The World Series is not the only pro baseball going on this weekend. Its also the start of the 2013 Caribbean Winter League Season. We started reviewing the pro parks in the Dominican Republic this past week. This will be our 3rd series of winter league cub evaluations. It was great seeing the progress they are making on the fields. I recall during our last set of inspections they were needing equipment and materials that was not available on the island. After seeing just a few of the DR parks this year, we noticed a marked improvement of the playing surfaces and the facilities. ( Photo above is Santiago’s ballpark.)
( Photo above in Santo Domingo) There are several reasons that I believe relate to the continuing improvements of the facilities and fields. MLB OPs has been hosting field clinics every other year in the DR, the MLB DR office has expanded and is a huge resource for the clubs as they determine ways to make there parks better. You also have clubs that are devoting more time and funds towards making their parks better for fans and players. Everyone wins! 6 years ago most of the fields were a bit rough and the ground crews were frustrated with lack of materials and overuse. Still room for improvement but…There is a new breeze blowing and it’s going in the right direction. Nice work by the MLB DR office and the WL. ( La Ramona Ballpark Below)
One end of the pitch is being graded to be more like a baseball infield in preparation for the 2014 MLB opener. They removed about 45000 sq ft of grass and slightly leveled the area where the infield will be placed in front of the new grandstand. The grandstand also had permanent dugouts installed as part of the total renovation. The SCG is not touching the cricket wicket so those hallowed grounds are safe. The SCG crew is awesome. What a great group to work with.
Couldn’t have asked for a better day for our final field clinic In Compton. The weather was great and the turnout was also wonderful. This year was our 3rd clinic in Compton since the first academy opened In 2006. Ironically out of the 70 attendees only a handful raised there hands when I asked if they attended Previous clinics. we focused our talks on fall renovations and general maintenance. It was great having Luke Yoder from the padres help out as well as Rene Garcia from the dodgers. Also had chad Olsen handling a few talks. We had Covermaster and diamond pro sponsor the clinics for this year. A big thanks to each of them. There donation covered meals and expenses for the free event. Also a big thanks to the local stma chapter for sharing resources to the group.
Next year looks like another busy clinic year And The academies keep growing.
This Natural grass baseball field construction project in the suburbs of Amsterdam is almost complete. It was put to the test after a heavy rain storm Monday evening and throughout the entire night. Overall, It rained several inches Monday and the field was totally dry as we walked across it Monday morning. The warning track also didn’t have a single puddle. This field was constructed on a parcel of land that is 5 meters below sea level. Great job city , architect and contractor.
This weekend the IOC will vote on 3 major items when they meet in Rio. The host city for the 2020 Olympics, a new chief to replace J. Rogge and which of 3 sports ( Squash, Wrestling or baseball/softball) will be included in the 2020 games.
As for which sport should be chosen as the 26th discipline in my opinion, that decision should be made based on what the federations have accomplished towards improving the sports worldwide exposure both on the field and off. The IOC members also should consider what sport will be more appropriate at building relationships through teamwork at all ages and genders. These values make our world a better place to live.
Wrestling was booted off the Olympic program just a few months ago and according to their federation have made huge changes to improve the sport. From what I have read they changed the scoring system and added two women competition classes. I don’t see much change here even though I think the sport should be in the Olympics because of its tradition. I could think of a few others that should have been considered for removal way before wrestling but that’s just me.
Squash is banking on the fact that they may not need a major sporting venue. I understand they’ve also developed a new type of graphic scoring program. I’m sure the sport has a large following but I travel quite a bit and I don’t see a lot of squash tournaments around nor do i hear people talking about the history of squash such as who their favorite team is, etc… There is a World Squash Hall of fame and the current top 10 players are from Egypt, England, Spain and France. ( five from Egypt)
Baseball and Softball have changed things drastically thanks to the leadership of Don Porter and Riccardo Fricarri co-presidents of the World baseball softball confederation. After being out of the Olympic program for 8 years, they have retooled and made strides in growing the game around the world in both genders. They have combined the baseball and softball organizations into one federation. 65 million participants play the game around the world. They have also developed a shorter competition format and the ability to host both sports in the same venue instead of building separate facilities for both softball and baseball. (That was a bit tricky but it will be cool!)
In the past ( baseball and softball) was considered an “American dominated sport”. That tagline has really changed.
1. During the past 3 World Baseball Classics you have seen teams such as Holland, Japan, Korea, Dominican Republic, Italy and Puerto Rico when top spots in the competition.
2. Who won the 2012 Pan American Games? Canada!
3. Who won the last Softball Olympics? Japan!
4. Who won the 2008 Beijing Baseball Olympics? Korea!
5. Who won the last 2011 Baseball World Cup featuring 16 top teams from around the world? Holland 1st, Cuba 2nd Canada 3rd.
Bottom line the sport has emerged in the past 10 years as a true world sport with millions of kids and adults playing the game. In my opinion (all though a bit biased as you can tell from the photos) I’m pretty sure I would vote for baseball/softball.
I haven’t really followed who will be the next President of the IOC but most people are talking about Thomas Bach. He’s from germany and supposedly made the suggestion to softball and baseball to combine federations back when they were trying to figure out what to do to get back in the games.
The 2020 site selection vote also makes for a nice dessert at this IOC function. Madrid, Istanbul and Japan will present to the group. My take is Spain has some economic issues to figure out however they already have most of the venues completed and they are a sports crazed nation but the summer games were just in Europe. Istanbul is a 14 hour car ride to Syria which isn’t great timing for that group considering whats going on today, however i understand its a beautiful country. Then there is Japan … they are probably the safest country outside of the USA and feature baseball and softball as the top sport. I think Japan has the inside track on this one but you never know.
It’s going to be an interesting weekend as the IOC members tend to vote based on protocols that no one has been able to figure out. Stay tuned!
Calling on all baseball bloggers to cast your vote using the link below. The IOC will vote for one of three sports next month. Keep the momentum up for our softball baseball federation to make it happen. Playball 2020! !
Last week I was a guest of the KBO (Korean baseball organization). In an effort to upgrade their parks now and in the future we visited each stadium and spoke with operators and care takers collecting information about their facilities. Korea is in the process of renovating and building new parks as the KBO league expands. All of the ballparks range in size from 10,000 to 28000 capacity. All of the fields are Kentucky bluegrass or synthetic grass. A couple stadiums are moving away from synthetic back to natural grass.
One of the older stadiums was called Jamsil ballpark. The ballpark was used as part of the 1988 Olympics. According to the locals, the two teams that play here are considered the Yankees – red sox of Korea. I must have heard it 10 times and from the looks of the sellout game I attended, it sure felt like it. You can draw a line through the center of the stadium between the fans cheering on the bears or the twins. One of our tasks was to check the lights and at Jamsil stadium and we were allowed to perform the light check during the 5th inning. As with most Asian leagues, after the 5th inning they re-line the field and the umpires take a several minute break. The players actually go out in the outfield and stretch again. That was the first time checking lux levels in front of 27000 people.
FYI – This country is passionate about their baseball. We had the chance to attend a few games and it was electrifying! The other thing that struck me was the demographics of who attended the games. I would estimate, more than half the crowd was between the ages of 18-30. There was a party in the stands that was choreographed with songs for each player. The songs played straight through the entire at bat of the home team or visiting team. Even when the hitter was swinging away! Something you don’t see in other countries.
Korea’s first domed stadium is underway (top photo) . Considering the temperatures in March are similar to Detroit , the warm building will be enjoyed by the local communities in the winter time. It will also make the fans happy during those hot humid summers with AC.
The best part of the Korean ballpark tour was meeting the people and making friends . A big thanks to the KBO team especially Joey, Sean, Jason and Mr. Haun! You guys rock! Sports brings people together and just like baseball in any country our game is a common connector. Looking forward to the next trip already!
A new park is underway in Culiacan , mexico. The future home of the Tomateros is designed to hold 18000 people! Its a natural grass stadium with some wonderful site lines. This is going to be a fun project because the city is really cool. The architect took some time in designing the seating bowl which will generate a lot of fun for fans. It’s going to truly be a fan friendly facility. The planned opening is October 2014.
The owners of the club are the Ley family. They are really excited about this new sports venue in their home town and deserve to be. They are a good family with a long history in the Mexico and the baseball community. The club has a very strong history of winning the Mexican Winter league and has had numerous championships over the years. This park is being constructed directly beside the current baseball stadium so logistics will be challenging for the 2013 season but in the end, they will have new jewel in the Mexican winter league. Congrats to Juan Manuel Ley Lopez, his family and the architect Jim Sevilla
The blue grass planted only a couple weeks ago is coming up nicely and the ballpark is completing the steel/concrete risers. The city of hoofddorp and the contractor are pushing the bluegrass along for full establishment this fall. The ballpark will end up seating about 500-1000 but will be able to expand to 25000 seats. the project will be completed by November 2013. It will open in the spring for the Pioneers Club team and be used by the Dutch Federation for training their national clubs as well.
The new natural grass sport complex being developed in Amsterdam is really taking shape. Congrats to the City of Haarlemmermeer / Hoofddorp and the Pioneers Club team. The construction of the mound and home plates are almost complete and the sand based root zone is being installed. Chad Olsen is also proofing the finish grade this week before seeding the bluegrass blend. Looking back on the planning process of this project provided some interesting thoughts. I’ve been asked a few times by some of my peers as to why they didn’t go with synthetic grass. After all, here is a country that sees a lot of rain and cloud cover as well as low temps and they have a short outdoor sports season. However, its a question I could see coming from folks. The Grass /turf selection was discussed extensively and through a few testimonials from dutch horticulturists and local sportsturf managers, we stayed the course with natural grass. It was the right choice for many reasons, but the municipality needed to collect accurate information to justify the decision.
The Dutch grow some of the most beautiful plant material in the world. The ground and soils are designed for agriculture and the culture embraces nature and a natural lifestyle. The land of bicycles , the windmills for energy are abundant, garden after beautiful garden criss-cross the countryside and recreational athletic fields are managed at a very high level. I could go on and on about this forward thinking country. The streets are clean of trash, all the common ground areas are free of weeds/high grass and the landscaping is well-kept. Bottom line, the deciding factor to go with natural grass was due to the country having a huge appreciation for maintaining things as well as the drive to develop a state of the art playing surface for their baseball and softball community.
Over the years I have had the chance to work at a few great places. Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando was one of them. The complex was programmed and designed to be open 365 days a year. Ive heard the question a couple times as to why we didn’t consider going with synthetic turf. One of the reasons… Reggie Williams , the VP of Sport for Disney was a former NFL Bengals football player and had spent many years playing on synthetic turf which he was not a big fan of at the time. We all followed his lead and designed the fields and event management system with the ability to host multiple events. For example we were able to host 1500 baseball games in a 6 week slot during the heat of summer. We proved that natural grass could sustain extremely high use if the fields were designed and maintained properly. The fact that Disney has a culture of maintaining things at a high level also helped with planning the maintenance operations.
When you are building that new ballpark or field, do your homework before selecting a playing surface whether it be synthetic or natural. Both have pros and cons, Many of you have played on both good and bad surfaces. It may appear to be an easy financial choice but in the long run when you weigh all the facts, there really isn’t a major cost savings when you compare both surfaces. For many years I have managed the baseball field at Hiram bithorn stadium in Puerto Rico for multiple MLB games. It’s a synthetic surface and the staff, equipment and products we use are equal to managing a professional natural grass baseball field. The turf was replaced in 2004 for a new in-fill turf product and since this was the Montreal Expos home ground they wanted to keep it similar to what they had at Olympic stadium. The City of San Juan has struggled with budgets like many around the world making it tough to justify field maintenance over police protection. After 8 years of moderate use, the turf is ready to be replaced/renovated and either option is an expensive process.
Some countries take the “synthetic turf needs less maintenance” pitch to the extreme which is unfortunate. I’ve seen neglected turf fields that need to be replaced after just a few of years of use because they were not groomed properly. Maintenance is key to any surface selected. The playing surface selection process should also be based on how the community views cultural practices and if they have the capacity, resources or ability to maintain either surface at a safe level. If you are thinking about changing out your field do your homework about all the different options. Reach out to your local natural grass professionals or contact the STMA (www.stma.org) for up to date info on some of the new varieties of turfgrass. At the end of the day I’m hoping you can “keep it real” !
Over the past couple days I had the chance to meet some future MLB groundskeepers at the Houston and New Orleans Youth Academy field maintenance clinics. It was a great event in both cities with a wonderful turnout of current and future turf professionals.
At our clinic in Houston, we had some super guest speakers. Dan Bergstrom with the Astros, Tom Burns with Diamond Pro and our Chad Olsen . We went through mound an homeplate construction, infield and turf management – stressing safety for the kids that play on the fields in their parks. One of the highlights was talking with a group of students from Nimitz High School who attend the Co-op AG program. The teacher brought the students to expose them to sportsturf management. It was great talking with them about a career in this industry.
From there we headed to New Orleans for their Academies inaugural clinic. This venue just opened a few months ago and is still being updated and improved. Most of the attendees were from local parks and rec as well as nearby universities. Again our speakers provided a lot of grass roots education for the group. Rene Asprion, Tommy Marks, Chad Olsen and I presented topics on turf maintenance, field layouts, construction and safety tips. A BIG Thanks to Darrell Miller, Eddie and D.Wade from the UYA team for all your help in pulling these clinics together. MLB is making a major effort to provide education around the world in developing better fields. These clinics are a key component of that initiative. Future clinics are being planned in Compton, CA and DC so stay tuned.
Had a great time the past couple days with the Academy and Winter league club stadium operators and groundskeepers. We had representation from 29 MLB Clubs and 4 of the Winter league stadiums. This was a free clinic to all the guys. Special thanks to our friends at Covermaster and Diamond Pro for helping out with the discussions.
The Tampa Bay Rays facility always shines. This year’s clinic went into 2 days and covered facility management and security of the academies. Carlos and Ismial from the DR office. You guys Rock!
Its official. The H.E.M big league weekend in San Antonio held at the Alamodome featuring the Texas Rangers and the San Diego Padres MLB exhibition series in a first-ever baseball field layout was a success. The Ryan Sanders group and the Texas Rangers achieved what they had hoped to see. A great field, great crowds and an event that has been talked about for a long time. You really need to see the following link to understand what was achieved in this event the day before easter. Alamo Dome 1st ever baseball Conversion. It shows the Dome going from a arena football event to the game in 5 days. Two totally different floor layouts.
The transition teams for the exhibition match at the dome (Astroturf, Ryan Sanders Sportsturf, Alamo Dome staff, padding crew, John and his vinyl guys ) did an outstanding job with the renovation. When you do something that has not been done before, you really need a group that is focused on the final goal. Every issue that became an obstacle or a concern was approached with a positive attitude in order to come up with a solution. Safety issues were set as the main priority and operational challenges were continually defined. The grounds crew from the Missions ball club also chipped into help with the event. I will have to say there were quite a few challenges but the team that was assembled worked very well together to ensure success. Garrett and his entire crew were top notch. Reid Ryan and JJ Gottch were a great management team. They were not only great grounds guys but chipped in at the last minute to be the ballboys down the lines during each game.
The Rangers won both exhibition games and ironically it wasn’t as lopsided as people thought it would be. The right field fence is only 285 down the line. Although the guys had fun with the short porch in BP, during the 2 games it may have only been a issue in 1 home run. In fact the Ryan Sanders group made BP part of the fun for fans allowing them in to catch all the homerun balls. They also added special balls with stamps on them with the sponsor logo for prizes. Pretty cool. Another highlight was working with my “old” friend Tom McAfee who is the operations manager at the Alamodome A great supporter of baseball in the area and more importantly can still run a pretty good line! Thanks Tom to you and your team.
Plans are underway for the Big League weekend at the Alamo dome in San Antonio The San Diego Padres take on the Texas Rangers for a two game series before texas opens the regular season Sunday. The Alamo Dome has hosted numerous other events including the NCAA Final’s , AFL football, concerts, monster trucks and now they can add baseball.
My old friend Tom McAfee runs the building operations and Garrett Reddehase head GK of the round Rock club have been working on this event for a while. Since this past Sunday they have transformed the dome’s floor into baseball mode which has not been a simple task considering it has never been done.
With 285 down the right field line i am sure we will be seeing some exciting plays. with 437 to center its a bit more challenging. The Astroturf MD-60 is the turf being used at the venue. The same plastic grass is in the Bluejays park. Under the turf we installed a clay base so there could be enough depth in the clay pits for ample compaction.
Cant say enough about the Alamo dome staff and the Ryan-Sanders group on how everyone has pulled together to make this event possible. They are expecting big crowds this weekend for the two game series.
Pretty cool ballpark. Kudos to Chad, Kevin, Eric, Isaiah and Anthony.
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