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Better Fields for Better Play issue #15 - Spring Essentials
February 21, 2010

Baseball Field Maintenance Newsletter

Dear Baseball Fan,

Finally! We can hardly wait! Baseball season will be kicking off soon. 

In this issue, Jim tackles the most requested baseball field maintenance topics when you are getting ready for your season: getting your dirt and turf ready, putting together a budget, and getting help.

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

Issue 15

February 2010



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


Article Archive


"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!"


"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
This issue available on the web at:

  • BASEBALL FIELD TURF: Three ways to remove lip build up.

  • BASEBALL FIELD DIRT: My field is a mess.  Help me fix this!

  • BUILDING A SOFTBALL FIELD: What kind of dirt mix?


  • Now matter what - adding this will make your dirt better.

  • Best fertilizer early in the spring - what is it?

  • Turf maintenance, getting donations, checklists, and more...

Three Ways to Remove Lip Build Up on Your Baseball Field

My baseball field has around 1-2 inch lips on the infield edges and anywhere from 2-6 inch lips on the outside turf perimeters.  Will the 'mass aerate and roll' technique work for me? What else should I do?  Justin.


The technique I describe where you mass aerate the lip buildup and then roll the turf is best when the lip is 2 inches or less and the turf is in reasonably good shape.

Lips four to six inches high require more than that. If the lips have grown past the spec cutouts (which is what usually happens as lips build – the grass line creeps out farther than it should be) then I would first use a sod cutter to just cut the lip back and totally remove the lip to the spec cutout. This might be all you have to do.

However, even after sod cutting you might still have a smaller lip remaining. You can either aerate and roll or use the hose technique where you use water to blast some of the dirt out.

Supposing you still have a large lip after using the sod cutter, then you can use the sod cutter to cut under the grass, gently move it aside (you will replace it shortly), then use the sod cutter again to loose the dirt, remove an inch or two of the dirt, and then replace the sod you cut earlier. This last technique works best if your sod is in reasonably good shape. Follow sod installation instructions for best results.

And as a last resort, if the lip is just so huge and the grass at the lip is not in good shape, just cut it back past spec, remove it all, put out a top soil / compost mix, and reseed the edges. Grow it level where it should be.

I usually try to work with what I have before removing it and starting over.

Help. Our baseball field dirt mix is a mess.  Need a quick fix. 

Our high school infield dirt needs help. Low spots hold water - it does not drain.   We brought in a truckload of "dirt" and a truckload of sand. Unfortunately it was not mixed in well. Would a quick fix include adding
clay dirt? and perhaps tilling everything together and rolling? or covering existing dirt with 4" of commercial baseball mix? Nancy.


Based on what you tell me, I would start by mixing, leveling, and firming up what you have. Use a tractor with a rear tiller. One that can go 6 inches deep. Mix well the existing silt, sand, and old baseball dirt. Level it with mass dragging with a spike drag and metal mesh drag with a leveling bar. Either roll to firm or else let the rains cause it to firm up.

If the result is still not good, then I would cover it with 4 inches of good baseball mix. You will need about 60 tons (yards).

Regarding the idea of a quick fix on a high school field – you need more than a truckload of dirt to make a difference. A truckload is anywhere from 6-10 tons. On a high school field this hardly raises it or changes the mix much. You need to think 30 tons or more.

I just finished a high school infield where I raised the infield area one inch. I added 25 tons of 50 percent sand / clay soil and 50 percent crushed red brick. I spread and tilled it into the top 5 inches. Then leveled it. Then the rains helped settle and firm it up just in time for the first practice on February 11.

Here is a similar project: improving the infield dirt on a senior little league baseball field.

Baseball Field Measurements and Specifications

I'm planning some field improvement projects.  I can hardly wait to start.  But, wait!

I need to know two things:

     1. How do I use the right amount of seed, fertilizer, and baseball dirt?

     2. How do I figure square footage of a baseball field or softball field
         for turf  and infield skin?

Here are two resources for you:

Using the right amount of seed, fertilizer, and baseball dirt

Square footage on baseball and softball fields for turf and infield skin

The second link has three pictures - that may be all you need.  And for those who like math, it also includes an explanation to figure out footage on any field size.

Building a softball field. What should my dirt mix be?

I'm building a high school softball field for our high school. We get about 20 inches a rain a year here and it's very cold from Jan to late Feb. and warm to hot in the summers. I'm trying to figure out what my skinned infield dirt mix should be and what the percentages should be? Any ideas? Dan


High school softball can be quite competitive. And competitive softball fields are usually harder and firmer than what you would have for a high school baseball field.

So, you want more clay on a softball field. Up to 70 percent of the mix should be clay. The rest can be sand.

My experience is that these hard and firm fields don’t absorb water well. Unless you have a slight slope – one to two percent – the water just puddles and can take a while to evaporate and absorb in. The very slight slope helps drain the water off to the side or to the outfield grass. If you don’t have the slope just right, then a very good tool to invest in is a large push squeegee. I use this on one of the softball fields near me in the morning to push the night rain water off. By afternoon the girls can play.

And if you want to really get into it since you are building a new field, put French drains under your infield draining the water out to center field. Newer softball fields often do that. It also helps to roll the field when the season starts.

The softball field at Siltanen Park in Scotts Valley was a quick one-day project. We firmed up the field for the college girls. I had a lot of fun there. The Santa Cruz area is nice to go back and visit.

We're Low on Money.  Do You Donate Products?

Our little league board was wondering if you donate products to small, low income leagues such as ours. We do not profit much as the kids that register with us cannot really afford to even pay our low registration fees.  We will be glad to hang a large banner or sign in our field showing you support the kids in our community. Jerry.


I sympathize with your situation. My favorite projects have been for private schools. They have the same funding challenges you have. Little or no money. They need donations to get anything done. I get the most personal satisfaction out of helping these teams.

But, I do not have products to donate. What I do is donate knowledge and skills and abilities to fix and renovate ball fields. I can also help you raise money (lots of it) for your uniforms, equipment, and materials.

That said, I can tell you that this is the absolute best time to get money donated. At the beginning of the year, your local businesses allocate money in their budgets for community support. Ask and you will receive. But you need a plan before you just go out asking for money if you want to make the most of your efforts.

Please look at this link, skim through, and let me know if you have any questions. It tells you exactly what to do (and what not to do) to raise money and get discounted or donated equipment and materials for your league.

Proof: better fields really do make for better play

A college team played on an old, worn out field.  I hate to say it, but it really was bad.  During the fall of 2004 they were 1-17 on that field.  Plenty of errors, miscues, bad hops, lost footing, and a few field injuries.

After renovating the field, the team was 13-3 in the spring of 2005.  Yes, they got better, but the field no longer was a factor in play either. Their project included a complete infield dirt and turf renovation.  Interested in what they did?  Then check out this project for a complete infield renovation for a college baseball field.

The 10 Step Turf Maintenance Program

For a complete program of baseball field turf maintenance, follow this 10 step process.

This process is ideally done 3 to 4 weeks before your spring season starts. 
You can also do this before summer tournaments and in late fall when you are done for the year.

Each step is described including bonus tips & hints as well as common mistakes to avoid.

So, hereís what you do:

Once your field is dry enough, start your baseball turf maintenance by mowing your turf.

In the early spring and fall, cut it a bit shorter than you normally do. That allows for 3-4 weeks of growth. Next, mark your sprinklers so you donít hit them when you aerate and edge your turf.

This is followed by adding topdressing if possible. Usually a dirt mixture that includes sand is best.

Then over seed the turf.

Now the magic steps. Drag the turf to blend the seed and dirt, to smooth the surface, and to force materials into the aerification holes.

After the above process has been completed, fertilize the turf and start watering. After about 2 weeks spot seed any areas where there is thin growth.

Once the turf has grown to 2 to 3 inches, it is time to start regular mowing.

P.S. If time or budget prevent you from doing all 10 steps, then the very best thing you can do for your turf is to core aerate.  This alone will do wonders for your grass.

No Matter What Your Baseball Field Dirt Mix, Adding Conditioner Will Make It Better

Great Site! I've been helping the local high school and small town little league with their fields. I have golf course experience so I'm pretty good at the turf but have a question regarding the skinned areas. I'm in Iowa and the choice for infield skin is limestone since it's plentiful and cheap. It does vary quite a bit in hardness however. The high school uses a softer brownish limestone. I'd like to have a little firmer surface and was wondering about tilling in clay but I'm concerned about it's playability after rain since the budget won't allow a cover. The limestone drains very well (as well as the underlying soil).  Doug in Iowa.


I checked with some pros I know in your area about their limestone infields. They see the following benefits with the limestone: it's easy to maintain, drains well after rain, and is cheap to buy more.

Notice how none of these benefits are about the players and the need for firm footing and true and consistent bounces.

I talked to four guys who take care of park and rec fields, little league fields, and high school fields. They all till in calcined clay such as Turface or Diamond Pro to help get a better playing surface. If you haven't already done something like this, start by adding 2 tons and nail dragging into the top 1 1/2 inches to two inches.

The calcined clay helps with moisture management.
Hope that helps. Have a great spring season!

I Need a Source for Good Topdressing for the Infield Skin

"I have been up grading a college level infield for two seasons AND now need the best grade infield clay for the top 1/2 inch layer/
What is available in or near Texas to complete this important project.????"   Mike Schmidt in Texas


If you've spent quite some time grading a college field, then you probably have it level the way you want it. It would be time for a quality calcined clay topdressing / conditioner.

Start with two tons. Space the eighty 50 pound bags on your infield, including 2 for the base paths and 4 for home plate area. Dump the bags, spread with rakes, and then nail drag into the top inch of our infield. Go slow and work it in. Then drag with a metal mesh drag and water. All set!

Two sources for you in Texas (or just about anywhere in the US)

1. Turface - go to There is a product locator on the website. Enter your zip code and it will tell you about distributors nearby.

2. Diamond Pro - go to There is a distributor tab at the top. Enter your state and it shows all the distributors for you.

Have a great spring season!

The Best Baseball Field Turf Fertilizer Early in the Spring

" We thatched and seeded earlier. They are putting infield mix on
this week and hopefully edging and making the warning track. What kind of fertilizer do you suggest?"   Dean Perkins, Roseville CA


Cool season fertilizer is best right now.

I use the Turfgro brand, 21-4-7, from Horizon. It is a good mix of organic and inorganic that won't burn or make the grass grow too fast. It is high in iron to make it nice and green. Due to price increases in the potash, many fertilizers now have '0' in the middle - so you might find 21-0-7 instead.  Have a great spring season!

Estimating the Yearly Cost to Maintain a Baseball Field

"We are a small baseball club in No. Virginia looking to build/renovate some baseball fields. Do you have a business model that shows the costs per month/year to maintain a field? I need to submit a proposal to our board and was looking for a template to start with. Off the top of my head I am guessing there are fertilizer, mowing, irrigation, infield, warning track, etc., costs, but have no idea what those costs are, and what other costs I might be missing. Any help you could provide would be great. Thanks"  David Lerch from No. Virginia


An ongoing field maintenance plan could include:

Spring - core aerate ($100 a day to rent), fertilize, seed, topdress as needed; add more baseball dirt as needed.
Summer- fertilize
Fall - core aerate, fertilize, overseed, topdress as needed
Winter - depending on climate - either do nothing or fertilize

If you need to do some 'one time' work like cutting sod or edging the field, then you need another $120 to rent a sod cutter or lawn edger (unless you know someone who has one.)

Seed costs about $70 for a 50 pound bag.
Fertilizer costs between $20 and $35 for a 50 pound bag.
Topdressing (topsoil, sand, compost mix) is about $25 a yard.
Baseball mix varies from about $30 a yard to $40 a yard.

So, the big question is how much of these do you need? It depends on the size of your field. Check this link for assistance with this part:

I'll leave the math to you.

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.

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


transform your baseball field

how to fund your projects

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Baseball Field Maintenance Handbook

132 page Handbook. Fully researched reference with practical examples so you can immediately use the material. Includes: Develop a Sports Field Improvement Plan That’s Right for You, Turf Maintenance Made Easy, Baseball Dirt and its Conditions, Using Proven Equipment, Using Quality Materials. Packed with checklists, samples, and step-by-step instructions. And more!

How to Fund Your Baseball Field Improvements
55 page Handbook. Marketing principles applied to sports. Real examples. Proven results. Includes: How to Develop Your Fund Raising Message, Concepts for Getting Money and Support for your Baseball Field Projects, Getting donations and discounts, Pursuing a grant: the process and case studies. Packed with successful, real life sample letters, forms, and examples.

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Spring Package 2010– Find Out More

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