BASEBALL FIELD DIRT: how many square feet on my field?
NEW CONSTRUCTION: how to build a backstop myself?
BASEBALL TURF: laying sod on clay dirt... will it survive?
IN THIS ISSUE:
the City to care about renovation and upkeep
baselines to get rid of a mud problem? Hmmm....
A handbook to get your field and play to the next level
What is the total square feet of the skinned
area on a little league field?
do I go about building a backstop?
Hi, we are building
a softball field for my church in New London, PA. I am trying to
find plans or dimensions for a backstop that will support youth
and adult play. We are looking to build it ourselves to save on
money...any help would be appreciated..thanks. Jerry.
Jerry, be prepared... make sure you are sitting down. Of
all the pieces and parts required for any baseball field, the backstop
is usually the most expensive. It is more expensive
than the dirt and sod, than the outfield fencing and dugouts, more
expensive than all the drainage and irrigation. A backstop for softball
fast pitch and adult play is usually 60 feet long and 30 feet high.
I think it is the height that adds to the cost and need for special
Last year I got a quote of $19,000 parts and labor for a backstop
on a new high school girls fast pitch softball field. I about fainted
at that price.
We didn’t have them build it for that price.
Alternative: If you are not doing fast pitch, look at backstops
for a little league field. This size will work. Last year we installed
a backstop ourselves on one of our fields. A local high school JV
field was being upgraded. So, we got all the pipes and fencing free.
All we had to do was take it apart, haul it, put in the anchor pipes,
and put it all together again.
What I learned from this: you can find a little league field, study
the backstop (build one that goes straight up about 12 feet, not
curved over toward the field), and get the pipes, fencing, and parts
from an iron works yard. Lots cheaper. You just have to put it together.
It’s not as hard as you might think. Look at fencing parts
and examples at a Home Depot or Lowes. Same thing.
We built ours over a four day period. First day was digging holes
and cementing in the anchor pipes. Next was hauling the parts. Fourth
day was putting it together. Slide vertical backstops over the anchor
pipes. These are heavy. Be careful. Next was putting up the brackets
and horizontal pipes and screen. Needed some big guys, but got it
done in an afternoon.
Funding – see if you can get discounted or donated parts.
Many local businesses are willing to support private schools or
churches in their community. I’ve had success with this in
several communities. Maybe you have a member who has contacts with
someone in the fencing business. Local banks, credit unions, and
insurance companies often are willing to donate a couple hundred
dollars for your project in return for an advertising sign on the
fence. Have some of the youth involved in making the requests. It
works. Ask and you receive.
Lesson I learned: ask and you’ll be surprised how the windows
are opened to you. You’re not just asking for money or parts.
You’re asking them to invest in the youth of their community.
Sports is huge for character development, teamwork, discipline.
Ooops. On my soapbox.
City wants to lay sod directly on hard clay field... will the grass
writes in: I am the director of fields for our baseball association.
Our fields are maintained by the city. We want to put grass on
the infields which will cost about $20,000 for this, but the city
wants to lay the sod on top of the hard clay that has 2 inches
of clay dust. Will the grass survive? And what should we do?
Protect the investment in sod by properly preparing
the ground first. And I am assuming you have irrigation in place
to water this too.
I've seen success and failure with sod.
Success usually includes this:
Prep the area by removing old scraps, till in a good soil/sand/compost
mixture, roll the dirt to pack it down, put out some 6-20-20 starter
fertilizer, moisten it, lay out the sod, roll the sod, put out
a bit more 6-20-20, and soak it followed by regular waterings
and soakings for a week before tapering off. By week three you
should be able to grab the sod in your fingers, pull up, and not
be able to pull up the sod - it should be well rooted.
Failure with sod:
lay sod on top of clay hard pan - nothing for the roots to grow
into, poor watering - it dies, watering too light - the top is
wet but the water never makes it to the roots, not rolling the
dirt before sodding so then the dirt settles with undulations
and is not flat, or playing on the sod field within days and constantly
loosening up the roots.
Fall is a good time to do this with warm ground, but not too hot
in the day. If climate is right, spring works too, but takes a
bit more attention.
Here is a resource with details:
Skim through this. Talk with the city folks. I’m sure they
want success with this too. If you have more questions about how
to do this right, let me know. I can help.
fields suck, the City doesn't care, and I don't know how to take
care of them. Help.
Our town has 2 baseball fields that could be really nice fields.
They don't seem to be maintained properly - lip buildup and really
bad infield dirt (bad footing and balls don't bounce correctly)
and the outfield has a slope. How can I get the town to do more
maintenance on these fields? They seem to think the fields are OK.
I am assuming they just don't want to spend the money, but if they
built them they need to maintain them. Carolyn.
I’d suggest three things for you:
1. Try to partner with the city for field care
– sell them on it. Here is a story about how that can be done.
The driving force to get something done is the fact that the current
fields are not safe and playable.
2. Renovate what you have – give it a facelift.
Here is a case study of a similar project and what it took to sell
the idea and get it done. It took about 5 weeks and cost about $2,000
max... lots of donations and discounts and free labor.
If the lip build up is bad and the turf has grown past its area,
then this will show you how to easily fix that:
3. Put in place better ongoing maintenance practices.
You need to protect your investment in making the field safer and
There are more questions that come to mind about this if you pursue
Who maintains these? City park and rec? what kind of maintenance
program do they have – mow, water, seed, fertilize –
if any. Do you maintain the infield? Do you have access to tools
and equipment to care for the field? Where are you? Send pictures.
Do you have access to water? Rental equipment? Any kind of a budget
to work with? How many players and age groups use the fields? You
mention a slope – is there a drainage problem – wet
fields? Have you had history of player injuries from bad bounces,
Back to the first question – How can you get the town to do
more maintenance on these fields – see if you and/or the baseball
league president can meet with the city park department superintendent.
You need to get the attention of the guy at the top. I have done
this in Fair Oaks, Citrus Heights, and Santa Cruz successfully.
Show them pictures of the problems. Show them pictures of what it
could look like. Offer to help. They want their fields to be good
for the community. Maybe they just need a small push from you.
Baselines? Hmm... Will that work?
Alan is the head baseball coach at a local high school. He
is considering eliminating the dirt down both baselines and replacing
it with grass. He says he often has wind that causes the baselines
to flood when he irrigates, so having grass baselines would eliminate
that problem. Would you recommend making such a change? Can he just
go to any sod farm for the grass? Does he need to worry about the
sod matching the existing grass, or will it eventually blend in?
Grass baselines is unusual, but I've seen it and helped a school
do just that. It made it easier for them to maintain the entire
field (mowing) by just keeping it all grass. Also, most of the T-Ball
fields in my area are complete grass with just a small dirt area
for each base.
All-grass seems to be workable at lower ages. At high school age,
the competition and speed are such that the players with metal spikes
need firm clay-based basepath for speed.
As far as sod, try to get
sod that is fairly close to what you have now. If your infield
grass is thick blade fescue, get fescue sod. If your infield grass
is thin blade rye grass, get a blend of rye sod. The sod might not
match the existing right away, but after you use the same fertilizer
and overseed it all, within 6 months it will be a perfect match.
P.S. Sod from a sod farm is often darker than it
will eventually end up. They use some pretty strong fertilizer on
the sod. Nothing like you use on a home lawn or a baseball field.
P.S.S. Also, if you sod in the baselines, be aware
that the dirt areas at homeplate and first and third tend to become
indented with lips. So, rake the dirt off the edges frequently.
I can hardly
believe it. The fall league just finished last week.
But booster clubs and little leagues are setting up their December
meetings to plan projects and budget for early 2008.
found that the audit checklist is the way to go. It also
shows me where the priority areas are for the ball part to be
safe and playable.
Update : The baseball field maintenance handbook
The fact is every field is different – size, composition,
geography, climate, condition. The big promise is that your
field can be a championship field. The handbook I started
working on last month can help you get your field to the next
I plan to have this available in early 2008 in time for the spring
season. The contents is based on what I'd want in a guide
if I had one:
Some worksheets for me to fill in about my field
Dimensions, areas, amounts of seed, sod, dirt, fertilizer, turface,
Worksheets with common problems to fix or upgrades to make
Sample plans with materials, tools, equipment, time to do the
work, and time till it is playable for typical projects
Time of year stuff I should do: what, and how much, how to do
Tips, hints, mistakes to avoid, lessons learned
Advice I need but don't know it
FAQs or typical projects
list of materials and decisions/choices to make
‘how to’ for major problems being fixed
you be interested in a handbook like this? Are there other
topics you'd like included? Let me know.
Yours for better play more often,
Publisher, Editor, & Groundskeeper
Ultimate Baseball Field Renovation Guide