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Better Fields for Better Play issue #11 - baseball dirt tips and hints
January 06, 2009

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Dear Baseball Fan,

Many of you have similar concerns with your baseball field.  In this issue, Jim helps you get a better baseball dirt mix, get rid of that lip buildup, and level all those lumps and ruts in your dirt and grass.  Last, but not least, take a look at the checklist and find out if your baseball or softball field has these common problems.


Issue 11

January 2009

Highly
Recommended


Popular
Articles

21 Dirt Maintenance Blunders to Avoid

Conversation with Sports Turf Manager of the Year

Make 'em a Field They Can't Refuse

How I Cut Field Maintenance Time in Half

What Players Never Tell You

The Most Important Thing for Your Turf

Trials and Triumphs of a Young Pitcher

The Coach Thinks in Terms of Results







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Inspiration

"You will never have significant success with anything until it becomes an obsession with you." -- Coach Gunter.

 


What Others are Saying:

Jim,
Thank you for your reply to my question about our highschool baseball field. I have given your website information and email reply to our coach. He is working on getting the field in shape. He had a "turf" guy from the nearby university come out but he steered clear of the infield dirt and that is where most of the problems are. The turf is in pretty good shape.

Your website is very good and filled with easy to understand information. I especially enjoyed reading about the case studies. My husband and I both work in "soil science" and found your discussions about soil type and structure very good. Soils or dirt are more complicated than most people give them credit for and your website certainly helps to explain what some of the issues are.
Thanks again,
Nancy W.


Jim,

Thanks for providing a great website. I have volunteered to help fix multiple field issues for my local baseball program and felt like I struck gold when I found your site a few days ago.

Joseph I. Mass.



Hey, Jim,

My business constructs sports fields. How can I get my website listed in your resources list? 
Thx. Ted

Ted,
Send me your link. I'll look it over.  If it is consistent with making better fields for better play, I'll be more than happy to add it. Last year I received 334 questions from 75,857 visitors. Some are looking for help building their sports field.

Jim


 




Your One Stop Place to Increase
Field Safety and Playability
This issue available on the web at:
www.ultimate-baseball-field-renovation-guide.com/baseball-field-ezine-january-2009.html

FEATURES:
  • BASEBALL DIRT ANALYSIS: Getting a better dirt mix!

  • ADDING FINE OR COURSE SAND: Does it matter?

  • SOURCE FOR DIRT MIX: How do I find a local supplier?

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

  • Spiral dragging a baseball field... what is this?

  • Need to level your field?  Here are five ways to fix it.

  • Reducing bad infield lips and cutting grass back
  • BONUS: Does your sports field have these problems?


On Improving My Baseball Field Dirt Mix

I'm sending in a picture of my infield dirt in the jar test.  Can you help me understand how much is clay and sand?  Looks like about 50/50. My field is hard as a rock most of the time.   So, I want to add sand. And should I add a field conditioner like Turface to improve the mix and keep the field soft, or should I keep things moist and spike drag it? Thanks for our help.  My boys appreciate you coaching the coach on field prep.  John in Amity Oregon.


John, thanks for the picture. That helps a lot.

The top layer is consistent with the way clay looks in this kind of test.

I would say you are close to 60% clay and 40% sand right now. (MLB teams are close to that, but they have several people fulltime and a huge budget to care for the field). You need to get to a ratio that is closer to 60-70% sand and 30-40% clay.

A typical varsity field has about 12,000 square feet of infield dirt. You need to add two dump trucks of sand. Something on the order of 25-30 yards of sand. Spread and till into the top 4 inches to get a better infield mix.

I would still do this and see how it works out before adding topdressing. Although in Oregon you probably get a lot of rain, so it might help with moisture management in the spring. When/If you add the topdressing, spike drag or nail drag it into the top 1-2 inches. After that, it is just a matter of regular dragging and watering during the season.

You are on your way to a much better playing field. Have fun with this. And you are right. Many coaches - baseball and softball - have this same problem and benefit from learning how others fix it.


About Adding Sand to my Baseball Field Dirt Mix: Fine or Course? Does it Matter?

One more question: Is Concrete sand okay to add to the infield, or should I get Mason's sand? We had two truckloads of sand mixed in last year, which got us to the 60/40 ratio we have. Concrete sand is a number 4 minus, and half the cost of Mason's sand. Thanks again for your help. John.

John,
Go with the more course sand.

If sand is too fine, it will actually bond with the clay and get hard as a brick. I confirmed this with some golf course folks I know. We usually topdress our infields with G8 grade topdressing sand (golf course quality for sanding your infield turf). However, this is really too fine for the infield skin.

Sounds like you should use the concrete sand as long as it is not full of small pebbles. If you have more questions as you go, I am more than happy to get you specific answers.


I Need a Local Source for Good Baseball Mix

I am in the process of repairing a field that has been neglected for about three years. I need a source near San Antonio, Texas that supplies a brick clay mix . Thanks, Brent.

Brent,

1. A good source for baseball mix across the USA would be to start with www.beamclay.com. They provide baseball mix, clay, sand, etc. to many major and minor league fields across the US.

2. Other sources you might have locally:
major or minor league teams: find out where they get their mix

3. Rock yards and trucking companies: these usually have access to baseball dirt since they supply this to high schools and little leagues in your area.

4. Local park and rec departments – find out where they get their infield mix – however, realize they usually go for cheap decomposed granite stuff that you definitely don’t want on your field

5. Any local high school that has a decent baseball program – again find out where they get their mix for their baseball field.

You will have to let your fingers to the walking a little bit via phone calls to get these leads and find out what they have.

P.S. for those of you in the Ohio area who need good baseball mix or even help with the job, contact Troy at Fraziers Field RepairHighly recommended for baseball field dirt improvements.  By the way: I don't benefit if you use them.


The Best Way to Drag Your Infield is Spiral Dragging

What do you mean by Spiral dragging?? 
Dennis, New York

Dennis,

Maybe the best way to explain this is to compare what is usually done.

Many people drag the infield skin back and forth going from the first base foul line past second base to the third base foul line and then turn around and head back to the first base side. This back and forth dragging tends to create high spots at the foul lines and low spots at second and short stop. And if the drag is always removed at the same spot, behind third base for example, you get a high spot there too.

What I call spiral dragging greatly reduces the likelihood of high spots or low spots. However, this is best done by pulling a metal mesh drag behind a small tractor or riding mower. What I described above can be done by hand pulling the drag back and forth.

Spiral dragging means dragging in circles, but let the circles slowly move across the field from one foul line to another. Sort of like the old spirograph art set I had as a kid. Start on one side and move across as you make overlapping circles. This is great for leveling out the field. It takes a little more time though than the back and forth dragging.

You could probably do the quick back and forth dragging most of the time, but then do the spiral dragging once a week to really get it leveled back out.

And lastly, try not to let the drag go over the grass edges. This prevents lip buildup.


Five Ways To Level Your Lumpy, Bumpy Baseball Field

We have an existing field that needs to have holes filled and general leveling. If we till or seed or add dirt, how long would it be before we could play on it? (similar question submitted by dozens of people).


All, here are 5 ways to fix problems like this that have worked for me:

1. Big holes or ruts in the outfield: fill them in with reclaimed sand and cover with topsoil. I get tons of free reclaimed sand from a local cement plant. They wash out the cement trucks when they come back and 'reclaim' the small sand and aggregate. This stuff is not fine sand. It has some very small pebbles. They give it away. But, this is perfect for filling in big areas in the outfield or the warning track.

2. Uneven infield turf: best thing to do is several applications of topdressing. Depending on your size of your baseball field - little league or high school size you have more work. I put out five tons of top soil / compost on a high school infield and dragged it with a metal mesh drag to level it out. (Mowed it short first.) I did this in April and again in August. It is perfectly smooth now.

3. Infield turf with major ruts and undulations: on a senior little league baseball field I spread out 10 tons of top soil / compost and dragged it level. This field had big problems so I went with lots of dirt. I do not recommend doing that much at once unless you have a major, major problem to fix. Now the nice thing about this is that you can water it in and play on it in a day. I did this in October.

4. Infield skin (dirt) not level: One of the easiest ways to fix this is to add about 3-5 tons on a little league baseball field or 10-20 tons on a high school baseball field and spread, till with a tractor and rear tiller, then level with a box or leveler device, and drag. Water it in to help settle it. Drag or rake to fine tune the surface. Done. I just did this with 25 tons on a high school field.

5. Major infield turf problems:
scrape with a tractor and smooth bucket and start over. This is a lot of work. You need to put down a good topsoil and level it. Sod takes 3-4 weeks to grow in before you can use it. Seed takes 6-8 weeks to grow in enough for competitive play. I did this kind of field renovation for a baseball field at a park and rec department. It was so bad, there was no other real way to fix it.

Bonus: Based on what you tell me and the many baseball field problems I've seen, there is one more thing you could do. It works best after it has rained a couple days, but then you have a day or two of sun. Use a 3-5 ton steam roller on the infield turf and the outfield turf. Mark your sprinklers first so you do not hit them. Roll the turf. It will be very flat. You should also mow first. And it would be a good idea to aerate after you roll it. Rolling the turf is often done on multiuse fields where football or soccer tears up the out field and puts in lots of ruts when playing on the wet ground. I have done this on several fields. Works great. Alternative is to use the water filled lawn roller, but this is slower and harder to do. Put those football players to work pushing it around.

P.S. in general I find it easier and better to work with what you have - add top dressing and level it - versus doing major tilling and new seed. But it just depends how bad it is and how much time you can afford to not be using the field.


Sod Cutter to Reduce Lip and Cut Back the Grass Line


You make mention of a sod cutter that is your favorite, but I can't
tell what brand it is? Can you give me some more info?
T
hanks, Marc

Marc,


As far as sod cutters, I am partial to the Turfco Kiss Cutter model because it has four pneumatic tires and is way easier to handle and control than the two wheel and one roller versions. In my neighborhood the best place to rent one is Aba Daba Rents. I was never happy with the two wheel / roller models that are rented almost everywhere else.

And the Kiss Cutter has a better depth regulator if you use it to edge or get rid of lips as well as actually cut real deep to remove sod that you might want to lay back down. You might have to call around and ask specifically for the four wheel sod cutter. Also, a similar model is called a Billy Goat sod cutter.

Well, have a great spring season. Some of us in warmer areas are well into field prep already and then there are some who still have a frozen baseball field covered with snow. I do not miss the snow of northern Montana!


Bonus - Does Your Field Have These Problems?

And I've found that the a planning checklist is the way to go.  It shows me where the priority areas are for the ball park to be safe and playable.


Yours for better play more often,

J. Reiner

Jim Reiner
Publisher, Editor, & Groundskeeper
The Ultimate Baseball Field Renovation Guide

 

P.S.  The baseball field maintenance handbook is finally off to its final review!  Creating this took longer than I thought.  Reminds me of the famous last words, "this shouldn't take too long."  Same thing I said about fixing that little ol' hole in the wall next to the shower.

So, the ultimate baseball & softball field maintenance handbook will be available soon.  It is titled: Transforming Your Baseball or Softball Field into a Winning Field: Helping You Master Field Maintenance.

The table of contents:

Ch1: Safety and Playability Matters: You Decide How Much
Ch2: Transform Your Baseball or Softball Field into a Winning Field
Ch3: Develop a Sports Field Improvement Plan That’s Right For You
Ch4: How to Organize Your Work Activities
Ch5: How to Fund and Get Support for Your Field Improvements
Ch6: Professional Turf Maintenance Made Easy
Ch7: Understand Baseball Dirt and its Condition
Ch8: Use Proven Equipment and Quality Materials
Ch9: Ongoing Field Maintenance: Protecting Your Investment
Ch10: Keeping the Momentum Going


   

Have a Question for Jim Reiner?  Have an Idea to Share with Readers?


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