Dialog about adding brick dust to a baseball field

Jim Reiner's
Specific Answers

Field maintenance strategies, plus Q&A




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Adding Brick Dust To A Baseball Field: Dialog With A Head Coach

Coach Knight in North Carolina and I recently had a dialog that I think will be useful to anyone planning to add more dirt to their infield - especially adding brick dust to your baseball field.

Coach:
We have a field that our school made worse last year by ordering a dirt mix that was mainly clay. It became rock hard (it even cracked at times, despite regular watering) and we couldn't do much with it.

They have waited until now (we start tryouts in 3 weeks) to get ready to order "dirt"....but I was wondering what we could do to not just put the new brickdust they will order on top of this hard clay. Should we till it all together or use the clay as simply a base and work on the top layer?

Jim:
Maybe the best way to think about the situation is to consider what you want
as an end result:

For example,

The infield skin should be at least 4 inches of a good baseball mix. Ideally
it comes premixed and is a combination of sand, clay, and silt. The
percentages can vary because it's regular watering and dragging that really
makes it most playable. Sand could vary from 70% to 40%. Clay could vary
from 20% to 60%. Silt from 20 - 30. The variances are OK. Don't get too
caught up in it. Just don't add nothing but sand or nothing but crushed
brick or nothing but conditioner on top of the hard clay.

If I were you I would add 10-20 yards of the brick dust. Then use a tractor
with rear tiller to till in the top 4 inches so it is a consistent mix. You
could leave the base paths to 1B and 3B and the home plate area high in
clay. That's not so bad there as long as you can water it down regularly.
Level and roll the infield it to firm it up.

You could also add a conditioner such as Diamond Pro or Turface to the top
fourth inch and scarify it in with a nail drag. If you have the budget add
2 tons and work it into the top couple inches when you are tilling it. Just
don't till it in lower or you are wasting it.

If you have pretty much solid clay now, you really don't want to just add
brick dust on top of it. It really won't drain well and the top will be
very loose - poor footing and bad hops.

It's a fact that the higher the clay content, the more maintenance is
required. Watering and dragging. That's not necessarily bad if you have
the resources. The higher clay content is best for competitive play for the
older players.

Coach:
I truly appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions...it really helps a lot. I'll plan to till in the brick dust we get and roll it and we'll look to buy some Diamond Pro to till in. Guessing we can't afford 2 tons of Diamond Pro, as I know it's quite expensive......any suggestions? We have SOME Turface right now - if we can't afford 2 tons, how much would we need to add to make it worthwhile?

When they order the brickdust, is there a specific KIND of brickdust they need or is "brickdust" simply a generic term? Is there a specific NAME I should give them or is it more just making sure that the percentages you listed are adhered to correctly? I'd hate to have them order something different than the typical baseball stuff simply because of a lack of understanding concering the terminology, you know?

Sorry to bother you, but in Michigan where I'm from the dirt and grass is SO much different than what I'm dealing with here in NC and I want our field to be the best it can be with the resources we have available.

Jim:
Yes, it is amazing how much different the dirt and grass is across this
great land. Makes it interesting when you consider at the MLB level they
get the same quality of play with sometimes vastly different ingredients.

Re: the Turface or Diamond Pro. Start with what you have. Use it on areas
where water stands or infields players spend the most time. I think 500
pounds is a good starting amount and work up from there. If you have less,
then just start with what you have and see how it works for you.

Re: brickdust. This is truly a loose term. It could be 100% crushed red
lava rock or all crushed red bricks. And it usually is not really dust. It
is crushed to small flakes or particles. Or it could be just the term
everyone uses in NC for what they sell as baseball dirt mix and it is in
fact something like 50% crushed lava rock and 50% sandy top soil.

So you need to find out what this is. And if you can, talk to the supplier
about what you are using it for. Instead of just saying 'order me up a
truck load of brick dust' ask them about their baseball mix. Find out what
they have if anything.

My experience is that many landscape / rock suppliers to have what they call
a baseball mix that is 50% lave rock and 50% local top soil. They probably
also sell the crushed lava rock by itself. Example: here I get a mix like
that for $35 a yard. The crushed lava rock by itself goes for $43 a yard.
And some have a baseball mix that is closer to just a sand and clay mix.

Either way, whether you get 100% crushed brick or a 50/50 mix, I would still
recommend that you till it into the top 4 inches. You will have a very good
field mix then.

Hey, no bother at all on sending me emails. You are catching me here just
before I head out for the day. One high school and three little league
fields that I still care for as my escape. I find it so theraputic to get
out and work the fields. We finally have a break after 2 weeks of rain.

Coach:
Thank you SO much! I truly appreciate it. Sounds like some kids in your area are truly blessed to have someone like you that cares so much about their fields and the quality of their baseball.....I'm jealous. I'll keep all this in mind as we go forward. Once we are done, I'll have pictures on our baseball website that I created.   Thanks again - it made a huge difference. Our players and coaches thank you.

Jim:
I look forward to the pictures. I really like seeing what people are able to do.

I do apprecite the kind comments. Thanks. I see this as investing in our youth and our communities. It is truly worth it.

There are so many people with questions and problem fields. Even with some instructions from guys like me, they still hesitate to take action. Your comments back to me are a real inspiration and motivator for folks who are on the fence about doing something. The way I see it, the knowledge gives you the power to make a difference. You just need to start.

So, it started raining here again this evening. And forecast is 8 straight days of rain. I did get in some mowing, so I am happy about that.

Have a great spring season!

Yours for better play more often,

J. Reiner

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

 

Jim Reiner Jim Reiner was a groundskeeper with the Texas Rangers AAA team and has been involved with baseball his entire adult life.  He devotes his efforts to training coaches, players, and parents of all levels of youth baseball and softball to use their existing field and turn it into a safe, high performance field. Jim's website has been online since 2006 helping hundreds of thousands from little league to pro baseball improve their ball fields. 
 

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