Results tagged ‘ MLB ’
Late last week the Korean Baseball Organization ( KBO) hosted the inaugural Baseball Field Maintenance Clinic at Jamsil Stadium. The educational event was attended by ballpark operations and sportsturf managers from all the 9 Professional KBO clubs. We covered a lot of ground in one day including mound and homeplate care, turf management and light repairs, but the best part was the interaction between each of the attendees. One fun topic was sharing info about the STMA and how the organization brings people together to learn about ways to make their fields safer. We even used our Korean slides Kim Heck put together!
I really enjoyed watching the guys put the lines down at Jamsil with a very unique chalk marking system Using a metal tube filled with chalk, one person would rake the tube over rails in the template which gently dropped the chalk in a nice line. Pretty cool!
This group had never been together in one room so when we went outside they began to exchange info and share stories about each others fields..or at least that is what my interpreter told me. I would like to thank the KBO for hosting this wonderful event.
The 2014 MLB all star series will be held the first couple weeks of November. The best of five series will be played in the Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo domes with two exhibitions planned at Okinawa and Koshien. The history of the Japan All star tour event dates back quite a ways. This will be the 36th time a group of MLB players will travel to Japan to compete in a friendly series and the 11th All Star tour.
during the site checks our first stop was Okinawa. A small island located way south of the mainland. It’s about a 2 hour flight from Osaka. There is a lot of history in Okinawa as it was considered the turning point of WWII. This is a really cool ballpark which sports a Japanese traditional baseball field which is composed of an all dirt infield. Japanese players have been competing on these type of fields for over 75 years. It’s a 25000 seat park and it was very loud and clear that the Okinawans are excited about hosting an exhibition game. There is a large military base located near by and I’m sure there will be some serious fans supporting their favorite MLB and Japan All stars.
There are two parks proposed for competition in Osaka. Koshien stadium is the older venue with the most history of baseball in the country. Connie Mac brought a tour here in 1934 featuring the likes of Babe Ruth and others. In the early 90’s MLB international and the players union had another tour which stopped by koshien. The park is truly unique hosting the national high school tournament every year. The park is packed for these games. The venue has a all dirt infield, big foul territory and a natural grass outfield. Koshien stadium is about a 30 minutes drive from the Osaka dome.
The other venue planned for games is the Osaka dome. I remember last time it was for the 2004 MLB all-star series. It was good seeing old friends and more importantly seeing the mound and homeplate improvements they had made. They did an amazing job at matching the infield clay around the base pits with the synthetic turf color.
The 4th planned venue is in Sapporo and it is also a domed ballpark. Again this is another impressive dome with huge foul territory and a synthetic turf surface. The outfield wall is about 20ft tall and the distance to the fence is respectable at 330 down the lines and 400 to center. This venue has the ability to open the center field wall and “float” in a regulation size natural grass soccer pitch. The size of the building is massive. I was told by the local management that the entire Tokyo dome can fit inside this dome!
The Main venue for the games will be in Tokyo at the ever so popular and well-known “big-egg” . The big news for this venue is it has a new synthetic turf surface which was really needed. The amount of events this facility sees is truly impressive. Always great to see and work with our friends at Yomuri and the grounds staff in the Tokyo dome.
Looking forward to the tour and working with our Japanese friends.
Enjoyed visiting the ballparks last week that will host the 2014 European Baseball Championships. Thanks to CEB President Jan Esselman and Czech Republic VP Lucie Cubikova for handling all the logistics. Our friends in Regensburg Armin, Philip, Juergen and Martin were also a big help in getting around the country and seeing the park on a last minute check up. The event will be held in mid September and played in 4 cities. Regensburg Germany and Trebic, Ostrava, Brno Czech Republic. Baseball clubs in Europe are operated much differently than the clubs and leagues we have in the USA. Each city typically has a sports club that houses several sports. In some cases the sport has their own field and venue. Kids begin to use the club at a young age and work their way up in the levels. In most cases they do not have a high school or college baseball sport program so the club development fills the gap. It’s a really cool concept as it brings the community together similar to the way our MLB academies function in the states.
It’s great to see baseball growing in Europe. A testament to the work that the IBAF, CEB and the World Baseball Softball Federation are doing to grow our game.
Chad also took a look at a pre-event training field in Paris France. All synthetic field except mound and plate. All of the tournament competition fields are natural grass.
I also had an opportunity to see the new ballpark in Hoofddorp , Holland a suburb of Amsterdam. These guys are not hosting any of the European championship rounds this year but i had a chance to see the progress on my return. What a nice baseball venue! The CLub team and city should be real proud of this park that has 5 fields and they added 2 half fields. Ike , Joe and Chad are helping to train the local volunteers how to maintain the field. This week they are hosting an MLB clinic.
Hoofddorp ( Amsterdam)
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 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 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.
It’s hard to think of baseball during these frigid days, but its sunny and warm in Australia as we prepare for the MLB season Opener March 22nd – 23rd. During this site visit we had a chance to see some Cricket and watch the Ausies take on England. The new stand ( pictured above) that is located behind homeplate is just about finished and looks beautiful. It was actually designed with baseball dugouts that can be covered with temporary seating for the other sports that play at the SCG.
The Sydney cricket ground (SCG) is considered the hallowed grounds for cricket in all of Australia. However that connection does not protect the grounds from the additional use it receives annually. Cricket season runs from November to March, then AFL Rugby is typically late March till Sept. Other high traffic events include, charity cricket games and this spring the SCG will host our season opener. During our site planning meetings we witnessed daily tours with people criss-crossing the field. Just like any other major sports venue this facility has learned to adapt in order to meet the demand of a sports crazed country. Hats off to Tom Parker and his crew for keeping this pitch looking great.
The photo above is a view from behind the homeplate area. The planning for the Cricket, to baseball, to AFL football conversion has been extensive. We are shipping over a few clay products and soil conditioners to work with local materials from the states and padding from Canada. We found some nice local warning track mix, and a great sod farm. We are having to coordinate this conversion over a 10 day period. The playing surface is just a part of the overall conversion. Other areas of the conversion include entire outfield and foul territory fencing system, wall padding, bullpens, foul poles, batters eye, backstop structure, netting, dugouts, locker rooms , etc… It’s going to be challenging and fun all at the same time. Our awesome conversion team includes the SCG crew, Moore Sports, Evergreen and Pier Properties plus a few other subs. More to follow as we get closer to this event. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in just a couple weeks so hope I you can stay warm with the thought that baseball season is just around the corner.
Congratulations to the Hall of Fame Class of 2014. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox along with Frank Thomas. The Braves 1-2 punch had some help with an awesome manager Bobby Cox and pitching coach Leo Mazzone. You can throw in Smolzty, Avery and Merker and then Wohlers to close which kind of made it an unbeatable rotation.
Having worked for the Braves and managed the Spring training fields where Glav and Mad-dog competed during the 90’s it didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize this duo was destined for the HOF. West Palm Beach was the Braves spring home from 1962-1996. I started in WPB in 1988 and moved with the Braves to Disney in 1996 for a few more years during the Braves magical run.
Mad-dog and Glav would typically be the first guys to arrive in every morning around 7am. Always walk across the field to say hello, ask what the day looked like, which golf course to hit in the afternoon, where to fish, etc.. They were always appreciative of the field and our crew. Many times bringing breakfast sandwiches for the crew. I would walk in the locker room and ask how the mound performed that day and both would be happy to offer comments. These guys were SO consistent. I recall after a game where Maddox pitched in the bullpen, he thought the home plate was turned a little. Sure enough we put a string on it and it was off by ¼ inch. On another occasion, I asked him to come out to see the mound at Disney. He had thrown that day (which I didn’t get a chance to attend due to other mickey mouse duties) and I told him thanks for the autograph. He asked what i meant and I told him he always leaves a distinct pattern with his push off toe after each pitch. His foot placement across the clay and landing area was exactly the same every single time he pitched.
These guys set the tempo for the many winning seasons they had in the 90’s. Bobby would remind me every spring “this is where we start winning Mur so get us going right! ” With these two on the mound… that was easy!
First and foremost, Congrats to the Boston Red Sox on their 2013 WCS victory as well as my good friend David Mellor and his groundcrew. It was a great series.
Although the series has just ended field renovations have been underway in numerous places preparing for the 2014 season. Its a busy year for us with renovations in Lancaster and Tennessee. Also ongoing new construction in Amsterdam at the Pioniers new complex and in Australia as they prepare for the ABL season openers next next week. Not to mention a major renovation at the SCG for the 2014 MLB Opener. Hoping mother nature is good to all the contractors.
Lancaster was still “looking” OK , but after a field sees 8-10 years of high use it needs to be resurfaced because rain water begins to drain more slowly through the profile due to all the organic matter that develops over the years. The main reason it has performed so well has been the great turf managers that have taken care of the field. Anthony DeFao and Josh Viet…Two guys in 10 years. The field’s successful performance over the years reflects their hard work and dedication. The ODP group has always supported our efforts in in building and managing their fields.
Finishing touches in Hoofddorp on the Pioniers new sport complex. The main stadium field is going to be a real gem. The folks in Amsterdam had a big storm recently and some of the warning track mix washed onto the field. In an effort to remove the very small gravel they broke out the vacuum cleaners. That’s commitment!
The World Series is not the only pro baseball going on this weekend. Its also the start of the 2013 Caribbean Winter League Season. We started reviewing the pro parks in the Dominican Republic this past week. This will be our 3rd series of winter league cub evaluations. It was great seeing the progress they are making on the fields. I recall during our last set of inspections they were needing equipment and materials that was not available on the island. After seeing just a few of the DR parks this year, we noticed a marked improvement of the playing surfaces and the facilities. ( Photo above is Santiago’s ballpark.)
( Photo above in Santo Domingo) There are several reasons that I believe relate to the continuing improvements of the facilities and fields. MLB OPs has been hosting field clinics every other year in the DR, the MLB DR office has expanded and is a huge resource for the clubs as they determine ways to make there parks better. You also have clubs that are devoting more time and funds towards making their parks better for fans and players. Everyone wins! 6 years ago most of the fields were a bit rough and the ground crews were frustrated with lack of materials and overuse. Still room for improvement but…There is a new breeze blowing and it’s going in the right direction. Nice work by the MLB DR office and the WL. ( La Ramona Ballpark Below)
One end of the pitch is being graded to be more like a baseball infield in preparation for the 2014 MLB opener. They removed about 45000 sq ft of grass and slightly leveled the area where the infield will be placed in front of the new grandstand. The grandstand also had permanent dugouts installed as part of the total renovation. The SCG is not touching the cricket wicket so those hallowed grounds are safe. The SCG crew is awesome. What a great group to work with.
Couldn’t have asked for a better day for our final field clinic In Compton. The weather was great and the turnout was also wonderful. This year was our 3rd clinic in Compton since the first academy opened In 2006. Ironically out of the 70 attendees only a handful raised there hands when I asked if they attended Previous clinics. we focused our talks on fall renovations and general maintenance. It was great having Luke Yoder from the padres help out as well as Rene Garcia from the dodgers. Also had chad Olsen handling a few talks. We had Covermaster and diamond pro sponsor the clinics for this year. A big thanks to each of them. There donation covered meals and expenses for the free event. Also a big thanks to the local stma chapter for sharing resources to the group.
Next year looks like another busy clinic year And The academies keep growing.
Over the past couple days I had the chance to meet some future MLB groundskeepers at the Houston and New Orleans Youth Academy field maintenance clinics. It was a great event in both cities with a wonderful turnout of current and future turf professionals.
At our clinic in Houston, we had some super guest speakers. Dan Bergstrom with the Astros, Tom Burns with Diamond Pro and our Chad Olsen . We went through mound an homeplate construction, infield and turf management – stressing safety for the kids that play on the fields in their parks. One of the highlights was talking with a group of students from Nimitz High School who attend the Co-op AG program. The teacher brought the students to expose them to sportsturf management. It was great talking with them about a career in this industry.
From there we headed to New Orleans for their Academies inaugural clinic. This venue just opened a few months ago and is still being updated and improved. Most of the attendees were from local parks and rec as well as nearby universities. Again our speakers provided a lot of grass roots education for the group. Rene Asprion, Tommy Marks, Chad Olsen and I presented topics on turf maintenance, field layouts, construction and safety tips. A BIG Thanks to Darrell Miller, Eddie and D.Wade from the UYA team for all your help in pulling these clinics together. MLB is making a major effort to provide education around the world in developing better fields. These clinics are a key component of that initiative. Future clinics are being planned in Compton, CA and DC so stay tuned.
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.
The 2004 Olympic baseball stadium in Athens is currently not a baseball venue but a soccer venue. I went by in late 2012 and it looked ok. At least they are using it for a sport! See a lot of articles lately saying all the venues are falling apart or abandoned.
There is only one “main” olympic stadium still being used for baseball which is in barcelona host of the 1992 games. The 1996 olympic stadium was Fulton county stadium which was torn down,the 2000 olympic main stadium in Sydney was a showground for cattle and was only a temporary venue for the games. However west of Sydney is the 2nd olympic venue and it has been resurrected by mlb and is used in the abl league. The 2008 wukesong baseball olympic stadium in beijing and both Practice fields were reduced to rubble shortly after the games. So the Olympic baseball stadium in Athens below is still there. Maybe someday it will see a baseball game again.
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.
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 inground 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