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Dear Baseball Fan,

Do you need to level that lumpy, bumpy baseball field?  Want to grow grass when it's cold out?  Or how about finally fix that infield dirt mix?  Get expert advice today!

Issue 9

January 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:

  • NEW CONSTRUCTION: How to build my own Green Monster!

  • SOFTBALL FIELD RENOVATION: What kind of mix? How do I raise the field level 4 inches?

  • BASEBALL TURF: How to grow grass when it is cold out


  • Deep red clay... stained socks...  Where do I get that stuff?

  • Need to level your field?  Here are five ways to fix it.

  • Turning clay based fill dirt into a decent infield mix
  • BONUS: How to get more MONEY for your projects!

On Building Your Very Own GREEN MONSTER!

I've been taking care of a my baseball field now for the last 4 years and my next idea is to build a green monster in left field.  Any ideas?  Mike in Minnesota.


I’ve seen two variations on high school baseball fields of something like a green monster. These are placed in odd shaped fields where right or left is closer than normal.

I know of a field with a 12 foot high plywood fence in left field. It is plywood on a steel frame of square pipes welded together and cemented to anchor them in the ground. There is some upkeep required with plywood sheets that warp or pull away from the frame. This is very imposing to visiting teams when they see this huge fence in left. It is 310 down the line in left and 340 in left center to this fence. It takes a good hit to get it out.

And then there is the baseball field with a very shallow right field. This park used telephone poles and netting that goes up about 45 feet in right field. The poles are about 25 feet apart and sunk deep into the ground. They use netting between the poles. Something like you see at a golf course driving range. This is really pretty interesting to see. You’d think lefties hit a lot of homeruns here. But no. It is usually a righty who swings late and pops one over for a 250 foot homer.

Something like a green monster makes your field unique and gives it character. Everyone will remember it.

Rebuilding A Softball Field - What Kind of Mix and How to Do It Right?

I'm rebuilding a high school softball field.  I need to know how to add 4 inches of dirt mix to a current softball field to raise the level. What should I do first with the current field that I am adding the 4 iches too - till or nothing?  And what kind of mix should I use? Dan in Oregon.


First, when ever you add so much dirt to raise a ball field several inches it is always best to loosen the existing surface and moisten it first. This helps the new dirt bond with the old.

Raising a softball field 4 inches requires at least 40 tons. So, first moisten and drag the existing field. It is also best to level it out first. Fill in any low spots around the bases, pitcher plate, or home plate. Then add and spread your new dirt.

Second, 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. You might also till, spike drag, level, and roll the softball field when the season starts.

Check out this case study project to improve the dirt playing surface on a softball field.

Growing Grass Early When It Is Still Cold Out?  Yes!

I've got a high school baseball field that never had a grass infield. I want to install grass. I plan on tilling the infield next week and plant the northern seed mix that you recommend with the fertilizer to follow afterward. Then I plan on laying straw and saturate with water and cover with 6 mil black plastic. I will check to make sure that the straw will remain wet. My question is will this be enough to germinate my seed and get it started ? I live on the western side of West Virginia. Gene.

Bluegrass and rye grass germinate best with temperatures over 50 degrees F during sunny days. If the night temperatures go into the mid to low 40s then germination will be slow. Also, if the area stays too wet and cold, the seed could rot. Bad.

Pointers: after tilling, drag and roll flat. Do you have irrigation installed also? Do you have a quick coupler water source behind your mound? If not, this is the time to put one in. You will be glad you did.

Re: straw – my experience is spread it out thin. Too much and the seed rots.

Re: black plastic – I suppose you are doing this to heat up the ground to help with germination. Just like in a garden, this works to get the ground warmed up, but after the seedlings sprout, remove the plastic or the seedlings could die.

I suppose you want a grass baseball infield that is playable by mid to late February when the season starts? Yes? You might want to consider seeding it several times several weeks apart. Something like early Jan, late Jan, and mid February. I do this in N. CA to get the most from the periods of warmer rains between the cold clear days. I see the weather forecast for Charleston, if you are close to that area, indicates some warmer days with rain and some freezing days with light snow. So, planting right now is pushing it a bit.

In mid December I seeded a 150 square foot area between 2B and the mound. I put down a soil and compost mix, rolled it flat, spread seed rather thick (I wasn’t sure how much if any would germinate this time of year) and then I spread some more of the soil mixture on top – just enough to cover the seed. We had three days of light rain followed by 5 days with a high temp of 53 and a low of 42. After two weeks, the area had little grasses all over that were about half an inch tall. The key to this working was that we had day time temperatures in the 50s and had some light rain for a couple days after I put out the seed.

How to Tighten The Turf and Find Deep Red Clay to Stain My Socks!

I want to tighten the turf and I was thinking of using some colonial bent grass.  What do you think about using this? And I hate the infield skin. It becomes very sandy and it seems that they just keep adding more of the same to the baseball field. I remember when I played the clay was a deep red clay and would stain my socks. I what to find that stuff. Any ideas?  Thx.  Jason.

I checked in with my buddies here on Colonial Bentgrass. Their thoughts: this is a good grass for cool season areas such as along the coast. It does require a bit more maintenance with fertilizing and mowing and you need to really watch it for fungus. It you can do that, then it can be great.

A good source for red clay for the baseball field would be to start with www.beamclay.com. They provide clay to many major and minor league fields across the US.

Five Ways To Level Your Lumpy, Bumpy Baseball Field

We have an existing field that needs to have holes filled and general leveling. The town fathers want to roto-till the entire field. I feel it would be better and more cost effective to top-dress over time. We don't have a good alternative field. If we roto-tilled and seeded, how long would it be before you could play on it? New Hampshire has short growing seasons. I feel we will lose the following summer.
Thanks, Steve.

Steve, 5 ways to fix problems like this that have worked for me:

1. Big holes or ruts in the outfield: fill them in with reclaimed sand and cover with topsoil. I get tons of free reclaimed sand from a local cement plant. They wash out the cement trucks when they come back and 'reclaim' the small sand and aggregate. This stuff is not fine sand. It has some very small pebbles. They give it away. But, this is perfect for filling in big areas in the outfield or the warning track.

2. Uneven infield turf: best thing to do is several applications of topdressing. Depending on your size of your baseball field - little league or high school size you have more work. I put out five tons of top soil / compost on a high school infield and dragged it with a metal mesh drag to level it out. (Mowed it short first.) I did this in April and again in August. It is perfectly smooth now.

3. Infield turf with major ruts and undulations: on a senior little league baseball field I spread out 10 tons of top soil / compost and dragged it level. This field had big problems so I went with lots of dirt. I do not recommend doing that much at once unless you have a major, major problem to fix. Now the nice thing about this is that you can water it in and play on it in a day. I did this in October.

4. Infield skin (dirt) not level: One of the easiest ways to fix this is to add about 3-5 tons on a little league baseball field or 10-20 tons on a high school baseball field and spread, till with a tractor and rear tiller, then level with a box or leveler device, and drag. Water it in to help settle it. Drag or rake to fine tune the surface. Done. I just did this with 25 tons on a high school field.

5. Major infield turf problems:
scrape with a tractor and smooth bucket and start over. This is a lot of work. You need to put down a good topsoil and level it. Sod takes 3-4 weeks to grow in before you can use it. Seed takes 6-8 weeks to grow in enough for competitive play. I did this kind of field renovation for a baseball field at a park and rec department. It was so bad, there was no other real way to fix it.

Bonus: Based on what you tell me and the many baseball field problems I've seen, there is one more thing you could do. It works best after it has rained a couple days, but then you have a day or two of sun. Use a 3-5 ton steam roller on the infield turf and the outfield turf. Mark your sprinklers first so you do not hit them. Roll the turf. It will be very flat. You should also mow first. And it would be a good idea to aerate after you roll it. Rolling the turf is often done on multiuse fields where football or soccer tears up the out field and puts in lots of ruts when playing on the wet ground. I have done this on several fields. Works great. Alternative is to use the water filled lawn roller, but this is slower and harder to do. Put those football players to work pushing it around.

P.S. in general I find it easier and better to work with what you have - add top dressing and level it - versus doing major tilling and new seed. But it just depends how bad it is and how much time you can afford to not be using the field.

I Need To Improve My Infield Dirt Mix - It's Just Clay Based Fill Dirt Now

I'm the varsity coach at a small school in rural Oregon. Two years ago several truckloads of construction dirt was dumped on the field. My partially skinned infield doesn't drain when it rains, and turns as hard as a rock when it is sunny.  What's the best solution for me? I have equipment, and suppliers for basic materials (sand) and a little money for top dressing. What would you suggest?  John.


Construction dirt sounds like something here that is called fill clay. It is the clay based dirt spread and rolled as a base under roads. If your baseball field is full of this, then you need to add sand.

Ideally you want a little more sand than clay in your finished mix. So, if you got two truckloads of clay based construction dirt before, then you need to dump, spread, and mix in two truckloads of sand now. I would do this and see how this works before adding top dressing.

As far as it turning hard when sunny – frequent watering and dragging can at least keep the top loose and still provide good footing.

The best thing for you to do first is a little test to analyze your baseball dirt mix. Fill a glass mason jar 2 inches with the material you have now and then add two inches of sand. Now add water, shake, and let it settle. If you clearly see a sand layer and a clay layer, then you know you need to proceed to add truck loads of sand. This is what I would do if I were you. Try this. Let me know what your test result is if you have any questions.

Bonus - Getting More MONEY & Proper Planning!

If you need a dose of motivation to help you achieve your funding goals for your baseball field maintenance projects -- check out
the hidden secrets of fund raising success for your ball field projects

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 part 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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