Results tagged ‘ Bob Gibson ’

How to build a Professional Pitchers Mound


Chad Olsen, Brickman Sportsturf Operations Manager builds mound in Tokyo Dome.
Whether the hard clay is added as bricks or bagged material, the mound is built in layers with each layer “bonded” together.

Baseball’s mound has evolved 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.)

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, hose and a water source. I prefer the professional block-type, four-way pitching rubber. You can flip it each year and get four years of use from it.

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.

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.

Tackling the task

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.

The string line guides the process of building this bullpen mound in Osaka.
 
Precisions matters, so measure for every step in the mound building process.

For a regulation MLB field, the distance from the back 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.

Equipment and personnel combine to move the mound material.

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.

That’s why 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.

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 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.

Above Article Published in www.sportsfieldmanagementmagazine.com 

 

Building a Pitchers Mound 101


Sydney_mound There have been several requests recently about this topic…and for the record….building a mound has several options and this is just one.

First a bit if history:

Rule 1.04 in the MB rule book states, ” The pitchers plate shall be 10 inches above the level of home plate. The degree of slope from a point 6 inches in front of the plate shall be 1 inch to 1 foot and such degree of slope shall be uniform”. The rule book gos on to detail other mound specifics regarding the pitching rubber, the diameter and the size of the level area on top of the mound.

It didn’t used to be this way.  In the late 1800′s approximately 1859,  there was no pitching rubber,  only a  line that was drawn in the dirt about 45 feet from the home plate. A few years later they changed the line to a box so the pitchers could no longer take 2 or 3 steps before throwing the ball from the line. The front line of  the 6-foot square box was still 45 feet from the home plate ….not 60 feet 6 inches like it is today.  Another perspective is that the distance between home plate and the pitchers mounds initially was measured from the front foot of the pitcher during the early days of the game not as it is today where the distance is measured from the back foot.

In those days the batters were actually allowed to tell the pitcher where he wanted the ball thrown. In about 1882 they decided to move the “pitchers box back to 50 feet because it was beginning to be to tough on the hitter.  A few years later they changed the rules again to make the pitching box a little smaller and the batter lost the control of telling the pitcher where to throw the balls.

During or around 1893, a pitcher’s plate made from wood not rubber was used.  This pitching plate was installed about five feet behind the back edge of the pitchers box which gave us the 60 feet distance.  The difference in the measurement of 60′ 6 inches  and what was measured in that era was “supposedly” blamed on the groundscrew for not measuring the distance correctly. They probably had to blame it on someone and the groundskeeper was as good as any!

One must remember the pitchers mound was still flat during those years until they set a height of 15 inches in 1903.  There is really no written notation of the word “mound” until the 1903 rules were formed.

The mound has remained the same distance from home plate for over 100 years. The next big change took place in the mid 1960′s when during that era, pitchers were dominating the game.  Low ERA’s and both leagues naming pitchers MVP’S caused ownership to make another change around 1967. Following a season where Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA and Carl Yaztremski won the batting title with a 301 average, the mound was lowered to 10 inches in 1968.  And if that wasn’t enough to change the game and make it more offensive,  along came the DH a couple years later in 1973. Dscn0418With that change we saw a change in the pitchers mechanics change from the “stand tall and fall” to the “drop and drive”.

Today it appears things are swinging back the other way and they may need to make a change to the mound again (or get rid of the DH.)  Only time will tell.

 

BUILDING  A REGULATION  MOUND (Option 1)

Tools and materials:

Plate compactor, hand tamp, landscape rake, transit, garden rake, an assortment of shovels, (round point and flat) string,  24 inch spikes, 6 foot level, plywood planks,  hammer, water and water hose, two kinds of clay. Hard and regular infield mix.  Hard as in 50% clay 10% silt and 40 sand. These can fluctuate a bit but you should have the material tested to be sure it meets a a very high clay content. You are going to need abut 6 to 10 tons of hard clays and infield clay type material, a cart or loader to move the clay in…some people use the baseball team w/wheelbarrels.  Dscn0420 Hard clay comes in bags and bricks.  Either work fine but for maintenance I prefer the bags.

1.  Set the distance ,height and exact location you are needing to establish  your mound using a transit or laser leveling tool.  A professional mound’s pitching rubber is set 10 inches above the home plate.  Check it by taking a string through the center of homeplate to pitchers mound the second base.  Keep this string handy as it will be a guide to making sure the plateaus is centered.

2. After setting your distance to the pitching rubber..Lets say it is regulation at 60’6″ then measure 18 inches  in front of your 60’6″ mark to find the circumference of the mound.

3. The circumference is the width of the mound… which is 18 feet.  It is now important to remove 4 inches of material from the circle. Put some plywood around the edge of the mound so you trash your turf while you are building the mound. Using strings and the 24 inch spikes can help keep you on track after setting the mound height. I have seen where guys will take a string across the mound 1st to third and place the pins right at the base of the mound…if you don’t have a transit some folks will use a “line level”  These instruments are not a 100% but will get you close. Use this cross line to check height as needed.

4.  Use the plate compacter to harden the area. Bring in the softer clay 60/30/10 to build the base.  The base is the area directly under the plateau of the mound. The plateau is 5 feet wide and 36 inches deep.  Raise this area in 1 inch lifts.  Water then plate tamp after each lift until you get to about 4 inches from your finish height of the mound

5.  Now place your pitching rubber in the desired location. Make sure a string is ran from the plate to second base to establish the center of the mound and the center of the rubber. It helps to take a pen and draw a line throught the center of the rubber as you are setting it in place

6. Check your level and height using a transit.

7. Begin to add the “hard clay around the pitching rubber to set it in place.  Use the hand tamp during this period. Also use a small hand level to make sure the rubber is level.

8.  Continue to build the plateaus in lifts of 1 inch then tamp then water. then add then tamp then water etc,Dscn0481

9. Once you have the plateau built you will need to start the slope. Remember the fall is 1 inch per foot towards home plate.

10. Take a board about 10 feet long, (the straightest one you can find) and mark it at every foot starting first foot 6 inches from the rubber. Block up the board so it is level. Some people build a big “T” at the end of the board so it can stand without some one holding it.  You can purchase a pitching slope frame from Beacon Ball fields or beam Clay. These are metal poles that are designed to check your slope daily.

Mound_diagram 11.  The entire landing area is made from the hard clay. It is about 7 feet wide and 8 feet long. The sides and back of the mound can be made from infield clay… using the same 1 inch per lift…plate tamp, water, then 1 more inch…plate, then water,…etc until you have the slopes completed always checking your plateaus

12. Maintaining moisture is the key to the mound…don’t let it dry out and crack. The idea is to keep it moist so it is pliable and gives the players Superior footing.  Get a tarp and spike it down and always keep it covered when not being used.

We can talk about maintenance of the mound later on..that’s another blog in it self.

 

Hope this gets you guys/gals started on the right foot. I have seen several methods and this is just one approach. Some people actually build the entire mound out of infield mix first and then take out the landing area and soft clay around the mound and then replace it…sort of like a cookie cutter method.

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