I Cut Field Maintenance Time By More Than 50%
15, 2007 -- Issue 16
Fields for Better Play
Yes, I really
did cut my spring and fall field maintenance time by more than 50%.
doesn't it? Here's what I did.
First, a little
background. The baseball field I'm referring to is a multi-use
field. It's shared by college, high school, and PONY league.
And the field is used from March to November with only a break
and September it really needs a complete field maintenance overhaul...
just before the spring baseball season and just before the fall season.
Here's the baseball
field maintenance work that needed to be done on this full sized field
twice a year on a large scale:
The first time
I did all this baseball field maintenance work it took four days.
Four long days working from 6am to 8pm. And I had five players
helping. By the thrid time I did all this work, I was
able to complete it all by myself in two days working from 8am to
4pm. Much more reasonable.
So, here's how
I did it.
I got smarter
about sequencing the field maintenance work, taking notes about the
locations of sprinklers, using proper power equipment, and showing
up with the right tools and supplies by anticipating the problems
I needed to fix. I also made sure I had plenty of food and water
to keep myself hydrated and energized. (sidebar: I live 150 miles
from this field, so I had to get pretty good at planning a two day
OK. Let's start
with that list of work and I'll tell you how I got the field maintenance
work done a lot quicker.
the field - The park and rec guys mow on Thursdays. So,
I timed my work for Friday and Saturday. That way I didn't
have to mow. And freshly mowed turf is easier to aerate, edge,
fertilize and water. Timing helped.
- mark the sprinklers
- I learned where all the sprinklers were so I could mark them without
turning them on. I could just walk the baseball field and
place the sprinkler flags on the dirt side of the sprinkler.
No guessing needed about exactly where the sprinkler is. No
need to cycle the sprinklers on and then run around and flag them.
(I did have to do this the first couple times till I got it down.)
- water the grass
areas that were dry; this also helped the aerating process later.
the turf - I used a rental. It was a walk behind, mechanically
driven, core aerator. I learned that the baseball infield
could be done in 30 minutes. The side foul grass areas took
another 20 minutes. I ran the machine full throttle.
- line the cutouts
and the grass edges - I learned the idiosycrosies of this field.
Basepaths are supposed to be 3 feet on either side of the line.
But this field had one that was four feet and one that was 3 and
1/2 feet. Once I knew where the sprinklers were and knew the
exact measurements for a straight line, it was easy to just measure
once, string it, and use white field spray paint to draw the line.
Knowing the exact measurements for the cutouts helped too. I didn't
have to stop and look anything up. Just measure, make the
arc and paint it. This also saved some wear and tear on my
knees by not having to bend down so often.
all the grass lines including the bullpen area - I ended up with
lots of grass scraps. I mean lots. I used a tractor
with a scoop to haul these off the field to a dumping area.
This alone speeded up the clean up process by several hours rather
than wheelbarrowing the scraps off the field. The best time
improvement I made with field maintenance is right here.
I used a sod cutter with four wheels. The type with two
wheels and a roller didn't work well at all - hard to stay straight
and I alwasy felt like I was fighting it. So, once I got
a light weight machine with the four pneumatic tires, the job
time and effort was more than cut in half.
- get a tractor
with a scoop and a rear tiller. The rear tiller comes in handy
for fixing the infield skin later and getting rid of all the small
weeds on the skin and basepaths. Sometimes the bullpens down
the foul lines are so messed up, it's easier to just cut off the
overgrown sod with the sod cutter and use the rear tiller to churn
up the dirt. Then use a field rake to reshape it. Packing
comes later with the steam roller.
- overseed and
spot seed thin areas in the turf - this is easy to do with the large
walk behind cyclone spreader. One 50 pound bag of sports turf
seed does the job - a mix of blue grass and rye grass for this field
- fertilize -
the home variety of spreaders take way too long on 12,000 square
feet of turf. Use a cyclone spreader that sends fertilizer
out 15 feet on either side. Two 50 pound bags will do the
- fix the lips
all around the grass/dirt edges - some of this is removed by using
the sod cutter to edge. The rest I removed by aerating the edge
back and forth 10-20 times and raking the cores away to the infield
grass. Then I used a shovel to dig a small 2-3 inch trench
along the grass line - I just slid the shovel along digging it out.
The lip and any lumps and bumps in the turf are leveled out by running
a 1 1/2 ton steam roller over it. Instant flat surface.
Just don't roll over a sprinkler.
- level out the
infield skin - especially around the bases; I did this quickly by
first running the tractor tiller over the infield keeping the depth
at 3 inches. The tiller has a leveling bar on the back that
levels behind it. Run the tiller around a few times and then
hook a metal mesh drag with a leveling bar on the back and drag
that. Instant level playing field. Then lightly water
and roll it with the steam roller after running it along the lips.
- rebuild the
infield mound and the bullpens - I learned to stop at the nearby
rock and landscape supply store and get 2 five gallon buckets of
clay. I'd use this to fill in the holes on the mound and the
bullpens if they had degraded drastically. I mentioned earlier
that I'd use the sod cutter around these mounds to shape them and
then use the rear tiller if needed on the bullpens to churn and
form the mound. Then I'd run the steamroller up the incline
and the top. Perfect mound that is very firm.
- remove weeds
growing in the infield skin (dirt) - I did this with the tractor
tiller and got a few of them out by hand with a hula hoe. The tilling
and dragging pretty much got rid of all weeds.
- level out the
lumps and bumps that developed in the infield turf - I did this
by running the steam roller across the turf back and forth.
One pass each way. No more bumps. Do this after aerating
and definitely not if the field is wet and soggy. The goal
is to level the field, not put ruts in it.
- water, water,
water and more water for the turf - a hot August always stressed
out the grass. I did this at the end of each day with a combination
of handwatering the areas that were stresses as well as just letting
the rainbird sprinklers run.
- tamp batter
boxes, catcher areas, and mounds. I covered this by using
the roller over these areas.
Cut your field maintenace time by as much as half by know your field,
anticipating problems you'll be facing, sequencing the work, and using
I know this sounded
like a lot, because it is. But the before and after is just
incredible. People who don't see the field maintenance work
done are amazed at how much better a field looks in just a couple
days or a week.
Sidebar: I used
rental equipment for the field maintenance work. The first couple
times I had to call ahead, reserve it, and have it delivered.
By the third time I overhauled this field, I was using a rental place
two blocks from the field. I walked over, checked out what I
needed, and drove it down the street to the field. So, I'd use
the aerator, sod cutter, and steam roller each for less than an hour.
I'd use the tractor for about three hours. Very cheap and easy
and fast. Field maintenance at its best!
Yours for better play more often,
Publisher, Editor, & Groundskeeper
Baseball Field Renovation Guide
Want to see examples
of doing this work? Check
out the project gallery and learn to cut your field maintenace time.