Spring Training For Fields

Unfortunately, with maintenance budgets taking a back seat to the need of municipalities to make money by renting out fields whenever possible, few park managers have the opportunity to give fields the rest they need.

Artificial-Turf Fields

Some cities have installed synthetic-turf sports fields, including those for baseball and softball facilities. Many cities have chosen this option to save money on mowing, fertilizing, etc., and to reduce the downtime caused by fields that were muddy or too wet to play on without damaging the surface.

No system–natural or synthetic–is maintenance-free, however. Synthetic-turf manufacturers provide recommendations for maintenance of their specific system; make sure to follow these instructions.

If problems occur, consult the contractor or the manufacturer. Don’t undertake any work that might damage the turf or void any warranty.

In The Infield Areas

Foot traffic, maintenance, wind, and weather cause infield material to migrate throughout the season, and as managers know, it is particularly prone to building up in various places on the playing surface.

“Buildup of infield material along the infield arc is also a problem,” says Wright.

“This is created from dragging the infields and leaving a deposit of infield material at the arc. Routine maintenance is required to keep this buildup from occurring. This buildup of the arc does not allow water to drain off the infield, thus water stands on the skinned area.”

Take some time after dragging to hand-rake any built-up material, and move it away from the fields.

Be sure to rake base paths perpendicular to the direction base runners will take, and make sure those paths are smooth and straight, and free of anything that might trip an athlete.

Equipment Check

With the fields well in hand, it’s time to turn your attention to the other aspects of the facilities:

Fencing

If your baseball or softball field is surrounded by fencing, walk the periphery–inside and outside. Look for areas where the fabric of the fence is rusting, sagging, or bulging. Check for loose or detached rails, crooked or fallen posts and, if necessary, call your maintenance personnel or a fence contractor.

If there are gates, check whether they can swing freely, or whether any equipment needs repair.

If your fence has some type of padded cap on the top so athletes running for a ball can attempt challenging plays, make sure the cap is securely fastened.

It takes only a few minutes to check these items, but much longer to regret not doing it.

Check the backstop too (looking for problems the same way you examined the fence), and make sure it is structurally sound.

Bases

Various types of bases are available on the market. Whichever type the facility has, make sure they are in good repair. Spending the money on a new piece of equipment that ensures player safety will pay dividends.

Equipment Cages

If there is a separate fenced area for players to store extra equipment, personal belongings, or street clothing while they are playing, check this area for security.

Dugouts, Player Benches, And Spectator Facilities

If any structures are made of wood, make sure they are kept sanded and either painted or stained to avoid splinters. Look for cracks in the wood.

Many seats are made of aluminum or another metal; check for burrs, sharp edges, exposed hardware, and more.

Lighting

If the facility has lighting, be sure all fixtures are operating and have not burned out, or developed problems. Remember that good lighting will illuminate the field evenly and allow players to see what is happening, even from a distance.

Sufficient lighting will also keep players safe, not only by allowing them to see clearly what is on the field, but by keeping the facility brightly lit as a deterrent to vandals and other mischief-makers.

Promptly address small problems–weeds here, a burned-out light there, a sagging fence rail somewhere else–before they have the opportunity to turn into big problems. It makes a facility better overall, and keeps athletes happy.

And that’s one in the win column for you.

Note: The American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) is a non-profit association helping designers, builders, owners, operators, and users understand quality sports-facility construction. The ASBA sponsors informative meetings and publishes newsletters, books, and technical construction guidelines for athletic facilities, including sports fields. It also offers voluntary certification programs in sports-facility construction and maintenance, including sports fields. Available at no charge is a listing of all publications offered by the Association, as well as the ASBA’s Membership Directory. Info: 866-501-ASBA (2722) or www.sportsbuilders.org

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