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Better Fields for Better Play issue #10 - Spring field prep tips and hints
February 22, 2008
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Dear Baseball Fan,

Spring is in the air.   And that means getting your team and ball field ready for another season.  Jim is here with tips for you to get the most out of what you put into your softball and baseball field maintenance.

Issue 10

February 2008



21 Dirt Maintenance Blunders to Avoid

Conversation with Sports Turf Manager of the Year

Make 'em a Field They Can't Refuse

How I Cut Field Maintenance Time in Half

What Players Never Tell You

The Most Important Thing for Your Turf

Trials and Triumphs of a Young Pitcher

The Coach Thinks in Terms of Results


Article Archive


"You will never have significant success with anything until it becomes an obsession with you." -- Coach Gunter.



Your One Stop Place to Increase
Field Safety and Playability
This issue available on the web at:

  • BASEBALL FIELD MAINTENANCE: 3 ways to remove lips

  • BASEBALL FIELD DIRT: fixing an infield dirt mess

  • BASEBALL FIELD DIAGRAMS: measurements you need


  • Baseball Field Projects: rebuilding your mound... sources of mound clay and the 'how to' steps

  • Softball Field Improvement - getting the right dirt mix 

  • Do this if you're low on $$ for your baseball field projects 
  • BONUS: 1-17 before; 13-3 after.  A better field really does result in better play.

Three Ways to Remove Lip Build Up

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 and 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 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.

Mound renovation: mixes, sources, and how to

I have clay bricks, but do you know who has mound clay? Also any idea how how much clay mix to renovate a full size mound and two little league size mounds? Can you give me a idea of what percentage and what type of soil I need for the mound mix?  Tom.


Check Sierra Pacific Turf Supply for mound clay. They also sell the full line of Turface products.

Mound mixes vary. A lot of folks just use regular infield mix on the back and sides of the mound and use the clay mix or clay bricks on the front landing area. A 50/50 mix in front seems to work OK.

Another source of clay mix that I have used on a little league field is the bags of Muddux mortar clay you can get at Home Depot or Lowes. This powdery stuff by itself is pretty slippery when wet. The key is to mix it in with the existing mound material. Dig out about 4 inches of the existing material and add back in as you mix in the mortar clay. Add by alternating between wetting, adding, tamping, wetting, adding, tamping, etc. As you add, use a field rake to spread and level. Then throughout the year, try to keep the mound from drying out and cracking.  

It's important to properly maintain the pitcher's area to reduce injury.  Here's some tips and hints as well as mistakes to avoid when maintaining your baseball field mound.

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.

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.

Yours for better play more often,

J. Reiner

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



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