Results tagged ‘ Montreal Expos ’

Keeping It Real In Amsterdam


infield skin

The new natural grass sport complex being developed in Amsterdam is really taking shape.  Congrats to the City of Haarlemmermeer / Hoofddorp and the Pioneers Club team.   The construction of the mound and home plates are almost complete and the  sand based root zone is being installed.  Chad Olsen is also proofing the finish grade this week before seeding the bluegrass blend.    Looking back on the planning process of this project provided some interesting thoughts.  I’ve been asked a few times by some of my peers as to why they didn’t go with synthetic grass.  After all,  here is a country that sees a lot of rain and cloud cover as well as low temps and they have a short outdoor sports season.   However, its a question I could see coming from folks.   The  Grass /turf selection  was discussed extensively and through a few testimonials from dutch horticulturists and local sportsturf  managers,  we stayed the course with natural grass.   It was the right choice for many reasons, but the municipality needed to collect accurate information to justify the decision.

tulips in amsterdam

The Dutch grow some of the most beautiful plant material in the world.   The ground and soils are  designed for agriculture and the culture embraces nature and a natural  lifestyle.   The land of bicycles ,  the windmills for energy are abundant,  garden after beautiful garden criss-cross the countryside and recreational athletic fields are managed at a very high level.  I  could go on and on about this forward thinking country.  The streets are clean of trash,  all the common ground areas are free of weeds/high grass and the landscaping  is well-kept.  Bottom line,  the deciding factor to go with natural grass was due to the country having a huge appreciation  for maintaining things as well as the drive to develop a state of the art playing surface for their baseball and softball community.

Over the years I have had the chance to work at a few great places.  Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando was one of them.   The complex was programmed and designed to be open 365 days a year.  Ive heard the question a couple times as to why we didn’t consider going with synthetic turf.     One of the reasons… Reggie Williams , the VP of Sport for Disney was a former NFL Bengals football player and had spent  many years playing on synthetic turf which he was not a  big fan of at the time.   We all followed his lead and designed the fields and event management system with the ability to host multiple events.  For example we were able to host 1500 baseball games in a 6 week slot during the heat of summer.    We proved that natural grass could sustain extremely high use if the fields were designed and maintained properly.    The fact that Disney has a culture of maintaining things at a high level also helped with planning the maintenance operations.

When you are building that new ballpark or field, do your homework before selecting a playing surface whether it be synthetic or natural.  Both have pros and cons,  Many of you have played on both good and bad surfaces.     It may appear to be an easy financial choice but in the long run when you weigh all the facts,  there really isn’t a major cost savings when you compare both surfaces.    For many years I have managed  the baseball field at Hiram bithorn stadium in Puerto Rico for multiple MLB games.  It’s a synthetic surface and the staff, equipment and products we use are equal to managing a professional  natural grass baseball field.     The turf was replaced in 2004 for a new in-fill turf product and since this was the Montreal Expos home ground they wanted to keep it similar to what they had at Olympic stadium.    The City of San Juan has struggled with budgets like many around the world making it tough to justify field maintenance over police protection.    After 8 years of moderate use,  the turf is ready to be replaced/renovated and either option is an expensive process.

Puerto Rico in San Juan for WBC

Some countries take the “synthetic turf needs less  maintenance”  pitch  to the extreme which is unfortunate.  I’ve seen neglected  turf fields that need to be replaced after just a few of years of use because they were not groomed properly.  Maintenance is key to any surface selected.   The playing surface selection process should also be based on how the community views cultural  practices and if they have the capacity, resources or ability to maintain either surface at a safe level.    If you are thinking about changing out your field  do your  homework  about all the different options.   Reach out to your local natural grass professionals or contact the STMA (www.stma.org) for up to date info on some of the new varieties of turfgrass.        At the end of the day I’m hoping you can “keep it real” !

What is Baseball Infield Clay?


Over 80Daves_greek_photos_212% of the game of baseball is played on the infield, which is why the infield clay is one of the most important components of the field.

Recently,  I have received a couple of emails asking the question, What is the infield clay really made of? In layman terms,  it is composed of three materials. Sand, clay and silt.  The tougher question is what are the percentages of the content of each material, and the particle size of the sand.  The composition is the true science of the infield clay even though the daily maintenance performed on these fields at a higher level is sometimes considered more of an “art”. Most companies that provide ball diamond mix state they have a something like a  60%-70%  sand ….20%to 30% clay  and 10% to 20% silt.    Most infield clays and baseline clays are about 5 inches deep. Bellow that there is a level of sand and pea gravel on the big league fields.

As a general rule of thumb this distribution makes sense, but the key factor is the sand particle size which comes in numerous variations from “gravel” to “very very fine”,  Angular and round and so on.   Separate tests are performed on the infield clay mixture to determine the sizes and distributions of materials as well as the percolation rates which give you an idea on how it may drain or dry out.  Normally infield clays do not drain very well and are not really supposed to depending on the level of field you have.  You can obtain pretty much any type of blend you want from numerous clay companies. The geographic location and your budget will drive your selection to the material you can obtain.

When I worked for the City of West Palm Beach managing the spring training facility for the Atlanta Braves and the Montreal Expos we used a higher sand base 75% sand 15% clay 10% silt with a medium course level sand that allowed the rain to pass through the infield clay a little easier.  These days I use a more stable clay with a analysis of  40% clay 50% sand and 10-20 silt.  This is a real heavy mix but can take a ton of abuse.   Where you live and how much the field is used also drives the decision on the type of infield clay you may have.

Daves_greek_photos_055The infield clay is no deeper than 4 to 5 inches and is uniform all through the mixture. On some major league stadiums the clay sits on a bed of sand and is sometimes separated with a Geo-cloth.

Everyone that has been to a professional game notices the time the crew takes on dragging and watering the infield clay before the game.  The key to a good infield and making it a great one is how you manage the moisture level in the clay.  Kind of like the Goldilocks & the three bears nursery rhyme ” not to hot, not to cold, etc…your infield clay needs to hold the right amount of moisture to not be to soft, to dry, to hard or to moist. Companies now manufacture a material which is known in the industry as a soil conditioner. It is applied to the top of the infield to help control moisture.   These materials are sometimes called,  “Diamond Pro” , “Turface”, “Terra green” , “Pros Choice” etc…they are basically a calcined clay heated to a very high temperature and sized and colored to your liking.  Daves_greek_photos_223

Maintaining the infield’s moisture level requires  consistent monitoring and maintenance. Coaches and players are continually giving you feedback on the condition of the infield helping you determine where you need to be with the moisture and maintenance methods used. Based on the weather, climate, time of year and even the team that is on the field, your maintenance of the clay could change a little on any given day. Its one of the most unknown interactions in professional sports.  That’s why they sometimes call the groundskeeper the 10th man on the team!

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