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Mr. Infield Hits Homerun in Field Grooming
Written by Bradley Schlegel Staff Reporter
2016-07-20

Larry Bearn drags a softball field at Camelot Park in Upper Hanover Township. Bearn, known as "Mr. Infield," manicures more than 150 baseball and softball fields between Horsham and Allentown.

                Five years ago, Larry Bearn grabbed an old bedspring and started manicuring the neglected softball fields used by his daughter's travel team. Many of the fields were in terrible shape.

                "No one wanted to do the work," he said.

Today, Bearn has emerged as the premier field manicurist in the Upper Perkiomen Valley. Using a customized attachment that hooks to the back of his John Deere tractor, Bearn can level an infield without lifting a finger.

                "Teams and players love it," he said. "Nobody has to do any raking."

                In recent years, Bearn has contracted with the Upper Perkiomen School District to help prepare seven baseball and softball fields at the high school and middle school, according to Athletic Director Steve Perlstein.

                "Mr. Bearn does a remarkable job," Perlstein said. "He takes pride in making sure the fields are in optimal playing condition."

                Earlier this month, Bearn spent approximately seven hours manicuring six fields at Veterans Park in Quakertown in preparation for an under-18 softball tournament with the machine. In May, he prepares the fields for the PSAC softball playoffs.

                Through his business, Mr. Infield, Bearn has been contracted to manicure approximately 150 baseball and softball fields between Allentown and Horsham. He helps prepare 31 local fields for play every spring.

                "I know every inch of every field in the Upper Perkiomen Valley," he said.

                Dean Sullivan, the head softball coach at Upper Perkiomen, called his manicuring – which includes the high school's varsity and junior varsity fields – pristine.

                "Larry does incredible work," Sullivan said. "You know that whatever fields he works on are going to be good to go."

                About three years ago, Bearn – an automobile mechanic with 31 years of experience – approached his childhood friend David Gerhart about building a device that would groom a field. The two had worked together before to build a 1972 Vega 4-wheel drive, which they raced competitively.

                The field grooming tool they created levels the area around home plate and fills in all the holes around the bases.

                "It's pretty slick," said Gerhart, owner of Gerhart's Restoration & Fabrication on Spinnerstown Road in Milford. "There was not much trial and error. Larry came to me with a specific idea."

                They spent three weeks and about $2,000 constructing the attachment. Gerhart handled the welding and fabricating.

                According to Gerhart, the attachment is designed to shave no more than an inch off the top of an infield.  He said the two held an initial test run at a field on Eighth Street in Pennsburg, and they rebuilt the attachment once.

                "It works pretty damn good," Gerhart said.

                Bearn, who drives school buses and operates a landscaping business, hauls the machine, made of steel and tubing, and his tractor on a 22-foot trailer. The homemade attachment, which weighs about 400 pounds and measures 4 ½ feet wide, does not leave tire marks.

                Four sets of prongs, attached to the bottom the device, loosen the dirt. The plough keeps the first set of prongs in place. One large roller flattens the ground, while a brush, which extends beyond the tires, eliminates any grooves or tire tracks.

                "There are no bad hops," said Bearn, who has served as the field marshal at Camelot Park for the annual TNT Showcase Tournament. "When it rains, the field does not puddle."


 

 

 

 

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