Results tagged ‘ BASEBALL FIELD ’
Back in 2005 I started Blogging for MLB.com. My good friend Mark Newman thought a grounds keeping blog might be pretty unique to provide information to folks around the world related to taking care of sports fields and or your homelawn. I’ve been asked some fun questions about my blog ( that I write out of the love for educating folks about the sportsturf industry). Looking back at 2005 when I started and at a few of the early blog stories I came across one that highlighted some facts about natural grass. A lot has happened in 9 years but one constant has been the evolution of better, stronger and more durable turfgrasses for our baseball fields.
During this crazy spring weather where we are seeing temps go from 80 degrees to 30 with snow the OVERNIGHT, i take my hat off to all the natural grass turf managers that get those fields ready everyday for the teams. It’s a tough job and the average person has no idea what happens behind the scenes on a daily basis. Not to mention the stress of making sure the field is safe for your players day in and day out. Salud!
Below are a few excerpts from the 2005 blog about some turfgrass facts.
Blue grass, Bermuda grass, Zoysia, Buffalo, Rye grass, bent grass, Tifsport, 419, St Augustine, Bahia, 318, k-31, Limousine, U-3, Tifway, Fescue, Creeping red etc… I could go on for days…Which one of these is not a real grass? U-3 is what you call three grasses in your yard and you don’t know what they are!
Breaking it down to the basics: Grass selection is based on Cool Season and Warm Season grasses and the mysterious transition zone. Cool season grasses is what you have in your lawn from about the Maryland/Pennsylvania border north and warm season grasses start in Virginia and go south South. The transition line varies across the states. There are pockets in Virginia, Maryland, Texas and even Utah that you can grow both types…which explains the “transition zone”. Picking your grass should begin with the zone you are in. From that point you can get really creative with 1000′s of varieties of grasses. The bottom line…keep it simple. Don’t go crazy with a bunch of different seed choices in your lawn. That could lead to a bunch of fungus problems. 2 or 3 varieties is OK but more than that is probably not necessary.
Here are some fun grass facts you can throw at the neighbor while you are out working in your lawn!
FACT- The first white house lawnmower. Washington and Jefferson used sheep to keep the lawn under control!
FACT- “There are over 200 varieties of tall type fescues in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware. The type everyone knows about in the store and probably the first type…was K-31.
FACT- The grass seed state is Oregon with sales over 300+ million per year.
FACT- In the 1800′s golf courses in the UK were infected with a pests called ….. Earth worms! This resulted in some of the great courses in Scotland developing along the seashores. Worms do not care for the salty/sandy soils. In the US, night crawlers are actually good for the earth!
FACT - Groundskeeping is actually Mankinds first profession: Genesis 2:15 …. The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.
FACT- First lawnmower. invented by Edwin Budding in the early 19Th century. In 1870, Elwood McGuire designed a mower that made a big impact on the homeowner. By 1885, the USA was building 50,000 push mowers a year and shipping them everywhere.
FACT- A survey in 1994 listed 43 million acres of turf in the US.
FACT- The cooling power of grass! 8 average front lawns have the cooling power of 70 tons of air conditioning. (The average home has a 3 to 4 ton central unit)
FACT- Fresh Air… a 50×50 square pieces of grass generates enough oxygen for a family of four. As mother natures filter it absorbs carbon monoxide, nitrates and hydrogen fluoride and releases oxygen.
FACT- Last one – A test was conducted by dropping 12 eggs onto a dense small piece of natural grass from 11 feet. NONE BROKE! On a thin turf piece 8 broke…. and all 12 broke when dropped from 18 inches onto a rubberized track.
After 16 months of planning, the 2week conversion of the Sydney Cricket Grounds ( SCG) pitch for MLB’s 2014 Season Opener began this week and is moving along very well. We have stripped the areas of the field where the clay will be installed for the mound, baselines, infield and warning track. Evergreen is the local contractor hired by Moore Sports to perform these duties. This week we will begin the fencing, backstop, batters eye, foul poles, dugouts, bullpens and interior areas of the locker rooms.
The SCG field crew headed up by Tom Parker have been awesome. They just finished the cricket season last weds and we began the grading of the field Thursday. Over the course of the next couple weeks we will move about 1200 tons of materials on and off the field to build the playing surface. The majority of these products including clays,warning track and rootzone materials are locally provided. Gail Materials has provided some infield clay products. They also provide clay products for the Padres and Dodgers. Turface infield conditioners will be used to topcoat the field along with Covermaster providing all the padding. Since we are unable to sink posts in the ground to support the fence structure, we will need to bring in over 100 tons of counter weights in order to secure the outfield fence. Its a large project that has a lot of moving parts but if anyone can pull it off its the crew at the SCG and Scott Egelton with Pier Properties who is acting as PM.
The bermuda turfgrass also known as “cooch grass” is maintained just under 1/2 inch high during Cricket season. We are raising the cut to almost an inch so it is more in line to where the Dodgers and DBacks are currently training in Arizona. Only 2 weeks after the MLB event is over the MRL takes the pitch so the field is actually going through 2 major conversions in over a month. All the sod harvested from the pitch is being used at nearby venues.
More to follow as this project continues.
With the 2014 Olympics taking place in Sochi , Russia it brought back some fond memories of my tours through this wonderful country. The photo above is actually the first pitchers mound constructed in the USSR. I didnt even know it until after it was built and the countries president of the baseball federation told our entourage. Charlie Eschbach President of the Eastern League at the time, took the hill for the first pitch.
The event was the USSR Diamond Diplomacy Tour . For about a month we took a group of Double AA professional players on loan from multiple MLB clubs to compete in a friendly series of games against a young Soviet Union National team in the fall of 1989. The USSR was still under communist rule so seeing a bunch of Americans walking around the Kremlin for a few weeks was rather odd for the locals. The tour was managed by Sal Artiga President of Minor League BAseball and Eastern league ownership but the core guys were Peter Kirk and Charles Eschbach. The games began in Kiev’s 80,000 seat Dynamo football stadium. I had a fun time explaining the rules of the game and dimensions in Russian but we got through it. Some pretty good players ( Don Buford Jr, Troy Neel, Dan Simmonds, Steven Scarzone, Tommy Shields) were on the team not to mention managers Dave Trembley ( Houston Astros) Stump Merrill ( NY Yankees) and even MLB umpire Jeff Kellogg.
The first game was somewhat lopsided with the USA team scoring way to many runs. Something had to change or it was going to be a very long tour. We spent a few days trying to level the field and put up temporary home run fences, backstops etc… After we played in Dynamo stadium we headed to a smaller stadium in Kiev called “Start Stadium” (above) . This stadium had a dark history as it was host to a game during WWII known as the Death Match. The story goes… German’s had occupied Ukraine and in a way of winning over the locals played a Russian team made up of “bakers” who were actually ex-pro players from the Russian leagues. The Russians won the game even though they were warned by the SS not to win.
According to the story we were told in Kiev, after the soccer game about 10 players from the team were placed in concentration camps and several were shot. Well… when the USA players heard this story, they re-thought the game plan for this makeshift ballpark because they were the first American Pro baseball team to play on the field.
After some internal discussion, it was determined to not “go as hard “ for this game. USA won but not so lopsided. It was a good time to show diplomacy in this tour to say the least. After the second series they decided to create the “UNITY” games and hold a mock draft and split the teams up more evenly to the satisfaction of the Soviets and USA.
From Kiev ( in the Ukraine) we went north to Estonia and played in Tallinn (Kadriorg) stadium. Once Again we had to recondition a soccer field for a baseball match. Here is where we constructed the first professional pitching rubber on Soviet soil. ( TOP PHOTO) It wasn’t much, but ESPN and the owners played it up like it was the creation of the Washington Monument. Along the way in each city we made some friends and I still think about them to this day. Most of my groundscrew were 12- and 13 year old kids playing baseball for the club teams.
Before leaving for the USSR, I had read about the trading frenzy the locals had for USA goods. Jeans and shoes were a hot commodity. They wanted to trade rubles for dollars and that didn’t go over very well. I took over a sega game video station an traded for a box of maroushka dolls, hats, etc.. Still have a couple.
After Tallinn we headed to our final stop in Moscow. They actually had the only real baseball field in USSR but timing was bad for our games. We were now in late September and the weather was pretty bad. It started to snow, sleet etc.. which shut down the opportunity on our final days in the country to play on a real field. Weather forced us improvise and set up an indoor soccer arena for the final game. Arena ball at it’s best!!! (PHOTO BELOW) With 25ft tall nets and the entire sides covered, it was perfect. Ground rules were simple… play it off the net anywhere. We used a box of athletic tape to mark off the field dimensions and actually taped down the bases to the turf floor. It was pretty cool. ESPN’s “This Night in Baseball” followed us around the country and did a story. I found the 30 minute show in 2 parts on Utube. Part 1 and Part 2
Although this event was 25 years ago its nice to look back and see where the game has gone internationally. MLBI and IBAF have done so much in recent years to expand the game. Ironically the Soviet Union broke apart about a year after the tour. I guess the diamond diplomacy part worked after all :).
I went back a couple years ago to check out a venue for the Baseball World cup. Jim Baba Canada’s GM of “everything to do with baseball” traveled with me. Just a great guy. We went to see M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University Baseball Venue and although it had potential, we just didn’t have the time or resources to pull this one off. The game is growing around the world faster than ever thanks to WBSC.
Baseball’s pitching mound has evolved several times over the years. Back in the late 1800s, it was 45 feet from home plate and the pitcher could take a couple of steps with the ball when throwing. Later, the pitcher had a 6-foot-square box as the designated area and had to stay within that box when throwing. The mound was initially defined in the rules in the early 1900s with the pitching rubber at a height of no more than 15 inches above home plate. Because mounds were at varying heights up to 15 inches, the rule was changed in the 1950s, setting 15 inches as the uniform height. Baseball became a pitcher’s game. In the late 1960s, pitcher Bob Gibson had an ERA of 1.12 and MLB’s top hitter, Carl Yastrzemski, was batting .301. During the 1968 season, over one-fifth of all MLB games were shutouts. The rule was officially changed in 1969, establishing the height of the pitching rubber at 10 inches above home plate–period–not 10 inches above the grass. That rule changed the way the game was played. At 15 inches, pitchers were told to “stand tall and fall.” With the change to 10 inches, it became “drop and drive.” The pitchers would drop down and push off from their right or left leg.
That 10-inch height is mandatory for major and minor league baseball, NCAA Baseball and most high school programs. (Check the official governing body for rules at each level of play.)
First Steps in Building your Mound. Be prepared
This is the method I use for new construction or total reconstruction of a mound. There are many other methods, but I’ve found this is the simplest way.
You’ll need a plate compactor, hand tamp, landscape rake, shovel, level board, a small tiller , hose and a water source. I prefer the professional block-type, four-way pitching rubber. my good friend Chad Kropff at Bulldog field equipment came up with a really nice pitching rubber that does not bubble up when tamped to hard. You can flip it each year and get four years of use from it.
Picking your Mound Clay
The most important thing you need is the clay. I suggest using two types: a harder clay on the plateau and landing area and your regular infield mix for the sides and back of the mound. The harder mix has more clay, with a typical mix about 40 percent sand, 40 to 50 percent clay and 10 to 20 percent silt. The infield mix for the rest of the mound is typically about 60 percent sand, 30 percent clay and 10 percent silt. Suppliers offer several options in bagged mound mixes, some of which come partially moist, some almost muddy and some as dry as desert sand. Be aware of those factors as you evaluate your clay sources. Any of the commercially bagged, vendor-provided mound mixes are heavy in clay and good to work with. When you purchase the material from a vendor, you know you’ll be getting the same thing each time. Bricks are also available for the harder clay. Some people prefer these, which are packaged moist and ready to go into the ground. Others prefer the bagged mixes for more flexibility in establishing moisture levels. If you have a local clay you think is good have it tested by a local agronomist for clay content.
You’ll want to have 8 to 10 tons of clay available to build the mound; 2 tons of the harder clay and 6 to 8 tons of the infield mix. You’ll need wheelbarrows or utility vehicles for loading and unloading it–and people to help move it.
The most accurate way to set your distances and heights is to use a transit with a laser. If you don’t have access to this, you can use a string line run between steel spikes with a bubble level that you clip onto the string. Or, you can build a slope board.
Where does the mound go on a field?
Plan for the proper orientation when constructing a new field or when building a mound for practice purposes. You’ll want the line from home plate through the pitcher’s mound to second base to run east-northeast so the batter isn’t looking into the sun when facing the pitcher. As you prepare to construct the mound, use the transit and laser or string lines to make sure home plate, the pitcher’s mound and second base are accurately aligned and everything is square.
For a regulation MLB field, the distance from the back tip of the home plate to the front of the pitching rubber is 60 feet 6 inches. The typical pitcher’s mound is an 18-foot circle with the center of the pitching mound 18 inches in front of the pitching rubber. That makes the measurement from the back of the home plate to the center of the pitcher’s mound 59 feet. Too often, the rubber is accidentally placed in the center of the pitcher’s mound so be sure you have the measurements right.
If you’re using the string line, place one steel spike behind the pitching rubber location and one just beyond home plate. Put a pin at the 59-foot point in the center of the mound area and stretch a 9-foot line out from it, moving it all around the pin to mark the outer line of the 18-foot circle. If the grass is already in place, protect it with geotextile and plywood while you’re building the mound.
As you begin to install the clay you will build the mound in 1-inch levels, creating the degree of moisture you want in each level so it will be just tacky enough for the new layer to adhere to the previous one. Use a tamp to compact each level. It’s important that the hard clay used to build the plateau and landing area is a minimum of 6 to 8 inches deep. You can put down plastic or wrap the tamp with a towel or piece of landscape fabric to keep it from sticking to the clay. You can’t add soil conditioner between these layers, as that will keep them from bonding together. Check the measurements of the height, using the transit and laser or the string line, with every lift of clay.Leave the pin in the center and place a second pin where the pitching rubber is going to be and mark the pin at 10 inches above home plate. Then, start bringing in the clay to form the base of the mound. Establishing the right moisture content within the clay mix is the key to building the mound. That consistency has been described as just a bit drier than that of Play-Doh when it first comes out of the can. It’s one of the instances where the science and art of sports field management mesh, learning by doing what that right consistency is given the material being used, the outside temperatures and humidity levels, sun, shade or cloud cover, wind speeds and direction. These factors vary daily–and often hourly–and make a difference in the formula that will keep the mix at just the right moisture level.
When you’ve built up the subbase with hard clay at the 60-foot-6-inch area to a 10-inch height, construct the plateau 5 feet wide by 34 inches deep. Position the front of the pitching rubber 60 feet 6 inches from the back of home plate. Set it firmly in place, making sure it is level across the length and width, with the top surface exactly 10 inches above the level of home plate. Draw a centerline through the pitching rubber and run a string from home plate to second base to confirm the rubber is centered.
With the pitching rubber in place and the plateau completed, you can begin to build the slope toward the front of the mound. Begin the slope 6 inches in front of the toe plate creating a fall of 1 inch per each foot. Double-check the accuracy of the slope using the transit and laser or the string line.
You’ll be using the harder mound clay to create the pie-shaped front slope of the mound, as this section will provide the landing area for the pitcher. Use the same method of clay mix, water and tamping, working in 1-inch increments.
You’ll use the infield mix to construct the remainder of the mound. Begin working from the back edge of the plateau using the same layering process. Use the edge of the slope board or a large wooden plank, positioning the top edge on the back of the plateau area and the other edge of the board on the edge of the grass to guide the degree of slope for the back and sides of the mound. Looking at the mound from the front as a clock face, you’ll be completing roughly the area from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to transition into the wedge in the front of the mound. You’ll want a smooth area of slope for the back and sides so that the side section precisely meets the edge of the pie-shaped wedge that is the front of the mound. Upon completion, the mound should look like a continuous circle with no indication that different materials have been used.
The dimensions, working from the outer edges of the 5-foot-by-34-inch plateau, are mathematically accurate to make the back and side segments a perfect fit. They tie into the wedge with the 1-inch to 1-foot fall of the front slope that begins 6 inches in front of the pitching rubber.
Once the mound is completed, top it with a 1/8-inch layer of infield soil conditioner so it won’t stick to the tamp. Then, cover the mound with a tarp and keep it covered to prevent it from drying out and cracking. Once the mound is properly constructed, you’ll have only the easier, but ongoing, task of managing the moisture level as you repair the mound after every practice and game.
Excerpts of above article Published in Sports Management Magazine
Twas the night before Christmas when all through the park
Not a mower was running because it was dark
We covered our grass with a turf blanket clothe
Just hoping the wind, would not blow it off.
The park was all prepped for a short winters nap
So I Snapped up my jacket and pulled down my cap
When all of a sudden there came such a noise
It wasn’t the reindeer but a group of young boys.
How could that be on Christmas Eve?
It was way to late…I just wanted to leave.
When I looked over the field to my eyes would appear
Those kids trying to start our favorite John Deere.
At first I was mad as I watched them at play
When I was a kid I was the very same way.
They spoke not a word when the cart wouldn’t start
As I heard one whisper , “Let’s dip-set this park”.
They pushed the tractor, back under the cover
And scaled over the fence , one after another
No damage was done, thank goodness for that
It was kids, being kids and not being brats.
Last season was long , we all would agree
Our fields took a beating for all to see
Throughout the year we would try and rebuild
Do you think Saint Nick might bring a new field?
We need to re sod , our crew would say
And the boss would shout out , Absolutely No Way!
The cost is too high and the owner’s made cuts
He said to be thankful, it couldve been us.
It takes hard work we tried to explain
Those concerts you book are more than a pain
Alas he would cave , you can get your new grass
Just get back to work and please stay off my @?&#$.
It’s sure to be fun for those who can wait
Merry Christmas to all…..especially my blog mates!
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.
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.
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.
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
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…
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.
As part of the USA-Cuba Friendly Game Series this week, we held the 1st MLB Field Clinic in Havana this week. The Cuban Baseball Federation invited us to lecture on baseball field maintenance at Estadio Latino Americano. All 16 pro clubs from the country had representation at the clinic. What these guys have to work with would amaze many of you. Picture yourself having only a residential riding mower, 4 rakes, 4 shovels, no tarp, no clay, no soil conditioner, weed control, ant control, etc…. to prepare for an international tournament in front of thousands of people. These guys do this everyday. I just love the passion the people in Cuba exhibit for the game of baseball. That passion was also evident in the groundskeepers that care for the fields. I have had the privilege of traveling to this country several times.
It was the first time all these guys were together and you would have thought they had known each other forever. We did a slide show to talk about materials and maintenance processes then went to the field for hands on training. Typically hands-on means most are watching but this event had all of the guys heavily involved. They really enjoyed the Sports Turf Management slides ( WWW.STMA.ORG ) as they were translated in Spanish. Such a great exchange between friends in sportsturf. Hearing stories about their fields and issues was no different than sitting in a room with my peers in the states.
They have created a pretty good clay for the island. Drains well and is designed to wick water past a certain point. Then it will firm up. On opening night of the series, we had an inch of rain and puddles of water all over the infield. With no big tarp to cover the field and we still played in under two hours.
The level of competition and the expectations of your field users dictate the kind of pregame maintenance routine you’ll have. The routine is a short version of your daily and weekly long-term care. It’s an integral part of the multitude of tasks that need to be done prior to a game. The following basic routine is what would take place in typical, sunny weather conditions. Obviously, rain, snow or other disruptive weather would require major adjustments.
The game day maintenance process actually begins the day before, with the focus on putting the field in its best playing condition for the next scheduled game time. The day starts with mowing. Generally, the foul lines are repainted and the coaches’ boxes marked once mowing is completed. Since time will be limited for the pregame prep, water the infield area heavily early in the morning and/or the night before to reach the best amount of moisture by pregame so only a light wet-down is needed prior to game time. You may need to add water throughout the day, depending on the type of infield surface you have. Smooth out the mound and home plate area and cover them again.
Whether the field serves recreational or pro-level play, make sure you have the right equipment and tools for the pregame routine in good operating order, staged and ready to go. Develop a checklist. Cover all the details in advance. Put gas in the utility vehicle or field rake; chalk in the chalk box, etc.
This is a highly orchestrated routine, and you are the conductor. Develop a plan; assign specific duties based on the time frame you normally have, and make it consistent. Review all the details, making sure every crew member understands how everything works and knows exactly what to do. Practice to ensure it flows smoothly, striving to make it a little better each time.
Pregame for rec-level baseball
This pregame routine for recreational-level baseball is plotted for a quick 15-minute fix with a two-person crew, designated here as “Jack” and “Jill.” Jack drags the infield, generally with a cocoa mat, but if the surface is chewed up from practice, using a screen mat. It’s an on-the-spot judgment call, so have both mats staged and ready. Jack pulls the practice bases and inserts the plugs prior to dragging.
Generally, the infield foul lines would already be in place, having been lined out and put down earlier with a chalk marker. If not, Jack will drag the larger infield area, and the lining and chalking will take place as soon as dragging is completed.
Jill starts doing the home plate and mound work. If there’s no hitting mat, Jill will need to do hole repair with packing clay. If a mat was used, Jill just smoothes the area, first using a rake and following with a screen mat or cocoa mat. Jill then sets the batter’s box frame and puts down the chalk.
By now, Jack has finished dragging. He moves on to fix the pitcher’s mound, paint the pitching rubber and home plate and do any needed touch up on the foul lines in the infield area. Jill starts watering the infield, taking care to avoid the foul lines and the grass. Jack comes in to hold the hose once the other tasks are completed.
Jill places a towel (or an old plate) to cover home plate, lightly waters that area and removes the towel. If there are any dirt issues, Jill sweeps it off with a towel and takes a handful of chalk from the chalk box, rubs it into home plate to help dry it and removes excess chalk.
Once the watering is complete, Jill marks the coaches’ boxes if they haven’t been marked previously. Jack sets the bases and does the final inventory to ensure all equipment is off the field and the setup is complete.
Assignments are adjusted for a three or four-person crew. For example, one person will pull the practice base and insert the plug at second and start dragging from second to third base. The third or fourth person will pull the practice bases at first and third, inserting the plugs. Crew members three and four will start the infield wet-down along the third base side, while person one moves on to drag along the first base side.
Pregame for pro-level baseball
At the pro level, in addition to basic pregame maintenance and setup, there’s an entire practice setup and take down. The question to keep asking is, “What else can I do to protect the field and make it better for the game?” The array of tools to accomplish that typically include: the pitching deck and the geotextile turf protector that goes under it, the batting cage, the turf protector for the back that fits around the batting cage and the extensions or separate pieces for the fungo circles, the trapezoid section that goes on the grass in front of home plate, the home plate mat, the protective screens for first and second bases, the ball shagging screen and two ball baskets on wheels.
Take a full inventory of the tools and equipment you have to make sure it’s all staged prior to use and picked up afterward. Each person is responsible for his or her assigned area and they provide the check, down to the tiny details. If they took 32 pins onto the field to anchor a protector, they need to be sure 32 pins came off.
For years, it was the custom in the major and minor leagues to take batting practice first and the infield practice afterward. When batting practice comes first, the setup usually takes about 20 minutes and starts when the team comes out to get loose. Over the past couple of years there’s been a trend for teams to take the infield practice before batting practice. If that’s their preference, you have to prepare to put the batting practice things out there the same way, but very quickly.
Another trend in the MLB is for the visiting team to take infield practice just once while in town and the home team just once during the home stand, generally prior to their first batting practice. For most low-level minor league play, everyone takes infield practice, with each team working for 10 minutes. Pregame practice is always a double cycle; the home team goes first, then the visiting team.
Communication between the head groundskeeper and coaches is key the night before the game to find out the plans for the next day. That may include an early practice, which means a few infielders or pitchers will do some drills prior to the typical batting practice. Some pitchers don’t want to throw off the pitching deck. Bottom line, whatever they want is what you do.
Communication with the front office is essential, too, so you know all the details for the first pitch and pregame ceremony, including the performance of the national anthem. You need to know who will be coming onto which area of the field and when it will take place so you can plug it into your setup schedule. Sometimes you’ll place a fake home plate for the ceremony. Your grounds crew will need to replace it because they know how to walk across home plate, approaching it from behind the catcher’s box to avoid tracking chalk around the batter’s box.
You need a lot of people to accomplish all this, typically five or six people for the minors and eight to 10 for MLB level. In Beijing, I had 14, which was necessary because some of the equipment was so heavy. With the increased numbers, activity and visibility, the orchestration becomes even more important.
On a typical practice day, batting practice (BP) comes before infield practice. You’ll have only 2 to 2.5 minutes to remove everything you’ve placed for BP. If your exit for the cage and screens is through the center field gate, you’ll need to take the cage and screens all the way off before infield practice can begin. If the exit is on the first or third base side, you can stage them off the field in foul territory temporarily, and then complete the removal.
Once the practices are completed for both teams, the pregame maintenance and setup begin. The basics are similar to the rec-level pregame routine, with more detail work added. One crew member will be dragging; others will be sweeping up loose clay around the mound and home plate; some will be removing any clay from the grass edge; some will be clearing any debris from the grass off the clay; some will be smoothing the area around the warning track with a fan rake; and one person with a smoothing board, rake or small drag will be working along the edges of the infield. At least four or five people will be holding the hose, with the one at the nozzle being extremely careful to keep any water from falling on the grass. Wet grass, which could result in a wet ball or damp cleats that pick up clay, is unacceptable on a sunny day at this level of play. Some crew members put down fresh chalk on the foul lines.
At all levels, the game bases are set after the watering is completed so they’ll be dry and not slick. For the pros, there’s a specific way of placing them so the logos are set consistently at first and third.
The head groundskeeper makes one final field walk, checking to ensure the setup is complete and no small details have been missed. If there is an issue, it’s fixed immediately and addressed prior to the next pregame setup. The goal is perfection.
Once you establish the most efficient plan, make it so consistent that it becomes routine so you can do it fast enough, but not so routine that you become complacent. If your guard is down, sometimes you forget something. Above all remember you are part of the “show” and a key member of the team, therefore presentation and how your staff looks on the field is also very important. Same shirt, cap, pants adds to the professionalism of your crew. Planning for the unexpected is also important. Things like irrigation system breaks, the water hose breaks, the cart runs out of gas while dragging the field, a base anchor is bent etc… Things happen so its best to have a procedure in place to deal with the unexpected.
The above article was published in Sports Field Management Magazine
We literally checked out the new fishbowl in Miami today. Make it very clear this is now the Miami Marlins not the Florida Marlins. Also more importantly we have green grass and today they put the fish in the tank! Yes little sun fish, tropical fish, swimming around behind homeplate. Pretty cool.
They really did a great job of capturing the local culture’s flair for bright color schemes throughout the ballpark. And as another touch, they actually planted some ficus trees in center field. I would like to think (personally speaking) this was a gesture of homage towards the old municipal stadium in West Palm Beach that also had ficus trees in center field for 36 years….. considering big chunk of the Marlins staff are former Expo employees. But really, its more likely because its the fastest growing tree. shrub in south Florida. And its green!
Below are a few general tips and considerations that can be used as a template or checklist when planning and or building a baseball field. First and foremost.
- Hire your sports turfmanager, or field consultant.
- Develop maintenance budget and begin to order equipment. A reputable field contractor can install a professional level field in 45 days so it’s important to be ready to take care of it when they lay down the grass.
- Secure the services of a qualified surveyor and field contractor and or field project director. Making small mistakes during the planning period could result in costly maintenance problems down the road.
- If you’re sodding the field, locate the grass source and determine the type you need based on your area. It’s important to do this early in the process so you can have the turf tested and growing properly before it harvested.
- Determine elevation and grade lines to confirm what existing grades are and how they will change to allow your field to drain properly.
- Have a soil analysis completed to find out what type of soils your site consists of. You will want to send the soil sample to a certified testing service that understands the difference between testing soils for roads, builds and sports fields. They are very different tests. They will test for particle size, percolation, soluble salts and PH.
- Roto-till hard pan and subsurface soil if your site proves to be an impermeable surface.
- Install irrigation system mainlines and outlets.
- Excavate and pour concrete footings for light towers, dugouts, stands and locker room.
- Install the drain tile system, drain outlets, sewer system.
- Install electric lines, cables, outlets to light towers, dugouts and stands
- Lay out stabilized areas; haul in aggregate for warning tracks, paths to home plate in front of dugouts, coach’s box, on deck, and fungo circles.
- Replace or prepare native topsoil – from soil analysis formula, mix in soil structure amendments. This material can be stockpiled on site. Again if you are building a sand based field system you will remove all of the soil from the existing field and replace it with a pea gravel drainage system and sand based root zone for the growing medium.
- Sterilize native soil materials if possible. Taking care of the weeds in this material can save a lot of money trying to spray out weeds in the future.
- Roto-till the soil for uniform and thorough mixing. Rework the area to grade elevations with laser grader
- Recheck grade elevations with surveyor’s report.
- Roll the area to a firm soil.
- Install backstops, fences, scoreboard, flag pole, foul line marker.
- Build a pitcher’s mound
- Spread a starter fertilizer before laying down your grass
- Finish grading with laser device.
- Remeasure diamond and recheck grade elevations carefully.
- Set the home plate, pitchers plate, base anchors.
- Mark all grass lines, circles, arcs and boxes with chalk or lime.
- Plant the area (seed, vegetatively, or sod)
- Build your bullpens and install warning track
- Finish construction and installation of dugouts, light towers, stands, locker rooms, showers, toilets, storage space, concession stands, and parking lots
Over the past couple days we have been overseeing the zoysia sod installation on one of the 4 fields in Panama for the upcoming baseball world cup. It’s exciting to witness the progress of these fields. Here at Omar Torrijos Stadium, Santiago they installed a new drainage system, irrigation a sandy loam soil over gravel . With the rain they receive in this country drainage is key. Next stop for sod. Aguadulce.
We are rolling along in Panama with ballpark improvements for the Baseball World Cup. Whenever we work in other countries there is always some sort of challenge which makes for some exciting ties leading up to the event.
Two of the 4 stadiums to be used are receiving totally new fields. Three of the stadiums are upgrading locker rooms, dugouts, fencing and scoreboards. All of the ballparks are receiving new lights to some degree. The 2011 Baseball World Cup is the first Major baseball event being played in the national stadium since the 2003 Pre Olympic qualifier for Athens.
The national stadium is receiving some new field upgrades as will the stadium in Chitre. Following this wonderful tournament the country’s MLB Winter league season will begin as provisional members. These ballpark upgrades will only bring more major baseball events to Panama as the sports continues to grow. The city, the culture and especially the people are truly remarkable. Plan now to come down for some great baseball in October.
Chad and I took a little time to taste the local coconut water. Outstanding!
Over 80% of the game of baseball is played on the infield, which is why the infield clay is one of the most important components of the field.
Recently, I have received a couple of emails asking the question, What is the infield clay really made of? In layman terms, it is composed of three materials. Sand, clay and silt. The tougher question is what are the percentages of the content of each material, and the particle size of the sand. The composition is the true science of the infield clay even though the daily maintenance performed on these fields at a higher level is sometimes considered more of an “art”. Most companies that provide ball diamond mix state they have a something like a 60%-70% sand ….20%to 30% clay and 10% to 20% silt. Most infield clays and baseline clays are about 5 inches deep. Bellow that there is a level of sand and pea gravel on the big league fields.
As a general rule of thumb this distribution makes sense, but the key factor is the sand particle size which comes in numerous variations from “gravel” to “very very fine”, Angular and round and so on. Separate tests are performed on the infield clay mixture to determine the sizes and distributions of materials as well as the percolation rates which give you an idea on how it may drain or dry out. Normally infield clays do not drain very well and are not really supposed to depending on the level of field you have. You can obtain pretty much any type of blend you want from numerous clay companies. The geographic location and your budget will drive your selection to the material you can obtain.
When I worked for the City of West Palm Beach managing the spring training facility for the Atlanta Braves and the Montreal Expos we used a higher sand base 75% sand 15% clay 10% silt with a medium course level sand that allowed the rain to pass through the infield clay a little easier. These days I use a more stable clay with a analysis of 40% clay 50% sand and 10-20 silt. This is a real heavy mix but can take a ton of abuse. Where you live and how much the field is used also drives the decision on the type of infield clay you may have.
Everyone that has been to a professional game notices the time the crew takes on dragging and watering the infield clay before the game. The key to a good infield and making it a great one is how you manage the moisture level in the clay. Kind of like the Goldilocks & the three bears nursery rhyme ” not to hot, not to cold, etc…your infield clay needs to hold the right amount of moisture to not be to soft, to dry, to hard or to moist. Companies now manufacture a material which is known in the industry as a soil conditioner. It is applied to the top of the infield to help control moisture. These materials are sometimes called, “Diamond Pro” , “Turface”, “Terra green” , “Pros Choice” etc…they are basically a calcined clay heated to a very high temperature and sized and colored to your liking.
Maintaining the infield’s moisture level requires consistent monitoring and maintenance. Coaches and players are continually giving you feedback on the condition of the infield helping you determine where you need to be with the moisture and maintenance methods used. Based on the weather, climate, time of year and even the team that is on the field, your maintenance of the clay could change a little on any given day. Its one of the most unknown interactions in professional sports. That’s why they sometimes call the groundskeeper the 10th man on the team!
One of the major parts of the field that requires a lot of TLC is the infield clay. Many people watch the dragging ritual before a game but probably do not realize that it’s the 4th or 5th time they have dragged the field that day using a variety of drags.. You have flex drags, rigid drags, coco mats, nail drags, float board drags, harrow drags, etc..
In addition to dragging the field before the games, groundskeepers at the pro level even drag the field during the games. There are several methods to dragging a baseball field and several factors you need to consider as to the type of drag(s) you may choose. Types of infield clay, the moisture level and your equipment will dictate the level of dragging and best type of drag you will need. Many sport complexes use the 3 wheel “sand pro” type units to pull a drag. They are fast and very agile. Some folks prefer a small smooth tired tractor to perform this function because it tends to leave less tire tracks and ruts. We even see fields being dragged by hand in some parks. Because that’s all they have to drag their field with…also many believe hand dragging puts the best finish on the infield.
The 4 ft x 6 ft flex mat is probably the most used in recreation level fields. If you need to perform a leveling task you should use a rigid drag. A rigid drag pulls more material in the screen and does not float with the contours like the flex drags. If you don’t have a rigid drag you can partially fold your flex drag which helps it to not float. The 3×3 rigid drags do a great job on the baselines as well as areas around the mound and plate by keeping them level. Sometimes for the infield, A heavier drag or one with a leveling bar on the front is needed when the clay particles do not break up easily. Another tool is the float board. These are sometimes handmade from wood or steel and are designed to level your infield.
- It’s not a race so take your time especially as your turn. Always keep the drag about a foot away from the grass and always pull the bases when you drag. Trying to dodge second base might be fun but you are changing the grade of the your field and causing lips when you hit the turf with the drag.
- If the drag doesn’t fit down the baseline?don?t pull it down the baseline! You need to rake these areas and use a smoothing board or purchase a drag that fits.
- Initially do a small circle pattern across the entire field then make a center line drag from end to end.
- Alternate patterns and dragging direction on a daily basis from Clockwise to counter clock wise.
- Select the finish drag that provides the smoothest surface.
- Coco mats are common for final dragging because they basically brush the clay and do not move material like the big drags.
- Some flex mats have a leveling bar on the front that helps to remove small bumps from the workouts.
- Before dragging make sure you have proper moisture and have used a ?nail type? drag to remove the deep ruts.
- Give the field a little water after the drag to stabilize the surface.
- At some of the allstar games you have seen designs in the clay areas. This material is calcined clay and is a lighter color than the rest of the infield. It may appear to be a ridge but it is a soil conditioner used regularly for infield maintenance.
- Monitor the moisture in the infield clay throughout the day. If its to dry add water but do so after you complete you’re dragging routine in the morning.
- After the games ask the players how it played and tweak your plan as necessary.
- Have fun!
Dragging the field is part of the art of infield maintenance so pay attention to te soil as you drag it to determine if you’re using the right drag.