On A Smaller Scale

Hitting a homerun in baseball and maintaining a softball field takes more than an occasional swipe of the ball and dusting off the bases after a game. In these tough economic times, field maintenance can help stretch your dollar and keep fields safe.

“Maintain your fields throughout the year. Dragging and watering pay off,” says Jeff Nereson, Recreation Supervisor of the city of Roseville, Calif. “It costs [more] if you don’t maintain throughout the year.”

Dragging And Leveling|

Dragging and leveling are two basic functions in field maintenance. The frequency depends on the climate and amount of use. In Boise, Idaho, the crew mows the field one to two times weekly, and drags and levels daily. During tournament play, fields are dragged and lined after every third game to keep them fresh and functional.

Roseville’s recreation department uses a John Deere tractor for dragging and grating. “It’s a catch-all for maintaining the fields,” says Nereson. The tractor has several attachments, including a rake and nail drag.

In Raleigh, N.C., fields are dragged and lined daily due to constant, heavy use between summer and fall leagues.

In order to keep the fields in prime condition, take precautions when dragging, such as alternating between dragging clockwise and counterclockwise. “Turf and field maintenance is a science,” says Jane Bailey, Athletic Director of Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department.

The fields are also available for residents playing pickup games. “If someone wanted to walk up and play, they could,” Bailey says. But when programs aren’t in session, the fields are dragged twice a week to prevent major problems and keep costs of repairs down.

Turface In The Mix

Another factor in keeping fields in optimum playing condition is to make sure moisture is on an even keel–too much can cause destruction, but not enough creates lumps and holes, and can lead to player injuries.

Turface–a porous, ceramic soil conditioner–is used in field mix to maintain moisture and prevent compaction. Its ability to absorb its own weight in rainwater leads to fewer rainouts and cancelled games. When there is more air in the soil, Turface combats compaction because it helps with water drainage and assists in backfilling aeration holes.

In Boise, Turface is added on top of the field mix throughout the year as needed. The mix is used up to half an inch below the grass in the outfield. It helps develop a crown to prevent overflowing when it rains. The fields are dragged to keep them soft throughout the year.

“The fields need air to breathe. [Turface] helps suck up the water. When the fields are hard, they don’t absorb the moisture,” says Earl Kilian, Sports and Athletic Director of the Boise Parks and Recreation Department.

In Raleigh a Turface mixture is used with natural soil on the fields. Roseville uses about 2,000 pounds of Turface in its mix annually.

In addition to using Turface, sprinklers are installed in dryer areas to ensure the fields will be kept moist.

Taking A Break

It’s important to give high-traffic fields a rest in order to keep them in the best condition. In late July and early August, the folks in Boise take a weeklong break from using the fields. During this time, they do routine maintenance, including watering, checking and or repairing sprinkler heads, and repairing any holes in the infield.

Safety Prevention

Safety is the key in preventing player injuries.

Roseville’s Park Division has a quality-assurance department dedicated to examining safety issues once a week. The staff checks the fields, perimeters, fences, bleachers, light coverage and backstops. Any issues are immediately repaired.

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