Baseball Field Maintenance Newsletter

Dear Baseball Fan,

Finally! Baseball season will be kicking off soon. 

In this issue, I tackle the most requested baseball field maintenance topics sent in during the last 39 days as people like you are getting ready for the spring season.

Enjoy this pre-season issue from Better Fields for Better Play!


Issue 16

February

Highly
Recommended


Popular
Articles

How to tell if you water enough

The most important thing for your turf

How to conquer your greatest time killer

How to bust through funding barriers - part 2







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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:


"Thanks for the email Jim.
I did an awesome job on my field last year. I used your info to support all of the things I did on the field. The rest of the league was very impressed and I have been given free reins to do anything I want this year and they trust me.
Thanks for the help."

Charles Hurst,
Pearland TX:


"Your website is AWESOME. I am finding the exact info I need. Thank you for being so willing to put this info on your site for those who need help!"

Melinda


"Thanks. Your tips have helped me immensely regarding our baseball field. Keep them coming!"

Steve Walton
VP/Groundskeeper - Lane Babe Ruth Baseball League


" Thanks for your help. I am the field manager for EYLLL (East Yorba Linda Little League)in Yorba Linda CA. Your site and e-mails have been a big help. I have found that it is all about the sod cutter. We rented a Ryan Jr instead of trying to use a hoe to clean up the field and it made a huge difference. Thanks"

Tom La Rue
EYLLL, Yorba Linda, CA





Your One Stop Place to Increase
Field Safety and Playability
 

FEATURES:
  • BASEBALL FIELD DRAINAGE PROBLEMS: 2 Solutions

  • BASEBALL FIELD SOD: How long until I can aerate it?

  • RIDING MOWER DIED: What kind of replacement?

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

  • Considering eliminating the infield grass.  Good or bad idea?

  • Once a week, low maintenance on a baseball field.  How?

  • Renovating softball fields, baseball fields, and more...

Drainage Problems - 2 Solutions

Our outfield is really bad about holding water and we feel that the ground is real compact. We don't think we have holes that are holding the water. What are a few things that you recommend to try to get the outfield to drain better? Kegan.

Hi Kegan,

You need two things for good drainage on a baseball field: surface drainage and subsurface drainage.

Surface drainage is about the slope or lack there of. Giant low spots will not allow water to drain off. The best and only way to correct this is to add cubic yards of topsoil to the low spots and level it out. Over time this will allow the water to run off.

Subsurface drainage is about what happens to water that stands. Does it soak in or not. Core aerating helps tremendously to get water to soak in and down. Along with core aerating you could also top dress with sand. Spread the sand into the holes. Even after the turf grows back thick you will have these holes with sand that will help water drain down and out.

If you have a large budget (but most don't) you could also put in sand channels. These are slices into the turf about 6-8 inches deep that are back filled with sand. These channels would criss cross the field about every two feet. That's a lot of slices. Golf courses do this too. If you do this you can play within an hour after a whole day of rain. Many colleges in the SF bay area do this because they get 30+ inches of rain in the spring.

Hope this helps. Have a great spring!


How Long Till I Can Aerate New Sod On My Baseball Field? 

We laid sod on our LL field in November. I was wondering if we should aerate in the spring or allow it to root until the fall? Todd.

Hi Todd,

You should be able to aerate in the spring.
New sod takes 3-6 weeks to fully root.

Here's how to tell if it is ready to aerate or play on it:
Open both hands, reach down and grab a handful of grass. If you try to pull up and it is solid, then you can aerate. If it feels like some of the sod is coming up, then you need wait another week and do this test again.

This 'grab' test is the easiest way to tell if sod has fully rooted.


My Riding Mower Died.  Suggestions For Replacement?

We were dragging our infield with a garden tractor (John Deere) but it has died. What type of machine would you recommend that we replace it with; we have had suggestions that a utility vehicle or a zero turn would serve us better and now we aren't sure which way to go.   Thanks. Phil

Hi Phil,

If you don't need the multi-funcion of a riding mower, then something like an ATV - all terrain vehicle - is a good choice. It has the power to pull a drag or an aerator attachment and has a very tight turning radius.

Other options if you want to be able to haul the drag or other items would be something like the John Deere Gator. It is a little flat bed vehicle.

Last factor might be what you have for storing the vehicle. Make sure you have a place to store and secure whatever you select.


Considering Eliminating The Baseball Field Infield Grass - Thoughts?

One thing we are considering is eliminating the infield grass. Several of the "for profit" field complexes around us have done that and they claim it is easier to maintain. Thoughts?

No matter what we do with the infield a Nail Drag would be very useful. I have cheap high school labor so I wonder if the X shaped drag will work. Or we would obviously need to use our mower to pull one of the larger ones with weights. Your advice has been a HUGE blessing for me.  Doug.

Hello Doug,

Re: eliminating the infield grass... it may save some money, but my experience here is that players prefer a grass infield over an all dirt infield.

I guess you need to balance money saved, decreased maintenance needs, and player needs/desires. I do know that at the higher levels - such as high school play - an all dirt infield results in infielders trying to dodge grounders vs. fielding them. Baseball field grass slows down the batted ball by about 50%. An all dirt infield does not slow it down much at the higher level of play. That results in blistering speeds on grounders.

Re: the nail drags... the one that you can put weights on will help keep weeds under control better than the manual one since it can dig in deeper. However, if you can get players to pull the X drag around regularly, it would probably work. On the other hand if you convert to an all dirt high school infield that is a lot of dirt to drag by hand. Tractor driven would be the way to go regardless of which drag you use.

Some other thoughts...
When possible I go with player preference/needs. But I also understand balancing with maintenance time and cost needs. Perhaps getting players involved as much as possible is a way to take care of this at least during the school year.


Once A Week, Low Maintenance On A Baseball Field.  How?

We have a baseball field and use it for recreational play for church groups and rent it out during the baseball season. I am struggling to know what to do with a VERY limited budget and certainly can only devote a bit of time ONCE a week - not daily. What would you suggest for a LOW maintenance but still looks nice infield. That is our biggest area of struggle. Weeds are our biggest issue right now. Doug

Hi Doug,

If I were in your situation and could only work on my ball field one day a
week for maybe two hours at a shot, this is what I would do in this order:


1. I would mow it short. I would mow the grass in a circle starting in the
middle around the mound and just do a gradually larger circle till it is
mowed. This is the fastest way to mow - not stopping changing directions.

2. I would push dirt back into the holes and depressions at the batter box,
catcher box, the pitcher mound, and at the bases where players slide and
lead off. This is the first step to leveling it back out after a week of
play.

3. Next I would drag the infield dirt. I would use a spike drag or bolt
drag to really chew it up, get rid of weeds, and level it out after a week
of play. Then I would follow this by dragging with a metal mesh drag to
finish it off and level it out. Dragging after mowing also gets rid of any cut grass that shot out onto the dirt area.

4. If possible I would soak the dirt with water to help firm it up. Done.

Now this is assuming you have irrigation that waters the grass during the
week. And I am assuming you have a quick coupler for a hose attachment
either behind the mound or near the sidelines to water your dirt.

Once every two months put out some fertilizer on ball field turf.

Once a month run a hula hoe or lawn edger along the grass line edges.

That's a simple shot at once a week, low maintenance. Depending on how
often your field is used for practice or games, you may have to increase to
2X a week.

And you need a couple tools to do this. A field rake. A hose. A drag. An ATV
or riding mower to pull the drag. Or you pull it yourself. Hard work.

Here is info about the drags I mentioned above:
http://tinyurl.com/ybmt4sa

And here is general info about maintaining the infield dirt:
http://tinyurl.com/y8n5nqx

Hope this helps.
Let me know how this works for you.

p.s. I know this suggestion works. I do this for a complex of 4 baseball fields
for a little league near me. On Friday afternoons I use a riding mower to
mow them all and then I pull a heavy duty spike drag with a leveler on all
the infields. It takes anywhere from 2-3 hours depending on what condition
these were in. They all are played on every day.


Getting Rid of Lumps in the Turf of the Baseball Field

I have worked pretty hard on my baseball field, and I still can't get it flat... Aeration, top-dressing, overseeding...I've done all of these, but I still have lumps and valleys in my infield grass - (the grass looks spectacular, but still lumpy) Should I cut the high spots with a sod cutter- level and re-lay the sod? How soon until I can get back on the field?

And I recently purchased a full field tarp. Will leaving it on for a short period of time give a little "greenhouse" effect on my grass- or should I get it off as soon as I can? John

Hi John,

Smaller lumps and bumps can also be flattened out by using a 1-3 ton roller on the infield turf. This may be what you need to do if the topdressing did not level it out for you.

Check here for lots more info on using a roller:
http://tinyurl.com/ydkegas

and here:
http://tinyurl.com/23xpw3v

Now if the infield is much more than just small lumps and bumps and it is more like large speed bumps and dips, then perhaps you do need to scrape it, level it, and lay sod or reseed. This is a big job, but with some help and planning you can be playing again within 3 weeks.

Here's project info on doing something like this:
http://tinyurl.com/lrozjq

and here's some more about using sand for leveling infield turf:
http://tinyurl.com/y93baoc

Re: use of the tarp - the best practice is to take off the tarp when the sun is out. I suppose leaving it on for a bit might be OK, but in general turf likes the direct sun vs. just getting warmer. It's sort of like using black plastic on the garden raised beds. The plastic warms the dirt while waiting for seed to germinate, but once they sprout you remove the plastic so the sprouts get direct sunlight for best growth.

I am concerned about what you describe with the lumpy field and I know you get lots of rain too. That makes it a bit harder to do field work and play.

I was thinking about work I did on a high school baseball field a few years back and we had to do the aerate/heavy topdress/drag/roll process three times over a year to get it really nice and level. Now it is super. But we had to repeat the process.

Turns out the baseball infield was built over the dumping area at the school and there was lots of metal, concrete, and rocks just 4-5 inches below and it was just always causing problems. I think this process not only leveled it but finally got the stuff below to stabilize.

Let me know how it goes and if you have any questions after skimming the links above.

best regards,
Jim


Dimensions Of Cut Out Areas

Can you tell me the dimensions of the cut-out area around the bases on an artificial turf baseball field? Thank you. Steve.

Hi Steve,

The dimensions of the cut-out area:

On the 60 foot little league fields the arc is 9 feet from the base back towards the turf.

On a 90 foot high school to MLB size field the arc is 13 foot from the base back to the turf.

At this link you can find these and all the dimensions you need for various size fields.
http://tinyurl.com/lmansl


Filling In Bare Spots On The Infield Turf

Hi, our weather lately is now getting into low 30 and high 20s. I planted rye in late October after aerating. I fetilized and watered for two weeks. Now I have some large bare spots in the baseball infield. Probably too late to spread rye for the third time, but what about fertilizing again? Thanks, John.

Hi John,

Both fertilizer and seed work best when the temperature hits at least 50 degrees.

Lower than that and the turf roots have a hard time doing anything with the fertilizer.  And the seed will take a loooong time to germinate.

I would recommend waiting till the high temperature for the day gets more like mid-high 40s or low 50s to spread seed and fertilizer. Also, if you use fast acting nitrogen when it is still cold it will push the turf too much and stress it.

I'm anxious to get going too, but I've learned if you wait a bit more, it will turn out better.


Renovating H.S. Softball Field - Best Mix?

I am going to be doing a complete refurbishing to our high school softball field. You say Turface is the best product, but which one. The field has not had any extensive additions in years, and it is about 80% sand & silt and about 20% clay if that. Would it be best to just nail drag it in or to till it in? How much should a guy add? Thanks John.

Hi John,

I would first till the softball field to a depth of 4 inches followed by nail dragging and leveling. Then soak it to firm it up.

See if this improves play. If not, I would add a higher clay content for a softball field. I would hesitate on the Turface. That is a soil conditioner more for baseball infields.

High school softball usually wants a field that is hard and fast. If you do add the Turface type product, start with 2 tons and nail drag into the top 2 inches. Perhaps you get lots of rain that Turface may help with. Yes? Otherwise if drainage is the issue, you might also want to crown the field or slightly tilt it so water runs off the side.

Anyway, here's a link about a project to improve a softball field.
It might help with some more ideas:
http://tinyurl.com/37hyvj

Best regards,
Jim Reiner
ultimate-baseball-field-renovation-guide.com


Infield Dirt Hurts To Slide On.  How Do I Fix This?

I have been working on a baseball field for my youth baseball organization for 4 years now. Every year we purchase over $1,000 of #6 screen clay infield mix. For the first two weeks the field is great but after that it is like playing on asphalt and the kids are afraid to even slide. What can I so to fix this. We have budgeted $1,500 this year to correct the field. Dave.

Hi Dave,

Based on what you tell me I would suggest that you get a mix this year that has a higher percentage of sand in it. Till it 4 inches into the existing field. Then level and water it down to firm it up.

Re: field getting rock hard after a couple weeks... one thing I do monthly on my infields is use a spike drag or bolt drag to really chew it up.

Then I run the nail drag and metal mesh drag over it to level it back out. This is followed by watering it down. The improvement is immediate. Players really like it.

Here's a link about various spike or bolt drags:
http://tinyurl.com/ybmt4sa


Using Crushed Rock On Sports Fields.  A Good or Bad Idea?

I would like to know if you have ever used crushed cinder cone rock for sports fields? I was approached this morning by one of our coaches who would like to try it on our softball field. If so is there a draw back to using? Would it be too slick and cause injuries? Is it hazardous? J Daly.

Hi J Daly,

Collegiate play is fast and aggressive. You need a field that is safe and playable. Softball usually wants a hard and fast field.

Before using crushed rock on a softball field, I suggest you think carefully about this. There are tradeoffs.

Here's a link with info about dirt mixes for sports fields:
http://tinyurl.com/3akkwp

And here's a link about a project to upgrade a softball field:
http://tinyurl.com/37hyvj

What you do with your sports field should be based on what problem you are trying to solve or what level of play you need.

That this is the core issue in the info at these links. I personally avoid crushed rock on all fields and only use crushed lava rock on a baseball field if it is one-eighth or smaller and it is mixed with at least 50% top soil. You still get the red color, but it is not so loose then.

Other professionals involved in sports field management would cringe at even using what I just suggested.  But I know sometimes budget and available material is just what you have to work with.



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


So, I hope these tips help you get your baseball field and softball fields ready for the spring season.   And if you have any questions, you can contact me
I can help.

Yours for better play more often,

J. Reiner

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

 

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