Baseball Field - getting ready for the spring season

Jim Reiner's
Specific Answers

Field maintenance strategies, plus Q&A

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Baseball Field - Getting Ready
For the Spring Season

all dirt infield that is wet

Jason in St. Louis is getting his baseball field ready for the spring season.  He gets some advice about the adding sod, dirt, and getting through the freeze/thaw cycle..

Baseball starts tomorrow.  But my field is BONE dry in the morning and hard as a rock.  Then by mid afternoon it is wet and sloppy.  I'm going to try to drag it between too hard and too muddy.  Please advise.

What you describe is the freeze/frost thaw cycle.

This often rectifies itself after one complete cycle.
If not, here are some tips my colleagues suggest:

If you can, run a 1.5 to 3 ton roller across the dirt when it is hard. This apparently speeds up the cycle quite fast for some.

Another fellow says the solution to the problem starts in the fall. The baseball fields receive fertilizers in the late fall to help build the root system and promote early spring green up. They are mowed up until they stop growing in November and December. (This doesn't help you now though)

Soil conditioners mixed into your infield mix (such as Turface or the Hilltopper infield mix) also help prevent rainouts and freezeouts.

Pro teams sometimes put out large blocks of styrofoam across the infield to prevent it from freezing. These are 1-2 feet thick and covered with tarps. No freezing. That's why they can play in March up north.

And we agree that nail dragging or spike dragging will loosen up the dirt to help get the water out through evaporation. Keep at it.

Thanks.  Great advice.

I was able to hit the middle of the freeze/frost thaw cycle today and that seemed to help it out a bit.

Also, do you think fields should get new dirt each year? We are a high school team.

Yes, most every baseball field benefits from adding some new baseball dirt each year - either in the fall or in the spring.

If you haven't added dirt for several years I would start with at least a dump truck load of 10 yards. If your infield dirt is an inch lower than the turf - even with no lips - then you could use 2 truck loads.

Dirt gets washed away, blown away, and dragged away through the playing season.

I thought new dirt was usually needed. Thank you Jim...

Also, our field is all dirt. Would you suggest for a dirt substance that is able to absorb water better? I understand that some substances with more sand, may be able to absorb the water better.

There are always trade-offs.

More sand or something like crushed brick does help with better drainage, but it also does not provide quality firm footing and true bounces like a harder field.

On the other hand the harder fields with better footing and true bounces don't always drain as well.

The solution is to almost always add a calcined clay soil amendment or soil conditioner like Turface or Diamond Pro. This additive helps with moisture management which is the key to a good playing surface.

If you have an all dirt infield, then you would want to start with 2-4 tons of conditioner along with a couple dump trucks of baseball dirt. Spread it and work it into the top inch or two with a nail drag or spike drag.

That would work.

We are getting some sod donated to our baseball field. The man and his company will be putting the sod down on the field Monday. He needs me to give him the dimensions of the grass and I am not sure what they are.

Would you happen to know how much sod we would need and what the dimensions are?

Also, I was thinking of making the baselines sod instead of having them be dirt because I thought it may make things easier to maintain, but what do you think about the grass getting torn up and all??

Some tips and hints about successfully adding sod to your baseball field:
Installing sod on your baseball field

I stress the importance of the preparation work. The underlying soil preparation is key to success.

Sod takes 3-5 weeks to root before you can play on it. Just so you know.

Dimensions? I'm guessing you mean how many square feet you need.

A high school field would have approximately 7,000 square feet of turf for the infield. Add another 700 to cover yourself for trimming, corners, etc.

Here's a link with pictures about how to figure square footage on a field:  How to figure square footage on a baseball field

Re: sod baselines -
This is not unusual for middle schools. Easier to take care of since you just mow the whole thing. And you may not have to worry about rain outs quite a much.

A couple considerations:

At the high school level, running on turf as a base runner is not good footing as on dirt. So, this depends on how competitive your play is.

And on an all grass field, the dirt cutouts for the bases tend to become deep holes with big lip buildup if you don't stay on top of this. You'll have to groom the dirt often or it will become indented, fill up with water, and be a mess... and not so safe to play on. Other than that, go for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Just curious - do you have sprinkler irrigation or do you depend on summer rains? Sod will need water.  Have a great sod project next week!

Thank you so much for all of this...

I can't tell you how much this means to us. I am in a rush...We are leaving for Florida in a few minutes for our "spring training."

Thanks Jim so much!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Yours for better play more often,

J. Reiner

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


Jim Reiner Jim Reiner was a groundskeeper with the Texas Rangers AAA team and has been involved with baseball his entire adult life.  He devotes his efforts to training coaches, players, and parents of all levels of youth baseball and softball to use their existing field and turn it into a safe, high performance field. Jim's website has been online since 2006 helping hundreds of thousands from little league to pro baseball improve their ball fields. 

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