FAQ: how to firm up a brick dust baseball infield

FAQ - How can I firm up and fix a
brick dust infield as loose as sand?

A field with too much brick dust
dumped on top?


Unfortunately there are a lot of baseball infields
like this. This is probably the number one
infield dirt problem.
Somebody was trying to help,
but didn't realize what would happen.

If your field is like some around here, they get
powder dry in the summer. Balls don't bounce on
this stuff. They sort of hit with a puff of brick
dust and scoot by an infielder who was expecting
a normal bounce.

And of course running on the stuff is like running
on a sandy beach. It's lousy footing for a player
trying to start, stop, or make a quick turn.

So, here are six ways you can fix a brick dust infield problem.  I've done each of these methods and I'll tell you the pros and cons and how much it cost.

1. Short term - water it a lot.

This is a start. An infield with too much brick dust
needs to be kept moist for better footing. Don't let
it dry out and become powder. This requires deep
watering every couple days when it is hot.
Deep means 4 inches down gets some water. But, it's
usually hard to get this done consistently. Who has
time to go out to the field at 7am and water the
heck out of it? I tried this and got tired of it.

We've got two little league fields in my neighborhood
just like this. 10 tons of brick dust was
quickly dumped and spread by a coach last May before
a Memorial Tournament. He wanted it to look nice and
red when it was watered before a game. Too bad he
didn't realize what he was doing. And then because
it was dragged too fast over the grass edge all summer,
the field now have a lip 4-5 inches high.

So, watering a lot is free and can help, but this
doesn't really fix it.

2. Till the new and the old dirt together:

Depending on what was there before the brick dust
was added, you could try this: Use a shovel and dig
down about 6 inches. What do you hit? More brick
dust? Harder baseball dirt? If you hit some other
harder baseball dirt, you might consider the following.
I did this for a college field a couple years ago.
Moisten the field so the water gets down at least 4
inches. This is a lot of water unless you do it now
with the rains. Then use a tractor with a rear tiller
to churn it up mixing the brick dust that was on top
and the harder material on the bottom. Water it. Drag
it flat. Then roll it with a 3 or 5 ton steam roller.
Drag a couple times slowly to loosen the surface a bit.
After doing this, continue good practices of soaking
it a couple times a week. The cost of the equipment
for an afternoon was $280.

This worked out pretty good until.. until the college
team was done for the spring and other local teams
started using the field in the summer. The other
teams didn't ever water the field. Even a good field
that doesn't get water is going to deteriorate. When
the college team came back in the fall, we had to
repeat this process. And we added in more clay
material just as an extra measure.

So, if you can till it up, and then use a steam roller on
the infield, and keep it from totally drying out, you
might be able to provide good footing and bounces.

3. The best long term solution: Add clay and / or
clay based material.

Mix the clay into the top three to four
inches and roll it flat. Long term this is the way
to go. I did this for a college girl's softball
field a couple years ago.
Apparently the field had
been mostly brick dust for some time. A player was
hit in the face by a bad bounce from the uneven field.
Immediately a city official dumped 20 tons of
brick dust on the field and had it spread out. Big
mistake. The problem got worse. The coach asked for
help to fix a brick dust infield since I fixed up a couple college baseball fields.

Here's how we fixed it: We spread 12 tons of pure
baseball field clay on the dirt playing surface. Then
we tilled it into the top 3-4 inches. I had to really
watch the guy tilling so he didn't let the tractor's
rear tiller start tilling 8 inches deep. That's
wasting the clay. Then we watered it, dragged it flat,
and I rolled it with a 5 ton steam roller. This is
now one of the best softball fields in the area. The
playing surface provides good footing and good bounces.

So, this is the best solution. A better infield mix
properly cared for and you have a better game. I used
the pure clay that is incorporated into major league
baseball infield mix. The SF Giants used this mix.
This mix is about 20% clay, 30% silt/sand, and 50%
crushed red brick.

We did this entire job in one day in addition to
edging all the grass lines and fixing the pitcher and
batter boxes.

The 12 tons of clay cost $724. The roller cost $200. A
parent had a kubota with a tiller. Cost to us $0. Cost
to him - $4000. He accidentally backed into a parked
car and pretty well mashed it up with the tiller
attachment!


Mound clay might work for you. If this a little league
size field, you might need up to 3 tons spread around your
infield and base paths. And you'll need to mix it into
the top 4 inches to get a good consistency for your field.
A spike drag might work if you don’t have a tractor-tiller.
And if you can, you really need to roll it to help it
all settle and firm up. A steam roller is best. A lawn
roller filled with water is an alternative for rolling
the dirt. Around here a little dump truck hauls 3 tons.


4. Just roll the brick dust - short term at best.


Just roll the brick dust as is with a steam roller.
You'll have a firm playing surface... for a while.
Then it will eventually deteriorate back to what it was.
A traveling team did this to their brick dust field
2 years ago. It worked out great for a couple weeks.
But then it was back to a sand pile mess. The field
is shared by little league & a park district, and
neither wants to pay for adding clay dirt. The roller
was "free" for use because one of the coaches owned a
landscaping firm. But, he got what he paid for.


5. Add clay based material to the existing infield mix.

I fixed a loose infield footing problem by adding over
20 tons of fill dirt to the infield.
It had been made
of only some stuff called gray fines. This is just
gray granite ground up fine. It's not dirt. It ends up
like flour dust in the summer. Not a pretty site. The
fill dirt was heavy clay used under road ways. No rocks,
and kind of a brown color. I spread it with a bobcat,
tilled it in with a tractor tiller and then rolled it.
The finished dirt color was a little odd - kind of gray
brown. The field ended up quite firm. This wasn't too
bad, but it didn't drain very well. I don't think fill
dirt clay is exactly the same as baseball field clay.

The fill clay cost $12 a ton. We got two truck loads.
It was a cheap improvement. The bobcat and roller cost
about $120 to rent. The rental place was a block away
so we didn't need delivery. I just drove the equipment
from the rental yard to the field.


6. Replace the infield dirt.

This approach is the most expensive, but you end up
with the best infield. Put 4 inches of pro mix baseball
dirt on the infield. Roll it. Presto. Instant new
infield. I worked with a college team that did this.
We used 40 tons of premium baseball mix - same mix
used at old SF Giants park. It's called Candlestick
Mix. This cost $2100 and came in two trucks and one
trailer load. It took a couple days to spread this much.


So, there you have it. At least six things you can do.
Some are cheap. Some aren't. All require ongoing
care. And if you use the heavy equipment, be sure you
mark your base pegs and sprinklers so you don't wreck
them.

P.S. A seventh way to improve the infield is to replace it with synthetic material. Yes, something like astroturf. This is popular on sports fields in some parts of California. No rainouts or mud problems. No concerns about watering. Always level. Looks nice. Costs millions. But it is another way to fix a brick dust infield.

loose footing with too much crushed brick
too much red brick is
a field that is too loose

12 ton pile of clay
12 ton pile of clay
was mixed in and rolled



roll to settle dirt mix
if you added tons of
new material and
tilled it in, you should
roll it to help it settle


softball field rolled flat and firm
a softball field rolled
with a 5 ton roller


5 ton roller
the 5 ton version

lawn roller at work
lawn rollers at worklawn roller at work

adding clay to basepath
adding clay on top of
the gray fines; it was
spread, tilled, and
rolled

clay and dirt to mix in with the gray fines