Protecting The Great American Pastime

Although not as much of a focal point as the infield, the outfield requires moderate maintenance as well. As with any sports field, the grass should be mown frequently and cut no more than one-third of its height at a time, since over-mowing results in turf stress and discoloration. Mowing frequently with sharp blades promotes plant growth, leading to dense turf and a better play area. Trust me, when players dive for a ball or skid across the field, they need turf dense enough to cushion their fall, but also strong enough to endure the stress of the fall itself.

Aeration

Aeration is important as well. The greater the wear on the field, the more the soil will need aeration to expose air to the soil, promoting better water penetration and turf recovery. You should aerate two to three times per year, depending on the type of turf and the level of play on the fields. Fields should be dragged after aerations to eliminate large clumps of grass and dirt.

In addition to aeration, baseball field turf requires deep irrigation to promote root growth and turf health. If irrigation is too shallow, the soil is more likely to erode or compact, causing weeds to grow more quickly and decreasing overall turf health. The irrigation system must be checked to be sure that it is working properly and the turf should be monitored to strike the right balance between not watering enough and overwatering. Scheduling is also key since players should be off the field for at least one full day following watering.

Lastly, turf should be properly fertilized to ensure turf growth and better water uptake. Last February, the New York Yankees came to play at Virginia Tech as a memorial to those students and faculty lost in our 2007 tragedy. This honor was an opportunity to show off the school but also a huge challenge to get the turf looking perfect in the middle of winter, before the true season had begun. Luckily, fertilizer did the trick. I applied ROOTS endoROOTS on the field three weeks before the Yankees arrived, and the fertilizer made a difference in terms of both color and turf strength. Fertilizer is not just a quick fix for an attractive field though; use it throughout the year to maintain turf health and firm turf tissue.

Baseball field maintenance requires daily dedication and work, but the end result is a beautiful field that the staff and team can be proud of. Besides, who doesn’t like joining the cheering fans in the stands, eating a hot dog, and knowing that you helped make it all possible when you hear those sweet, sweet words: “Play ball!”

Jason Bowers is the Sports Turf/Athletic Grounds Manager at Virginia Tech University. Before his current position, he worked as an Assistant Superintendent at Whiskey Creek and Beaver Creek Country Club in Maryland, and as a Turf Specialist at Bozzuto Landscaping. He graduated from Virginia Tech with an Associate’s Degree in Agricultural Technology. Bowers can be reached at jabowers@vt.edu.

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Related posts:

  1. PRZ Sports Field Seminar
  2. All Eyes On You
  3. Pre-Fall Prep Time
  4. Putting Turf To Bed For Winter
  5. Synthetic Turf Maintenance

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