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Nationals head groundskeeper: Weather 'roller coaster ride' makes field prep difficult

Friday - 4/4/2014, 11:55am  ET

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WASHINGTON -- The cold winter weather has taken its toll on D.C. area residents, including John Turnour, the Washington National's head groundskeeper.

For him, it's been a constant battle to make sure Nationals Park's field is in tip-top shape for the team's home opener Friday afternoon -- a task made more difficult by the ever-fluctuating weather in the metro area.

"Weather has been a challenge. It's been a roller coaster ride," Turnour says. "When we get 7 inches of snow 12 days before first pitch, it's kind of a little bit of an alarm for us."

Turnour says the grounds crew has been putting in lots of time to make sure the field -- particularly the dirt -- is ready for the Nationals home opener against the Atlanta Braves. The snow, rain and cold weather can impact the dirt, making it too wet.

"A lot of people think it's all about the grass to get ready for opening day. I would probably say 85 to 90 percent of our work leading up to opening day is literally dealing with all of our dirt," he says, adding that the crew spends a majority of the time with the dirt on the mounds, plates, bullpens and infield to make it just right for the players.

The grounds crew lost a lot of time preparing the field because of the snow, he says. But now everything is in good condition for Friday's game, Turnour says.

This year, Nationals fans can look forward to new food options.

Several new food options will be rolled out at Nationals Park this season including craft burgers, burritos, crab-inspired dishes, sushi and more vegetarian options.

Nationals Park Executive Chef Dave Peterson says his favorite new menu item is the crab grilled cheese, which will be featured on a Chesapeake Bay cart alongside jumbo lump crab cakes and crab nachos.

Peterson says he received requests for healthier food options, so they supplemented the vegetarian cart with vegetarian hot dogs, vegetarian cheese steaks and more.

"We have a lot of fresh offerings along with the peanuts and cracker jacks that goes with the ballpark theme," he says.

Prices for the new foods range between $8 and $15. All new items are available in the general concourse excluding the burgers, which can be purchased in the Star & Stripes Club.

Read more about some of the new food options.

WTOP's Jamie Forzato contribute to this report. Follow @JamieForzato and @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook. .

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