Dazzling designs and more lead to Mike Downes Award for Dassel’s Flick

By Nick Gerhardt

news@mnbaseball.org

His field designs dazzle in Dassel but Cole Flick’s imprint on amateur baseball extends far beyond. 

Flick received the Mike Downes Award at the Minnesota Baseball Association’s Annual Meeting Oct. 14 in St. Cloud for his contributions to amateur baseball. The annual award honors a recipient for outstanding service to Minnesota amateur baseball. 

“It was a big surprise,” Flick said of the award. “Looking at the list of the names there, there are big-time Minnesota baseball guys there. It’s quite an honor.” 

Flick took over groundskeeping duties for Saints Field in 1997 after arriving in the community two years prior to begin teaching physical education in the Dassel-Cokato school district. He played on the team from 1996 until 2011. As a teacher, he has summers free and what started as a hobby quickly developed into a passion. 

“We went to an auction and grabbed a mower and found out how much I loved doing it,” he said.

He started experimenting with grass stripe patterns with a checkerboard pattern and grew into more elaborate patterns. His designs drew attention across the Minnesota amateur baseball community through social media. The designs also started winning awards. 

Flick had three designs finish in the top six of the Allett Mowers Creative Stripes contest and he added a second-place finish this year with his star design for the 100th MBA state tournament in Dassel. Allett Mowers is a British company that manufactures mowers and holds an annual grass stripe design contest. Flick claimed two spots in the top six in 2019 after he entered one design and his son, Jordan, entered a different design unbeknownst to Cole.

Turf management for Flick is a family affair. His wife, Beth, plays a big role at the field, too. Together they work countless hours at the park. She helps with laying out the patterns in addition to groundskeeping duties. Together they head the group of volunteer groundskeepers affectionately known as the “Pumpkin Patch” known for their bright orange T-shirts. 

Flick’s passion rubbed off on his son, Gus, who has started a career in turf grass management. Gus earned degrees in turf grass management and horticulture at Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls before embarking in work at golf courses. He worked at Cokato Town & Country Club as the course superintendent and at Traveler’s on the Mississippi. He now works at Windsong Farm Golf Course on the turf management team.

The mowing is just one part of the work Flick does at Saints Field and across the state. He also takes care of the infield, irrigation, edging, mound, home plate and more. He gives back through helping other fields with projects or just providing advice. 

Flick has learned while on the job mostly, scouring resources where he could find them before YouTube clips started popping up. He also took a turf management course at the University of Minnesota before becoming the course superintendent at Cokato Town & Country Club for a year. Mainly he’s picked up tips from others, like Pete Schleper, who runs A-Town Mounds out of Avon. Just like how baseball knowledge gets passed down, so does field management.

“I try to pick the brains of everyone and anyone in the state,” Flick said.

Flick has helped Bird Island with its field and has become a resource for state tournament hosts. He helped Waconia and Chaska when they hosted the state tournament in 2021. In 2020, he visited Milroy and Springfield ahead of the state tournament, too. He volunteered as a grounds crew member at Maple Lake in 2013 for the state tournament. Recently he’s helped with St. Boni’s park and Winsted. Members from the city of Willmar also reached out to pick his brain on how to improve the playing surface of their park. 

Labor of love doesn’t quite fit the bill with Flick’s work. The designs provide a creative outlet and a logistical challenge. Flick prefers to use stakes and string to outline his patterns versus GPS.

His designs have drawn more attention to the ballparks in Minnesota and helped raise the bar for other fields. The improvements at Saints Field have also contributed to the rise in other parks adding amenities to create better fan experiences. 

“I think it has brought more attention to what your field actually looks like and plays and these volunteers take pride in that,” Forsman said. “Ball players are mowing patterns in their yard. I think it’s just caught on and given exposure to the fields. Everyone wants to get to the next level.”

Nearly everything that gets upgraded or maintained at Saints Field comes from the baseball association. The city of Dassel contributes toward lighting, water and trash costs. The baseball association raises money for field projects or takes out loans, like it did for its grandstand project in 2005.

“We have to be a little more creative with what we can do,” Forsman said.

Forsman and Flick picked up the park’s first reel mower years ago at an auction. It needed a little work but they got it into good shape and have since added newer and nicer mowers. Flick uses a Toro 3100D Sidewinder triplex mower now.

“The trouble is you can’t get behind with a reel mower,” Forsman said. “It’s not just once a week you’re mowing, you’re mowing every other day.”

The key for Flick is doing little things all the time. Once he figured that out, the rest fell in place.

“I think people are afraid of taking it on,” he said. “It’s grass and dirt. You just have to decide how much time you’re going to spend doing it.”

As for how he creates the designs, that’s pretty simple too. Each blade of grass has a shiny side and a dull side. The dull side looks darker than the shiny side because of the way the grass gets bent and how the light reflects off it. Grass bent toward you appears dark and bent away appears shiny. 

Saints Field has hosted state tournament games in 2005, 2016, 2019 and 2023. It has routinely become among a short list of what’s considered the best ballparks in the state.

“It brings a lot of attention to the park,” Forsman said. “People will ask, ‘How come the major league teams don’t mow it like Cole does?’”

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