Technically, the term infield skin refers to segments of the baseball field that contain clay, specifically the areas around the bases and base paths. The keys to quality infield skin are good materials, proper moisture and consistent maintenance practices. With 70 percent of the game played on the infield, having a consistently firm, smooth playing surface is essential. The photo above is from a youth league in Taiwan where the kids use water cans to darken the soil in the shape of an infield. Below – – They mark the field too. Just awesome!
Infield mixes are made from various combination’s and percentages of sand, silt and clay. People consider the general standard for an OK infield to be 60 to 70 percent sand, 30 percent clay and 10 percent silt. Particle size also makes a big difference in these materials. Infields vary greatly by regional conditions, commercially available mixes and the preferences of the sports field manager and their facility and teams.
The weight of the infield mix is in the clay and the silt and that’s what retains the moisture. You may be in an area with a lot of rain, and if you don’t have much maintenance help for tarping you’ll want to have a bit sandier infield mix. If you have a heavily used field or one for university or professional play, you’ll probably want a more stable infield with a heavier mix containing more clay and silt to withstand the wear and tear of multiple events. For some infield mixes with lesser percentages of silt and clay, a conditioning amendment of calcined or vitrified clay is worked into the top 1 to 2 inches of the mix to help bind the clay and stabilize the infield.
When constructing a new field or rebuilding an existing one, the general depth of the infield material for the baselines is approximately 5 inches. The depth, the type of material used and the subbase components are subject to budgetary constraints. There are fields with the infield mix placed directly on the subbase soil, some on a sand layer over the subbase soil, some directly on a pea gravel layer and some on geo cloth covering any of these subbases.
Opinions differ on whether a geo cloth layer will be detrimental to drainage. While drainage within the infield mix will vary according to the percentages of clay and silt, it is generally slow, so many prefer the geo layer for other advantages. It can keep pea gravel from migrating up into the infield mix and bordering grassed areas. Geo cloth on the pea gravel does keep the infield mix from sifting into the gravel, reducing the need for continual addition of the mix during the first few years of construction and helping stabilize the surface more quickly.
To counteract slow drainage within the infield mix, many fields are constructed with a slope to help move the surface water off the clay and into the grass. A slope of about .5 percent, extending from the edge of the pitcher’s mound out past the 95 arc should provide sufficient water movement for most fields. Some skinned baseball infields and some softball fields are constructed with a greater percentage of slope.
It’s critical to achieve consistency of slope across the entire surface. Use laser-grading equipment and a skilled operator. Otherwise, once all the material is in place, run string lines from the infield grass to the outfield grass across the infield and work your way across the field with shovels and rakes. Keep moving the string lines every 1 to 2 feet, and check and recheck for accuracy as you move.
An in-ground irrigation system with a zone that only waters the infield clay is one way to deliver volumes of water quickly. When water patterns are diverted in windy conditions, hand-watering will be required to reach the places missed.
Quick-connect outlets behind the mound and behind home plate provide access to hook up a water hose. Some field managers place quick couplers at the infield corners behind first and third base in the grass. A 1-inch hose is preferred to deliver a larger volume of water faster. A retractable hose reel installed in the ground behind the mound makes pull out and rollback easier and eliminates hauling the hose out and back for each watering.
Select hoses and hand-nozzle sizes based on the number of fields you need to maintain and the size of your crew. Ideally, your nozzle selection should be able to apply enough water to reach the desired depth for the initial soaking and to lightly mist repeatedly to maintain the desired moisture level. Some infields drain so well that you can “puddle” the infield after a night game and it will be perfect for play by morning.
Top it off
Using the different calcined or vitrified clay amendments as the top surface coat can make it a little easier to manage the skin moisture levels and achieve consistency. You don’t want the players to pick up wet clay on their spikes or have the infield get too dry during the pregame workouts. With a topping of 1/8 to .25-inch, you can soak the infield as you would normally and have a good surface for workouts and sufficient moisture retention for the game. Consistency of depth is extremely important during the initial application of the top layer both for accuracy of the slope and footing for the players. Once in place, use a cocoa mat or the back of a fan rake so you’re just lightly smoothing the top surface and not moving piles of material.
An infield tarp is an important tool in moisture management. No one likes to use it, but covering the infield when you have rain issues can be the quickest and easiest way to preserve playability.
The worst thing you can do following a heavy rain on an uncovered field is to work the field too early. Let the sun do its work on the dry down before you get out there to squeegee, rake and dig. The dryer subsurface material will try to draw down the moisture from an undisturbed wet surface. If you must work existing or added material to dry down the surface, use a roller squeegee rather than a rake to spread the water so you’re not cutting into the wet material and disrupting that downward movement.
If you have depressions with standing water, fill them with calcined clay and let it soak up the moisture for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, spread out that moist material to dry further, or borrow a technique from ground crews in South America to remove excess water with no surface penetration. They use a supply of 12-by-24-inch foam-rubber sponges (old padding) and place one in an area of standing water, step down on it, allow it to absorb water to capacity, pick it up, wring it out and use it again.
Another technique to combat light rain or drizzle, and to use between innings when the dirt is starting to look shiny, is to apply a very thin layer of conditioner using a regular walk-behind or hand-held spreader set for the largest opening. You’ll get a more consistent layer than pouring conditioner from the bag or putting out piles to spread.
Working the dirt
The right equipment used properly is critical in maintaining the infield skin. You’ll want a series of different types of drag mats, rigid and flexible steel mats for breaking up dirt clods and leveling, and cocoa mats for finishing the surface. You’ll need both a fine nail and heavy nail drag for scarifying the surface and digging deeper to further loosen the mix and allow better moisture penetration. You’ll need rakes, brooms, edgers and rollers. The 1 or 2-ton roller will become your favorite tool.
The three-wheel field rakes produced by the major equipment suppliers do an excellent job, and they come with an assortment of attachments, as well as connection points for other implements. You also can use a small tractor, lawn mower, utility vehicle or golf cart to pull the drags.
Always pull the bases and insert the plugs so you can drag the entire infield. Pay close attention to the wear areas around and in front of the bases, such as where the first baseman plants his foot. Consider incorporating a heavier clay mix 10 feet out from first base and also at second and third base to make it easier to reduce divoting and keep indentations from forming. Follow different routes when driving equipment onto the field to reduce compaction issues. Transport the drags to the field and drop them at different spots each day. When working the field, keep attachments, drags and screens 6 inches away from the grass at both edges of the base path to avoid lip build up. Use a variety of dragging techniques, continually altering your patterns and incorporating circular spirals and figure eights. Go slow, especially in the turns, to avoid slinging materials.
To avoid creating lips when hand-raking, always rake up and down the base path, not across it. Work the grass edges with a fan rake or stiff-bristled broom after every practice, workout and game. If you don’t have the staff for that, use the water hose to blast the infield mix from the grass edges at least once a week.
You’ll want to edge the infield grass periodically, cutting away turf to remove any lip buildup, then backfill with new infield mix, tamp down firmly and test the edge. There should be no transition between the grass and the clay. If you can feel even the slightest difference with your foot, the ball can feel it when it hits, and that’s what causes a bad hop.
This article was published in sports field management magazine
With Rounds 1 and 2 coming to a close there have been some great stories and awesome competition during the first 2 weeks of the WBC. The Games in PR were packed as were the game sin Japan. Country pride says a lot for each of the teams competing. I love the ground crew T-Shirts in Taichung. “United at the seams divided by country.” In our case its more united by the rake… nevertheless a pretty cool T-shirt. The fields have played well all the way around so far. Some really hard work by each of the crews and the local staffs in each country. Looking forward to seeing some photos from our US ballparks that hosted some of the first round action.
Chad Olsen has been overseeing our Japan fields, Kevin Moses, Joe and Darrell in Taichung and Chad K., Dennis and myself in San Juan along with some help from Eric, and Anthony. Our groundcrew in San Jaun had the tarp down to a mere 1:30 seconds. With rains threatening almost everyday we were able to get everything in with only a slight delay on opening night. Tough to do when NOAA‘s satellite services were down for a few days but they were so pumped to to a great job it made it easy.
A big thank you goes out to Deborah Martorell Meteorologist at WAPA. She really helped us out with some accurate info until the NOAA satellite radar came back up. Onto round two in Miami and the final in SF. Good luck guys!
Plans are well underway for the World Baseball Classic in all of the ballparks around the world. Its hard to believe that the event starts in about 3 weeks! As for the international venues, in the first round we have Hiram Bithorn in San Juan Puerto Rico, Fukuoka Dome- Japan , Intercontinental Stadium- Taichung Taiwan and Tokyo Dome in the 2nd round.
Hiram Bithorn Stadium – The old park built in 1962 is seeing some upgrades to the field, batting tunnels, padding, basically a little facelift. Hiram Bithorn has seen 2 previous rounds of the WBC action and the teams competing at this latin themed ballpark will create some real excitement for the fans! Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Spain. each club loaded with big leaguers. It will seat about 20,000 and is an open air synthetic turf field. Same dimensions of 325 down the lines and 400 to center.
Fukuoka Dome – Also known as Fukuoka Yahoo. We last played here during the 2006 All Star Tour. An all synthetic turf field with great site lines. Not a lot of improvements but they will see a few upgrades to the mounds and homeplate. It seats about 38,000 and was Japan’s first re-tractable roof stadium. With dimensions of 328 down the line and 400 to center its a big park with quick turf. The teams competing here are Japan, Cuba, China and Brazil. Intercontinental stadium – We just played the 2012 All-Star tour in this venue as well as several Baseball World Cups over the years. An all grass playing surface that is undergoing some improvements to the outfield and infield for the tournament. Our guys, Kevin Moses and Joe Skrabek are currently there assisting the local governments with the improvements. With distances of 325 down the lines and 400 to center field we witnessed some great baseball here for the 2012 All Star Tour. The fans in Taiwan are second to none when it comes to supporting baseball. Exhibition games are being played in Dio-Liu stadium which is about an hour outside of Taichung. Teams competing here include Korea, Taipei, Nederlands and Australia. Tokyo Dome – MLB’s season opener took place here in 2012. A very long history with MLB and Yomuri. A great partner in developing developing the game in Asia. They will see the basic improvements to the mound and home plate areas. A great ground crew headed up by Tamba and Hokike. Good luck to all the teams and federations. Its going to be a great tournament.
According to the Bible, Adam was given a job to take care of the grounds in the land of Eden. It would appear that this was our world’s first employment offer. Genesis 2-15 ” And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” . According to Christianity we are decedents of Adam… therefore from a groundskeeper. After tending the turf in the garden, Adam was offered a promotion to name all the animals including the groundhog which eventually led us to groundhog day ..
Over the weekend our sportsturf industry received a fair amount of press due to all the great turf managers working at the Superbowl and also from a fun article that Mark Newman wrote about Ground Hog Day / Grounds Crew Day which came out the day before the Superbowl. The article provides an analogy regarding the same Biblical verse.
Here is the irony! After the SuperBowl half time show they ran the Dodge truck commercial featuring the voice of “Paul Harvey” one of my favorite radio shows ever! Paul eloquently spoke about how God made farmers to tend to the land, sow the seeds, milk the cows, etc.. a really good commercial no doubt referring to the same verse.
So MLB.com and the NFL painted a similar message over the weekend about farmers and groundskeepers. Its a good day for the men and women who tend the earth! How about that!
Fyi – Genesis 1-11. “And God said let the earth bring forth grass…
Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning meaning an early spring. – but with temps like these in the Northeast, I hope that groundhog is right! There’s an old story/ rumor from back in the 20″s where the first commissioner of Major League Baseball Kenesaw Landis, considered Punxsutawney Phil’s ancestors to plan for spring training. Who knows if this is true or false but sounded interesting when i read it.
The 2013 caribbean world series began today in Sonora mx The field is looking pretty sharp thanks to Chad Olsen and the construction team in Hermosillo. The young sea spray Paspalum Turfgrass will be under a lot of use in the next week of games. A great event to open this new ballpark to the world. I’m just excited for the people of Sonora and their new venue. I am sure the city leaders and staff are Proud of the accomplishment. This park will set a new standard for future stadiums in Mexico and South America.
The new Sonora stadium in Hermosillo Mexico is almost complete. Typical details remain as with most major stadium projects, but this park is setting a standard for future venues outside of the USA. With the help of the D-backs relationship over the years the Naranjeros plan to fulfill a plan to build the best ballpark in Mexico. Congrats to the team ownership and municipal government.
Lets just say they are making a really good run at the title of the best park in Latin America! Congrats to Chad Olsen and our Brickman sportsturf team that have put time into the new field development over the past several months.
Today’s 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington DC will take place on some new turfgrass and fortunately it will be well protected by a special cover designed to allow light and rain through the product. The National Mall recently underwent a major renovation of the first 4 panels in front of the US Capital building which you can see in my previous blogs. Planning for the Inauguration event has been on the top of the agenda since we started with the project.
Similar to what is used at MLB baseball stadiums for concerts, the flooring called Teraplast is one of several types of turf protection being used to protect the mall’s 6 1/2 acres of newly installed tall type fescue turfgrass. They started installing the cover about 3 days ago and will begin to remove it this afternoon when the president is heading back to the white house.
With over 400,000 sq ft of teraplast being installed in various areas around the mall including under the main tents of the CBS and CNN structures, it’s the most ever laid in one place according to the installers. In fact they had to obtain the flooring from multiple sports venues around the USA.
My good friend Steve Legros is heading up the install of the cover and the mall’s new turf manager Mike Stachowicz ( photo above) is finally on board to help bring the new grass out of dormancy and to keep it looking great. Congrats to him on his new job and to Steve and the Teraplast crew for doing a great job at the Mall.
Only a couple weeks before the Caribbean World series and the local contractors are working hard to finish the details. This is going to be one cool ballpark when it is finished. The temps for the past couple weeks have been down into the 30’s at night which has caused some slow growth in the new turf but they are going back up this week. With the help of some local agricultural covers they are trying to keep the grass going. The final few thousand feet was laid in left field last week. Mounds are being built this week along with final touches to the infield, base installation etc… The Naranjeros grounds crew will be running with the maintenance operations for the event and are excited about there new home. They are also getting a few new pieces of equipment.
Another year of baseball is coming to an end. It was full of some great international events with the Opening Day in Japan to WBC qualifiers. Some new fields in Panama , Mexico Germany along with several other fun projects. This blog only captures the few things i have time to add during the year but as with anything there are a ton of things that go on behind the scenes to make these international events happen. A major THANK YOU to our brickman sportsturf team for helping to make this past year successful as well as our host of awesome vendors that provide products for us at many of these
Turning our sites to 2013 …. and let me say it looks to be just as exciting as 2012. We will have a hand in operations for the WBC first rounds in Taiwan , Japan and Puerto Rico. New parks going up in Amsterdam, Hermosillo and Taipei and some fun stuff I cant really comment about in a few other countries. In 2012 We sent guys to 8 different countries this an logged over half-a- million miles between the group. This year seems to have never stopped!
At this time of year it gives us all a chance to reflect on our lives and to be thankful for what we have. Family, friends our troops in Afghanistan and many others. Hoping everyone had a great 2012 and also a wonderful New year.
The new ballpark in Hermosillo, Sonora is coming around. To say its going to be close is typical in ballpark construction but the G.C. and architect are working very hard to make it happen. When the venue and field is completed, it will rank in the top class of baseball stadiums in south america. The Sea Spray Paspalum turfgrass looks pretty nice and is a local turf so they will be able to re-sod as needed. We will be starting the mounds an bullpens this week. With about 6 weeks before the 2013 Caribbean World Series we should be in pretty good shape with the field.
Based on all the comments from folks in Taiwan and Panama the ground crews have done a wonderful job with the renovations and field maintenance operations of Rod Carew Stadium, Panama and New Taipei City Stadium, Taipei. In Taiwan they renovated all the mounds added 50 tons of clay to the infield and overseeded.. At Rod Carew a totally new field was constructed as the old one had become slow to drain. The Zoysia turf at Rod Carew is only 3 weeks old. But holding up ok.
Great job to the guys in both sites.
The field has really started to come together in the past week. Pandeportes, Rod Carew Stadium Staff and many have really chipped in to make this venue shine. Its an old park with a few upgrades it will be able to handle a lot more rain than in the past. Today it rains ( as it does everyday) and after removing the rain cover there was no water on the grass. Worked perfectly. The turf is only 3 weeks old but should be ok for this 6 game tournament. MLB network will cover a few of the games.
As part of the planning for the upcoming WBC in Panama, the federations in Nicaragua and Colombia will be hosting mini-camps in their countries in order for their team to train before the WBC event. Pitching mounds, infield, bullpens and equipment repairs highlighted the key areas of improvements at each ballpark. Chad Kropff was in Colombia and Kevin Moses in Nicaragua for the past week helping the local crews with the renovations.
New Taipei City stadium also known as Xinzhuang stadium is preparing for the WBC qualifier. New pitching mounds and bullpens along with new grass and a renovated infield surface will provide an improved playing surface. The ballpark is familiar to big events it has recently Hosted the MLB All Star Tour and past World Baseball Cup tournaments. A smaller ballpark that seats about 12500 the venue will also feature some updates in the locker rooms and batting tunnels. Don’t forget to check out the games later this month. They begin November 15th. New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines. www.worldbaseballclassic.com
2013 WBC renovations at rod Carew are about 2weeks from being completed. Then it’s time to watch the sod grow and detail the field for the games. What we have completed is the sodding of the field and now working on the details of the field. Infield renovations with the new clay and rebuilding the mound and plates are next.
Everyday it has rained extensively and unlike previous post rain field surveys, now you can’t find a puddle on the field after a big rain. That alone is very exciting.
Over the past couple months i have spent some time checking up on some ballparks for the upcoming winter league in Puerto Rico. The Winter League has a rich tradition in the PR. In addition to the WL they have very strong local Double A clubs supported by small communities around the country. The development of ballparks for this league is really something. Stadiums in Kayay ( top photo) , Yauco ( below), and Mayamon have recently been completed. 2000 to 4000 seat venues.
With the first round of WBC qualifiers over we can now shift to the next set in Panama and taiwan. But first I need to thank Martin and his 18U baseball team (which was also our ground crew) for doing a great job during the tournament. Those kids not only helped with all the field duties but carried the flags during the ceremonies, worked the MLB road show, helped in the locker rooms etc…. They would definitely be my choice for MVP of the tournament. Baseball wise, Team Canada dominated the tournament with both pitching and hitting. Germany had a good club but the boys from up north were just to powerful.
Armin Wolfe Arena has now hosted to major tournaments. By taking their 1000 seat ballpark and turning it into a 5000 seat facility with separate locker rooms and office space, they were able to provide a great venue for both the fans players and staff that worked the event. We had some rain threats but nothing of great alarm. Also glad to have kevin and Dan on hand to help make this event a success.
All in total the field and venue held up well in front of 4000 people. Canada moved up a notch with a win over GB 11-1 that was ended in the 7th due to the 10 run rule. Compliments to great ground crew from Germany along with Dan and Kevin. After 9 two hour practices these guys really did a great job holding the field together.