ARMOUR SQUARE — It was a blustery offseason day at the old ballpark.
The winds whipped fiercely, the famed exploding scoreboard was stoic against the gray sky and Roger Bossard trudged from his office toward the snow-covered infield of U.S. Cellular Field.
“You know what? I don’t mind this winter or the snow,” he said. “This snow is actually a blanket for me. When you’ve got a blanket of snow, you don’t have any problems with what’s called windburn.”
And just like that, Bossard — known across the major leagues as the Sodfather — is transported squarely into his element, rattling off the nuances of keeping the Chicago White Sox's playing field in top shape.
A professional designer and builder of baseball fields — he consults with 12 Major League Baseball clubs and two pro soccer teams — Bossard takes the business seriously, because it’s not only his life’s work, it’s the family business.
He’s been involved with the Sox for nearly 48 years, having inherited the head groundskeeper job from his father, Gene, who inherited it from his father, Emil. Their photos hang framed in his office, which is, conveniently, the closest office to the diamond.
But back to the field. Right now, it’s almost unthinkable that two ballclubs will play here on Opening Day, just 59 short days away.
Of course, there’s a plan — a groundskeeper doesn’t get his own team bobblehead for nothing.
But before tackling the South Side stadium’s infield, he’ll first travel with the team to its Spring Training headquarters in Glendale, Ariz., where he’ll share a two-bedroom home with longtime Sox radio man Ed Farmer for the next several weeks.
It’s a rarity for groundskeepers to travel to Spring Training, but Bossard said it’s the boss’ call.
“Jerry [Reinsdorf] always wants to make sure the fields down there are close to or mimic the fields here. So when the players come from there to here, they’re used to the same playing conditions,” he said.
He returns on March 14.
The very next day, Bossard and his crew will blanket parts of the Sox Park field with ammonium nitrate and lay down a geotextile surface for an extra 6 to 8 degrees of heat to warm the soil, which helps bring the grass out of dormancy and get ready for the long season.
"Once again, it’s little tricks I’ve learned from dad and grandpa that you have to do. Especially this year, March 31 is our opening day," he said. "With this kind of winter, that’s coming up real quick.”