Monday, May 23, 2016

Backstop Wall Drainage - Channel Drains

Back to the topic of drainage.  In this post, we look at drainage along a backstop wall.  Often, a new brick or solid surface wall is constructed with little to no consideration to drainage.  Obviously, a solid wall will need drainage to move water.  A french drain can be installed, but I prefer not to have gravel on the surface of a warning track or full infield softball surface as illustrated below.

The best option is a channel drain.

Let’s go the the MLB/P&G Cincinnati Reds Urban Youth Academy.  The complex constructed in fall 2013 and opened in spring 2014.  The goal of the installation was to ensure water moved off the warning track.  Channel drains were installed and tied into the drainage from the wall.  Finally a heel proof cover was added.  Problem solved!  To be clear, the drainage supplier was requiring that the drain be installed with 4 inches of concrete on both sides of the drain in the event of a vehicle driving over the drain.  Needless to say, this was removed due to the fact that you cannot drive over the drain.  No issues after 2+ years of play/maintenance.

Go to to learn more about J&D Turf. 

Play on!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

#LifeOnTheRoad - Drainage Along Concrete Surfaces

Many times during my travels I am asked, “What is the best way to drain water from hard surfaces?”

Well, let me illustrate a way to drain water, and a way to collect water.

First, let’s look at a bleacher pad next to a youth football field.  Concrete installers are famous for ensuring “their” concrete is at the highest elevation.  No matter that it will/could back up water from the 1.5% crown.

In this example, a french drain was installed and tied into a storm structure.  Finally the line was backfilled with washed stone.  Problem solved.

The second example was at the youth baseball field at the same complex.  Currently a french drain has not been installed, you can clearly see the results of the concrete installation.

Bottom line, when installing concrete, be sure to allow/account for drainage.

Go to to learn more about J&D Turf

Play on!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

UPDATED: Infield Mixes: What Makes Up A Mix?

For years, building and maintaining baseball/softball infields was considered an art. What one groundskeeper thought was a great infield, another thought it was a poor infield. 

The process was subjective and creative. How many times have you heard, “I’m looking for some black dirt.” Or, “I’m looking for some red clay.” Times are changing and the tide is turning to science. Why?

Simply stated, when the process is a science, soils are tested and results can be predictable, and replicable.

Three components of good infield mix:
  1. The deepest part of the profile is a compacted native soil sub base that is 3-6 inches below the surface.
  2. The infield mix exists. The mix is the “meat” of the infield. The material is usually engineered, imported, compacted firmly, and has surface drainage.
  3. 3.1/8-1/4 inch of topdressing rests on the surface much like mulch.
Infield mixes have three components: sand, silt, and clay. 

Sand, the largest soil particle, provides the structural integrity of the infield. The targeted range is 58-75% and over 50% of the sand should be retained on the medium sieve.

Silt, the second largest soil particle, acts as a bridge between the sand and the clay. 10-35% is the acceptable range.

Clay, the smallest soil particle, provides the color of the mix and retains moisture. 15-35% is the acceptable range.

The take home message on silt/clay is that the ratio of silt/clay should NEVER be higher than 1:1.

So, what makes a good mix? Three important factors: traction, playability, and consistency.

A mix should provide consistent traction, the ability for athletes to play the game without sliding/slipping around the infield. The infield should play consistently in a variety of weather conditions.

How many time have you heard, “I hope it doesn’t rain, we will be shut down for 3 days!”

When all the characteristics are achieved, the infield is considered a “balanced soil.”

Play on!

Download the printable Smart Turf sheet - Infield Mixes: What Makes Up a Mix?

The original post can be viewed here. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

#LifeOnTheRoad - University of Indianapolis Tarp Storage

This is another post in a periodic series entitled #LifeOnTheRoad.  The background is simple. During my travels I encounter many grounds managers/coaches doing great things.  Because of this, I have started this series.  The goal - expose more grounds managers, coaches, architects, etc to areas of facility and sports turf maintenance that may be implemented to their facility/design.

Today we head to the softball facility at University of Indianapolis.   This design allows for tarp storage to be off the playing surface to create a safer playing surface

Go to to learn more about J&D Turf

Play on!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

UPDATED: How to: Add New Mix to Existing Mix

I get this question all of the time so I figured I would show the process with photos. The J&D Turf crew added new infield mix to the existing infield at Huntington Park in Columbus, OH with the Head Groundskeeper, Wes Ganobcik, and his crew.

First, the addition of Field Saver 50 from the Natural Sand Company was applied with a topdresser. The FS 50 increased the medium sand content while also increasing the clay content and improving the SCR of the mix.

The next step is to blecavate/till the existing mix into the new mix. This is often the overlooked step in this process. It is time consuming, but necessary to ensure good soil bonding.

Tilling the mixes
Following this, roll the infield using a three ton roller. The photo below shows the size difference between a 1 1/2 ton roller and a 3 ton roller. The smaller 1 1/2 ton roller is a good choice to settle frost heave - i.e - right now and the start of every spring and the 3 ton roller is needed after blecavating/tilling. A 3 ton roller is necessary to compact the infield and to ensure limited/no settling.

Rolling an infield
After rolling, begin laser grading.

Laser grading
Laser grading
The finished infield (above) included use of a conical laser on the mound. The infield was graded at a .4% cone for the mound in all directions, from the front of the infield to the back arc. This is the ideal infield surface grade.

Play on!

Download the printable Smart Turf sheet - How to: Add New Mix to Existing Mix

The original post can be viewed here

Monday, April 25, 2016

UPDATED: Depth of Infield Conditioners

Infield conditioners are a critical tool for effective infield maintenance. How deep should the conditioner be on a given field? The answer depends on the level of play as well as the base soil.

Photo 1 shows an infield that has a mix with a high silt to clay ratio (SCR - 2.5). The field also hosts high school and recreational play. In this example, a greater amount of conditioner should be used. Approximately 1/4 inch of conditioner is the recommended depth for the surface.

Photo 2 shows an infield with an engineered soil with a balanced silt to clay ratio (SCR -1.0) The field hosts professional play. In this example, a lesser amount of conditioner should be used. Approximately 1/8 inch of conditioner is the recommended depth for the surface.

Bottom line, in the instances below a greater depth of conditioner should be considered:

• Infield mixes with a high SCR
• Difficulty in keeping moisture in an infield (recreational play)
• Infield mixes with a great amount of fine and very fine sand
• Infield mixes that tend to become too firm in dry weather

The goal is to create a top 1/4 inch that is managed to allow for cleat-in and cleat-out play. 

Play on!

Download the Smart Turf Printable - Depth of Infield Conditioners

The original post can be viewed here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

UPDATED: Calcined Clay vs Expanded Shale

There are 2 major types of conditioner or topdressing for baseball and softball infields.

1.) Calcined Clay

2.) Expanded Shale/Vitrified Clay

What is Calcined Clay?
First, let’s look at calcined clay. Calcined clay is a montmorillonite clay fired at 1500 degrees in a rotary kiln. So, in the most basic terms, the clay is turned into a ceramic—think pottery in art class. Once the clay is a porous ceramic, it becomes very absorbent—think little sponges. That is why this material is great for drying a wet infield.

What is a Drying Agent?
Many drying agents also exist. (Rapid Dry, Quick Dry, Calcined Clay Drying Agent)  Simply, they are the finest particles of calcined clay. Why do they absorb moisture better than a coarser grade particle?  The smaller particles cover a greater surface area, thus a quicker “drying” material.

A couple common misconceptions with calcined clay:

“I can till calcined clay into my infield to raise clay content.” FALSE. 

Once fired, montmorillonite clay is no longer a clay. When calcined clay is tilled into an infield profile, the infield mix will become looser and can assist in holding more moisture in the column. Keep in mind, tilling in too much calcined clay is similar to adding too much sand—the column will become too loose for play.

“I have to add a drying agent to dry a puddle.” FALSE. 

Any calcined clay will absorb water. Keep in mind, the finer the particle the quicker the absorption of water. 

RECOMMENDATION: Stock only Pro’s Choice Select calcined clay. This product will work day in and day out as a topdressing. If additional material is needed to dry a wet infield, the additional product will not only absorb water but also remain as a long-term topdressing.
Avoid using drying agents/ rapid dry. While the finest particle size will dry a wet area quicker, they will negatively effect your infield mix profile over time.

What is a Vitrified Clay/ Expanded Shale?

Simply stated, a vitrified clay/expanded shale (Dura Edge ProSlide) is fired at over 2000 degrees. The product produced is lightweight and extremely durable. This product will not absorb as much moisture as calcined clay. During rain events this material will shed water to the base material to rehydrate the column while also ensuring the water runs off the infield.

Why is Vitrified Clay/Expanded Shale a Good Choice for Engineered Soils?

Engineered soils are materials that are blended via computer to ensure that the infield mix is consistent time after time. Due to this fact, engineered soils are the best product for the  value for infield mixes. Engineered soils can take large rain events and stay firm under foot. Furthermore, engineered soils will not become dusty when dry.

Due to the above facts, vitrified clay/expanded shale is a great choice for a couple reasons:
1.     The expanded shale allows for moisture to be shed to the engineered soil to more quickly drain the rain event while also allowing moisture to re-hydrate the base material. This is a great benefit for recreational surfaces that only see moisture during rain events.
2.     The weight of expanded shale (heavier than calcined clay) will allow the material to stay in place and lessen the chances of the topdressing “blowing around” the infield.
3.     Expanded shale is produced and available in bulk at a reduced cost. Oftentimes the cost of bulk material is 1/2 the cost of bagged products.

RECOMMENDATION: Expanded shale is an extremely durable product that should be considered as the base topdressing/sliding surface on an infield.  A general rule of thumb is a 50/50 blend of Pro’s Choice Select Calcined Clay/Pro Slide as the base topdressing.  This will require 2 pallets (80 bags) of each product.

Download the printable Smart Turf sheet - Calcined Clay vs. Expanded Shale

This post original post can be viewed here.