Results tagged ‘ Major League Baseball ’
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!
New Taipei City stadium also known as Xinzhuang stadium is preparing for the WBC qualifier. New pitching mounds and bullpens along with new grass and a renovated infield surface will provide an improved playing surface. The ballpark is familiar to big events it has recently Hosted the MLB All Star Tour and past World Baseball Cup tournaments. A smaller ballpark that seats about 12500 the venue will also feature some updates in the locker rooms and batting tunnels. Don’t forget to check out the games later this month. They begin November 15th. New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines. www.worldbaseballclassic.com
Rod Carew Stadium in Panama continues to make progress. Fields and facilities are being upgraded with some major and minor improvements to host the World Baseball Classic. Regensburg received a new infield and Taiwan will be seeing some new mounds and home plates as well as turf upgrades. Even the training sites are planning improvements in Managua, Santiago, Cartagena . These improvements include field clinics and training for the local staffs which establishes a higher field of play surface for the clubs to train there athletes. Its not a surprise that “better fields make better players”.
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
What a week. A lot of firsts even for this old dog. Great games both pretty close. A’s came out ahead tonight so now the A’s and Mariners are tied for 1st place for about a week. A lot of thanks go out to way to many people I cant remember for helping us pull this one off. Tamba, Hokike and my man Kas. Shawn took us through the first steps and chad Olsen played the key roll in making the event successful Along with the masked man and moma boss. Both supervisors that we nick named for fun
What a great crew of Japanese and American turf managers. Couple other fun shots of the final game.
Then there is cepesdes
And my fav..UMPIRES TRAINING!
Plans are well underway on the field and ballpark improvements at the Tokyo dome for the 2013 MLB Opening Series. Teams arrive tomorrow, practice saturday then back to back double headers before the opening games on weds and thursday between the A’s and Mariners . Reconstruction of bullpens, homeplates, mounds, base pits, turf repairs, etc… took place over a 38hour time frame due to the event constraints around the opening series…The guys worked in shifts from the crew but there were a few Yomuri warriors along with the grounds supervisors that worked straight through along with Chad-son an Murray-son. The dome is a slightly pressurized facility that helps support the roof membrane that covers the stadium. Built in 1988 on the old Velodrome site, you can still walk in the outfield and see the track railings. Every time you leave the park your ears pop from the pressure in the building.
This is our 5th time working in the “egg”. The staff has always been great and they recently made a few changes. The head groundskeeper Hoshimoto an his trusty assistant Suzuki retired last year after working 50+ years with yomuri giants and the Tokyo dome . They look like they are both 40! A true inspiration to sportsturf managers around the world. 50 years with one company! Hoshimoto was telling me about the earthquakes and how the dome was swaying last night. What’s cool is they promoted Tamba and Kohike from within showing consistency and loyalty to the young guys on the crew. The Dome is showing its age but at the sametime versatility to be able to host major events throughout the year similar to the rogers centre in toronto.
Going to be a fun event…i really like not having that big tarp to mess with!
The MLB Dominican League Office in the D.R. hosted the 4th annual MLB Dominican League Field Maintenance Clinic this week at the Cleveland Indians Academy in Boca Chica. We had a great turnout with about 45+ sportsturf managers and operators representing 26MLB clubs and 5 winter league baseball stadiums.
The MLB Academy development in the DR has been growing extensively the past 5 years. Each club has invested in building new and upgrading existing 2 or 3 field complexes that sport great fields and facilities for the young athletes.
As a teacher by trade, it is a wonderful feeling sharing knowledge and experience to help fellow turf managers around the world improve and develop their skills.
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
Big week for the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) Our conference starts this week in long beach ca. This will be my 25th year attending the conferences. Quiet a bit has changed and for the better. Great leadership and our industry staying true north with a vision to educate and share information about making sports fields safer and playable around the world has allowed our numbers to grow. When I started to become really involved with the association was in 1991, I think we had about 100 people show up at the conference in Vero beach. Now its in the thousands.
I have always enjoyed teaching and sharing what I have learned over the years in baseball. I recall sharing stories of my own turf problems and field issues with so many that its difficult to remember the number of times others shared their insight to make a project better or a field safer that i was involved with. It’s all about paying it forward. The expression “pay it forward” is used to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead. This conference is all about sharing ideas and learning new ones from others.
This past year we did several sports turf clinics around the world and this year we have a bit larger docket of clinics in the works. I believe we are up to 6 on paper. Dont want to let the cat out of the bag but they are all international. Its going to be a fun year with the MLB Opener in Japan, the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers and several new ballparks developing outside the USA. Looking forward to sharing those experiences and many others with everyone this year.
Hoping everyone has a great and prosperous new year.
In a great show of respect for Gary a group of MLB Groundskeepers selected a couple of sport turf industry greats in the trophy’s inaugural year. George Toma and Emil Bossard were announced as this years recipients for their outstanding contributions to the game and the sportsturf industry. I never had the pleasure of meeting Emil but have spent a little time with George over the years at conferences and turf events. He is a true inspiration to the world of groundskeeping. The Hall of fame committee members are Bill Deacon Mets, Trevor Vance and Justin Scott Royals, Bob Christofferson Mariners and Mark Razum Rockies.
To be considered for induction in the MLB Groundskeeper Hall of Fame, a person must have made a significant contribution to the sportsturf industry at the major league level and has not been employed full-time in the profession for at least 5 years.
Gary was one of the kindest people in the sportsturf industry. Always one to answer a question or talk about his field. He will be missed by many. Naming this award in his honor was truly an easy selection as it passed unanimously by the association members.
2011 was a busy year for STS. All Star GAmes in Taiwan, Panama’s BAseball World Cup, Field reviews and plans in Lagos de Moreno for the Pan Am games. On the homefront we were quite busy with the National MAll, ODP clubs SI Yanks, the Greenjackets etc… Now we prepare for 2012. Already quite a bit rolling with he MLB Opener in Japan and the World Baseball Classic Qualifier.
Gave a fun presentation at the IBAF Congress meeting in Dallas this month. We are working on a draft of the plan we hope to roll out the first of the year after we get approvals from IBAF and MLB.
Hoping everyone has a blessed Christmas. Also Glad to hear most of our troops are heading home from Iraq although there are quite a few still over in Afghanistan. Thoughts and prayers with them and their families.
Taiwan is a small island with 16 baseball stadiums. Some of the parks are Triple A level and could host major baseball events. Couple that with baseball crazed fans and you have a wonderful fun-loving culture of baseball. Today we headed south to play in Taichung after completing a rain shortened game the night before in Zingzuan Stadium, New Taipei City. Photo above are the guys from Zingzuan. great group and a great job buy the youth baseball team.
Many of you know that Taiwan is considered the land of the scooters. There are millions on the road daily outnumbering cars 3 to 1. Well it appears Mr. Morse from the Nationals was inspired and picked up a scooter helmet which he was sporting during BP. These guys are really having fun. It’s a good mix.
Fields are holding up. Infields are soft due to the lack of clay on the island which is requiring extra dragging and watering and rolling etc… but the guys are doing a great job. Greg ( Jones) , Eric and Ryan. Keep it up!
The MLB All Stars arrive this Sunday in Taiwan to play the Chinese Taipei National Team in a 5 game series at 3 ballparks across the country. Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium in Taipei, Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung and Kaohsiung National Stadium in Kaohsiung will each host games. With a practice session on Monday in Zinzhuang and a game on Tuesday we have been pretty busy helping our friends in Taiwan prepare the fields and ballparks for the event. The last All star tour was in Japan , I believe in 2006 and I can’t recall the last MLB All star tour that was in Taiwan however we did play a couple Dodger Games here last year.
The Xinzhuang Baseball has hosted several World Cup Baseball events dating back to when I was here in 2001. They actually had an all clay infield that first series. Coming back in 2007 for the Baseball world Cup they replaced the infield clay with grass and upgraded maintenance etc.. Its an older park better known as Xinzhuang Baseball “Court” in New Taipei City. They also call it Taipei City stadium and seats about 14000.
The Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung is a larger ballpark at about 19000 and has seen numerous Major events. A unique design of an iron sculpture arcs over the stadium. It’s a natural turf field as well with typical 330 distances down the lines and 400 to center but this ballpark plays big. Taichung has 2 other stadiums that are also pretty nice.C Chengcing Stadium in Kaohsiung hosted the Dodgers series last year and is also ongoing some minor upgrades for this event. The largest park of the series at 25000 it will see the final two games of the event. We have had a few guys seasoned vets working the parks helping preparations. Greg Jones from the revolution ballpark is in Taichung, Ryan Woodley from the Staten Island Yankees Ballpark in Kaohsiung and Eric Ogden who helped us with the 2007 World Cup in Europe and Daytona Beach.
Having worked numerous tournaments here in Taiwan the people are crazy about the game . Its going to be a fun event and the country is really excited to see these games.
This past Thursday MLB Hosted its First Field maintenance Clinic in Culiacan Mexico for the mexican winter clubs. The event was Sponsored by Diamond Pro products. With a turn out of 30+ Chad Olsen and Josh Marden Brickman Sportsturf Sportsturf Managers went over the basics of field maintenance throughout the day. Culiacan is home of the Tometaros or “‘Tomato Growers” . Thanks for attending the event.
What makes a baseball field so beautiful is in the eyes of the beholder but how it becomes that lush field of manicured grass is all about the sportsturf manager and his staff. (For those old-timers groundskeepers are now called sports turf managers.) Baseball fields haven’t changed drastically since the 1840s back when the sport was known as knickerbockers. The bases were measured at 90ft then and they remain that distance today. The mound however has changed quite a bit. In the last 20 years, field playing surfaces for all levels have improved tremendously, Standards have increased and the need for safety was stressed. even with all of the new fancy equipment and field protection materials there is still one part of the field that remains a true art. Managing the clays. The infield mound and homeplate. To hard or to soft. It’s all about moisture and how your field takes the water during certain times of the year. Mother nature has a calendar but she will sometimes tweak it a bit and throw everyone a curve like the Yankees practicing in a snow fall a couple of days ago. The turf managers in the north had a pretty rough winter and those fields are green and ready. I’ve blogged a bit about lot of How to grow your fields etc… but each spring seeing our fields go green after harsh winters is really amazing. The amount of hours and time spent on maintaining these fields is immense.
With the 2011 Baseball season officially underway we need to say thanks to our Spring training site ground crews for getting the guys ready for the season and the job our MLB and Minor League clubs are preparing to begin. Have a great season!
Although its winter, Baseball season is closer than we think and now is the time to plan for the new ball yard! People have been sending me
some baseball field construction questions about “How to build….the field…the mound….the infield
etc..? Ive posted a few blogs over the years about these tasks but before you get into the details lets talk about the basics.
First and foremost; Building a baseball field takes planning and unfortunately sometimes
more money than you may have in your budget. One of the first questions to ask yourself is … Do you have enough land or property and will be the field
be oriented properly? A field is about 100,000 sq ft but when you add parking, backstops, dugouts bullpens etc. this number creeps up to 200,000 sq ft quickly. I would also suggest the following questions be
asked of those involved before you put a shovel in the ground.
1. Usage of the field: Who? How much? and when? These questions will guide you towards the level of field you will need to build.
2. What Type of Grass: Natural…Bluegrass or Bermuda?…or synthetic? A big push on synthetics lately have had a lot of folks going that direction but be very cautious when considering this choice as there is still extensive maintenance to the field and eventually you need to change the turf after the warranty runs out. To clarify – synthetic has its place in the sports industry but just do your homework.
3. How much money do we have? That’s a loaded
question but after the previous questions it is time to bring the
accountant in! Where can we find the money to build the field we want?
Are there Grants? Private? Municipal Funds? Donations?
4. Who will maintain the new field and at what level ?
In house maintenance? Outsource maintenance? Again …budget the
entire field including maintenance operations before you build it.
Example: Don’t build a Ferrari when you don’t have the budget to
take care of it. Taking care of a high performance sports field takes a
lot of money
5. Selecting someone to design and build it? Again..
its an examination of your internal resources and if you have staff
that understands how to develop a design or construction
specification thats great. Designing your new field with the right goals for usage
is what you should be shooting for. Hiring a reputable firm to design
your field is critical to the success of the field.
6. Should you hire a consultant for owners representation?
Unless you have a sportsturf manager in your organization that has had experience the design ad development of sports fields it may be a good idea to bring in someone to help out. 7. Should we consider asking for Sponsorships to help offset material
costs? There are venodrs out there tat will reduce pricing of materials to land a long time agreement but they are limited due to the economic climate.
8. Can the Community help? Have you heard of the MLB’s Baseball
Tomorrow Fund? A great place to start looking for possible grants to help you subsidize your field construction
Once you have decided on some of the issues above and hired a
reputable sports field contractor to install your field, You will be on
your way towards building your field of dreams.
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.)
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.
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.
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
This question comes across my desk a couple times a week. I normally give the same answer. “It depends…on a lot of things!” If you have bare areas of turf, or the grass is growing all over your infield and the lips on the field look like they are a foot high….. you need to do something. Just remember, its not only what you do to improve your field, it also how you go about it and to what level!
Here are few pointers that may be helpful as you plan:
1. Evaluate what type and how many events are held on the field. You don’t want to be in a situation where you do a great job with the renovation only to find out your back in the same place again the following year.
2. Determine your budget after you find out how often the field will be used. This will help determine what type and level of field you will have to build. The more the use….the more you should invest in the construction of the field. Also determine the time you have to re-build your field? Fall , Spring or maybe you only have a 7 day window?
3. Make sure you have someone on staff that understands field construction and specifications so they can help you design exactly what you if not seek help from your local university or extension service.
4. Plan for maintenance operations. Assess your maintenance budget because that may be the weak link in your field operation. A great field can turn into a bad field very quickly without proper maintenance.
A general rule of thumb, If your field is over half covered with weeds its time to replace the turf. Trying to change it back to one healthy grass is possible but it will take a few years.