Spring Training For Fields

While the pitcher is kicking at the dirt on the mound, wondering what to throw next, the batter stands in the box in the ready position.

Are your baseball and softball fields ready for spring training?

And what about you? As a parks manager, if you’ve done all your work ahead of time, you’re probably out dealing with another facility or field–at least for now.

The great American pastime–particularly on the rec level–became what it is because of the hard work of people like you. And without you to lay the groundwork … well, people probably would be trotting off to watch another sport entirely.

Admittedly, in some regions, ball fields are used all year long. In others, the spring tune-up is on the horizon.

But no matter where you are geographically, a thorough review of fields and facilities is always a good idea.

The Grass Is Always Greener

Natural-turf fields, found at a majority of municipal facilities, require special care in order to preserve the best playing conditions.

Walk each field looking for areas that need work; these might include dead grass, holes dug by dogs or other animals, signs of insect infestation, muddy areas, bare areas, and more. Address these problems so each field has a uniform surface.

Part of that surface renewal, say field builders, includes grading. The goal is to move water off the field entirely so the whole facility dries more quickly after a rain.

“One of the biggest problems I see on natural-grass facilities are fields not being graded to drain off the water efficiently,” says Dan Wright of SportsTurf Company Inc. in Whitesburg, Ga.

“Fields should be graded as to move water off the field the shortest distance. In many instances, I see fields graded from the outfield through home plate, meaning the water moves from the outfield across and through the infield.

“For baseball and softball infields, the highest point of the infield should be the pitcher’s circle. The infield arc should be the start for grading the outfield with a slope of at least 1-percent to 1.75-percent sloping toward the outfield fence.”

For those fields that are currently not able to be mowed, they will be soon. To safeguard fields, limit mowing when temperatures soar, since grass can be burned.

Frequent mowing will keep the grass about 2 inches high, and that is far better for the field than “scalping” the turf, where more than one-third of the height of the grass blade is cut off. Cutting too short also leads to growth of undesirable vegetation, and can ruin the quality of the fields.

A well-maintained field means fewer in-season headaches for you.

Remember the soil beneath the grass too, says Wright, and avoid excessive compaction.

“Fields can become too hard, and then grass struggles to grow, especially if fields are extensively used. Periodic deep-tine aeration and topdressing with a root-zone material is required.”

In a perfect world (which few, if any, of us inhabit), fields would be closed to all traffic (players and maintenance equipment) after rains, or between periods of heavy use in order to help the grass rest and the field come back to normal.

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