. "When he came home and told me what he wanted to do, I knew he was serious," said Troy, who works alongside his father.

Mercer approached city officials in the fall of 2011 and asked for permission to put in a youth baseball and softball field - to be named Mercer Group Field - at Trostel Park. Mercer Group would donate all the time, labor and materials to build the field. It would also continue to maintain the field after its construction - which was completed earlier this year - to include mowing, infield screening and lining, fertilization and general ball field maintenance.

All Mercer asked in return was that the field would be open to anyone who would want to use it. "This is a public ball field," Ted Mercer said. "I know a lot of people don't realize that. They drive by and see this field and think this is a private field. It's not. Anyone is welcome to play on this field. That's what we want. The other day I was mowing the field and a coach came up and said, 'Thank you for doing this.' To me, that was all I needed. We don't have a lot of money - but we do have time and materials. We wanted to give back and the city was tremendous in allowing us to do this."

Mercer's labor of love certainly didn't come easy.
The journey toward a new field began in March of 2013, with the leveling of the playing field. Parts of the field had to be raised more than 3 feet to provide a flat playing surface, which meant the Mercer Group had to bring in more than 7,000 tons - more than 400 full dump trucks - of dirt. One month later, the dirt was graded and laser leveled to prepare for the topsoil overlay.

About 880 tons - roughly 55 dump trucks full - of topsoil was brought in. In late-summer 2012, the outfield was graded and seeded and foul poles were installed. Over the winter, the outfield fence and backstop were installed. The outfield fence measures a uniform 225 feet from home plate - the exact same dimensions used at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

"It's also a pretty good distance for softball," Mercer said. "That's about what most softball fences measure. We wanted to make sure many different groups could use this field."
It was around that time the field began looking like a Major League Baseball field. Soon after, it actually was.

Around the same time Mercer Group Field was taking shape earlier this spring, the Cincinnati Reds were getting a new "top dressing" of dirt for the infield at Great American Ballpark. Mercer - who knew Reds' groundskeeper Doug Gallant - asked if they could have the Reds' old top dressing. Two loads of the infield mix were brought in straight from Great American Ballpark to put atop Mercer Group Field.

"These kids can play on the same infield Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips played on," Mercer said. The field was completed last month - although Mercer said in addition to maintaining the field, he hopes to add some upgrades in the near future, as well, including adding a warning track in the outfield. Mercer Group also has been awarded a grant from the Thom and Pat Robinson Fund to install a shelter and picnic area at the field in August. "We've received a lot of support from the city and Thom and Pat Robinson," Mercer said. "I think a critical part of any business is to be supportive of the community. If we can do something to allow young boys and girls to play baseball and softball, it's been money well-spent." And a dream come true.


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Ted S. Mercer
Mercer Group, Inc.
Athletic Field Contractors
P O Box 771
Troy, OH 45373
(937) 335-7100

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